Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Is Hillary Clinton Good for Progressives?

I've been a political activist for more years than I like to dwell on - first as a Republican and then, after the GOP went insane like a rabid dog with the rise of the Christofascists, by default as a Democrat.  The constant has been the goal of electing candidates even when that means moderating some of one's goals and desires.  It's a concept lost on the knuckle dragging, Bible thumping GOP base as recently demonstrated by the Virginia GOP's failed 2013 slate.  It is also lost at times among those in the liberal wing of the Democrats.  You can love a candidate to death, but if you cannot get them elected, then you have wasted time, tons of money, and given the opposition a chance to enact horrific policies.  Currently, on the Democratic side of the aisle you have the vociferous supporters of Elizabeth Warren who pan Hillary Clinton.  They say Hillary is "untrustworthy" etc.  Perhaps, however, that is a good thing as argued by a piece in Salon.  Here are column highlights:
[L]ast week, the New York Times and CBS published a new poll on how the public views former secretary of state and current presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC). There were two big takeaways for the 2016 frontrunner, both of which could be reasonably seen by left-wing activists as good omens for the months and maybe years to come.

The poll’s most striking discovery pertained to how voters felt about Clinton’s handling of her email while at Foggy Bottom, . . . . during the weeks following the press’s wall-to-wall coverage of “emailgate,” Clinton’s favorability actually went up. And it wasn’t just a little statistical blip; it was an increase of nine full points.

The poll’s second notable finding, on the other hand, wasn’t nearly so much of a boon to Clinton supporters. According to CBS and the Times, fewer than half of respondents described her as “honest and trustworthy”; and that number was only near the 50 percent mark because around 80 percent of Democrats answered in the affirmative. This issue of HRC’s trustworthiness has been the thin reed on which many of the loudest promoters of the emailgate pseudo-scandal have hung their arguments. But as Ronald Brownstein writes in National Journal, a Clinton has already won the White House before while being seen as less than entirely untrustworthy.

However, just because American doubts about her honesty are unlikely to keep HRC out of the White House, that doesn’t mean that her image on this score is irrelevant. What it means instead is that Clinton’s low margin for error on trust will manifest in harder to perceive ways during her campaign and hypothetical presidency. For example, look at President Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s argument over fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It’s the kind of debate Obama is having with those on his left — a debate over progressive bona fides — that a President Clinton probably will not.

Yet what matters for our purposes isn’t the TPP so much as the way Warren and Obama, arguably liberal America’s two favorite politicians, have been fighting about it through the media.

The biggest reason why Obama has been able to adopt this strategy can probably be found in a Gallup poll released earlier this month. On that question of trustworthiness, the president fares well, especially by the standards of our polarized era: 53 percent of respondents say “honest and trustworthy” applies to Obama, while just 45 percent disagree. That’s not a Grand Canyon’s worth of distance apart from HRC’s 48 percent, of course. But it is enough to make the White House feel relatively confident that liberals are willing to trust the president — and to make Warren skip over Obama and raise concerns about what the next (possibly Republican) president might do with fast-track’s powers.  

On the trail (as well as in the White House, if she wins) Clinton will be much more constricted. Yes, she’s very popular with self-identified liberals; and, yes, like Obama’s, much of her negative numbers on trustworthiness are the product of overwhelmingly disdain from conservatives. But while Democrats may on the whole approve of HRC, they don’t necessarily trust her, at least not yet. 

[I]f Brownstein is right, and HRC wins despite a majority of voters not exactly trusting her completely, it could be something of a win-win for liberal activists. Not only would they get a non-Republican president, but they’d get one with a stronger desire than the current incumbent to prove she’s one of them.

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