So why is Hillary Clinton embracing liberal positions at odds with previous ones on a range of issues, such as immigration, gay marriage, and criminal justice reform? The Post’s Anne Gearan gets more detail from Clinton advisers on this question than I’ve seen anywhere else.
The crux of the thinking is twofold: Clinton is making a bet on the coalition that powered Obama’s wins in the last two national elections, and she’s also gambling that some of these supposedly “left wing” positions on these issues are actually shared by the middle of the country:
The moves are part of a strategic conclusion by Clinton’s emerging campaign: that it can harness the same kind of young and diverse coalition as Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012, bolstered by even stronger appeal among women.
Her approach — outlined in interviews with aides and advisers — is a bet that social and demographic shifts mean that no left-leaning position Clinton takes now would be likely to hurt her in making her case to moderate and independent voters in the general election next year.
The strategy relies on calculations about the 2016 landscape, including that up to 31 percent of the electorate will be Americans of color — a projection that may be overly optimistic for her campaign. It factors in that a majority of independent voters already support same-sex marriage and the pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that Clinton endorsed this month.
As I’ve noted before, her positions on these issues are about the changing nature of the Democratic Party as much as anything else. Dems are more unified on immigration and gay marriage than ever before; her positions on those issues are mainstream Democratic ones, and aren’t the province of the “left wing” of the party, as some mistakenly claim. This is part and parcel of the Democratic embrace of its new coalition of millennials, minorities, and socially liberal college educated whites.
Partly because of that broader story, it isn’t really that hard for Clinton to embrace these positions. Clinton might have a tougher time navigating Dem differences on economic issues, particularly the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Interestingly, Clinton advisers confide to Gearan that they recognize this is a problem, particularly given the stance on trade held by a previous president named Clinton, but “her advisers are gambling that the issue won’t leave an enduring rift within the party.”
The strategic hints from Clinton’s advisers raise another question. Recent political history, plus the Democratic embrace of cultural priorities important to the party’s emerging coalition, suggests that Dems are less and less reliant on culturally conservative blue collar whites to win national elections. One key unknown about 2016 is whether Clinton (or any other Democrat) can turn out the Obama coalition in the numbers that he did. If not, she might need to perform better among white voters (including blue collar whites) than Obama managed to do.
So one angle worth further exploration is: Do Clinton advisers agree that changing demographics mean that she won’t need to significantly outperform Obama among non-college whites? Or do they believe that liberal positions on some of these social and criminal justice issues have simply lost the cultural charge they once had, meaning they no longer seriously pose a risk of alienating blue collar whites, who can (hopefully) be won over with a strong economic message? Gearan’s reporting suggests the answer is the latter, but I’d love to know more on this.
* THE BRAVE NEW WORLD OF CAMPAIGNS AND SUPER PACs: The New York Times has a deep reported dive into the ways in which Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and other candidates are blazing new trails when it comes to circumventing campaign finance rules. The new world:
Their “campaigns” are in practice intricate constellations of political committees, super PACs and tax-exempt groups, engineered to avoid fund-raising restrictions imposed on candidates and their parties after the Watergate scandal. Major costs of each candidate’s White House bid, from television advertising to opposition research to policy development, are now being shifted to legally independent organizations that can accept unlimited contributions from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions.
With Clinton pushing to overturn Citizens United, the Dem position on all this is basically: We think the rules should be changed for both sides, because they’re bad for our democracy, but until this happens, we’ll play by the same rules as the other side does.
* GOP WORRIED ABOUT HILLARY: Philip Rucker reports on what Republicans are really thinking about the 2016 presidential race: For all their “brash” claims that Hillary Clinton is “out of touch” and “scandal plagued,” her “durability” is actually “giving them a serious scare”:
Republican officials are dismayed that months of relentless, negative press coverage of her use of private e-mail servers, foreign donations to her family’s charitable foundation and her six-figure paid speeches have done minimal damage to her favorability ratings.
And this is before the GOP primary process runs its course and pulls the eventual nominee “far to the right ideologically,” another fear among Republicans, according to Rucker’s reporting.
* HOUSE GOP MAY HAVE VOTES FOR FAST TRACK: The Senate is all but certain to pass the “Fast Track” authority Obama wants to negotiate trade deals. Now, on CNN yesterday, Paul Ryan flatly predicted that Republicans would get it passed out of the House: “We will have the votes.”
If true, it will mean the Tea Party rebellion many predicted would greet the free trade deal will have mostly fizzled. Apparently there are some areas in which Republicans are willing to grant Obama vast authority to negotiate an international deal with insufficient Congressional input.
* RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS ON NSA SURVEILLANCE: Politico surveys the latest in the Senate: Mitch McConnell wants to extend NSA bulk surveillance, and may still push for a short-term extension. But GOP leaders in the House — which has already overwhelmingly passed the U.S.A. Freedom Act, curbing surveillance — may not even accept a short-term measure.
And Senators like Ron Johnson are basically admitting defeat: “My prediction is, we’re not going to be able to pass a reauthorization. I think the House has already spoken.” Meanwhile, Rand Paul and Ron Wyden are mulling a bipartisan talking filibuster to block any such re-authorization.
* RUBIO STRUGGLES WITH IRAQ QUESTION: On Fox News Sunday, Marco Rubio was asked whether the Iraq War was “a mistake.” He said it wasn’t, because the world is better off without Saddam. But asked whether he’d have gone in based on what we know now, he said:
“Well, not only would I have not been in favor of it, President Bush would not have been in favor of it.”
As Glenn Kessler demonstrates, this is a highly suspect assertion. But this line of questioning itself is problematic: It advances the premise that the war only happened because of bad intel, and obscures the fact that many people questioned the invasion at the time based on what was known then.
* AND PRESS CONTINUES ASKING WRONG QUESTION ABOUT IRAQ: Paul Krugman has a must-read column to demonstrating that the current question Republicans are being asked — “would you have invaded knowing what you know now” is itself a grand evasion.
The Iraq war wasn’t an innocent mistake, a venture undertaken on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be wrong. America invaded Iraq because the Bush administration wanted a war. The public justifications for the invasion were nothing but pretexts, and falsified pretexts at that. We were, in a fundamental sense, lied into war. The fraudulence of the case for war was actually obvious even at the time…from a national point of view the invasion was a mistake. But (with apologies to Talleyrand) it was worse than a mistake, it was a crime.
Yes. But both parties — and let’s not get started on the media’s performance on this story — have an interest in pretending this unfortunate history never happened.