Tag Archives: Hillary Clinton

“I did find the cancer… But I will not kill the patient.”

When I got back from a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, I at last found the document that described it all: the Joint Fund-Raising Agreement between the DNC, the Hillary Victory Fund, and Hillary for America.

The agreement—signed by Amy Dacey, the former CEO of the DNC, and Robby Mook with a copy to Marc Elias—specified that in exchange for raising money and investing in the DNC, Hillary would control the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised. Her campaign had the right of refusal of who would be the party communications director, and it would make final decisions on all the other staff. The DNC also was required to consult with the campaign about all other staffing, budgeting, data, analytics, and mailings.

I had been wondering why it was that I couldn’t write a press release without passing it by Brooklyn. Well, here was the answer. […]

I had tried to search out any other evidence of internal corruption that would show that the DNC was rigging the system to throw the primary to Hillary, but I could not find any in party affairs or among the staff. I had gone department by department, investigating individual conduct for evidence of skewed decisions, and I was happy to see that I had found none. Then I found this agreement.

The funding arrangement with HFA and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.

***

I had to keep my promise to Bernie. I was in agony as I dialed him. Keeping this secret was against everything that I stood for, all that I valued as a woman and as a public servant.

“Hello, senator. I’ve completed my review of the DNC and I did find the cancer,” I said. “But I will not kill the patient.”

–Donna Brazile, Inside Hillary Clinton’s Secret Takeover of the DNC

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The deceptive allure of binary choices

Coates writes that since among working-class Americans, 61 percent of whites—but only 24 percent of Hispanics and 11 percent of blacks—supported Trump, only “whiteness” can be the culprit. But why did any percentage of working class blacks and Hispanics vote for Trump? Do they also secretly harbor white-supremacist viewpoints? Did they too inherit the all-powerful white heirloom? Or is it possible that all of these groups were motivated by a variety of factors, not least among them a visceral and uncompromising dislike of Hillary Clinton?

Beware the deceptive allure of binary choices that masquerade as arguments. Coates’s failure to imagine complexity in human motives yields the assumption that such complexity cannot possibly exist.

–Chloé Valdary, There’s No Single Explanation for Trump’s Election


Statesmanship

UPDATE (1:51 pm 9/11/16): HRC’s concession speech


“I’m not ‘with her.'”

I’m with the Hispanics who won’t be insulted by the president if Hillary Clinton is elected, the Muslim Americans who won’t fear nakedly discriminatory religious tests, the African Americans who won’t be subject to Trump’s nationwide stop-and-frisk proposal, the journalists who won’t be targeted by Trump’s proposed tightening of libel law, and the women who don’t want a pussy-grabber in the Oval Office.

I’m with every young conservative who believes in a principled version of the political philosophy and doesn’t want it hijacked by protectionists and white nationalists.

I’m with the NATO allies that want to count on America’s word, and every person on earth who’ll sleep easier on November 9 knowing Trump’s finger won’t be on the button.

This is not a drill.

–Conor Friedersdorf, Why I Insist on Voting for Hillary Clinton


The federal talent farm

Across his eight years in office, President Obama has overseen an enormous amount of consequential policy change. He’s also presided over a broad and deep collapse of the Democratic Party at lower levels that simply can’t be reversed in 2016 because far too many state and local offices aren’t on the ballot this fall.

Turning that around ought to be one of Hillary Clinton’s major goals in office. The transition provides a great opportunity to get started by tapping young, talented, ambitious people whose elevation to federal jobs can set them up for later runs for federal office.

–Matthew Yglesias, Hillary Clinton should use her appointments to build up her party

I don’t feel as though I should have to to burnish my anti-Trump credentials before making my remarks, but bear them in mind anyway. When populists on the Right and the Left curse the Establishment for its incestuousness and slimy power politics, this is exactly the thing they’re talking about. (Even if they don’t know it.)

Patronage has been a cornerstone tool of partisan politics for a long, long time. Everybody does it. Romans called it the cursus honorum. Yglesias cites Daniel J. Galvin’s 2009 book, Presidential Party Building, which argues that Republican presidents since the mid-twentieth century have done more to secure the future interests of their party than the Democrat presidents have, because the GOP presidents wanted to convert their “minority” party into the majority (taking into account all downballot elected offices), whereas Democrats were able to rely on fairly stable majorities (again, downballot). The Republicans have enjoyed a lot of power in state and local offices (and the House of Representatives) for nearly a decade, putting the Democrats in the overall minority role. Yglesias’s logic, as far as I can figure, seems to be that the Republicans were able to abuse the system for their own partisan gain, so the Democrats should do it, too.

I don’t think “abuse” is too strong a word. What Yglesias recommends is that President Clinton treat the federal government as the Democrats’ very own personal grooming machine for future electoral candidates. He calls that a “major goal.”

Well. Okay then.

To be “Machiavellian” need not be a bad thing. I think Clinton’s generally pragmatic approach to politics is, on the whole, a good thing. Her willingness to be different things to different interest groups is extremely pragmatic, as is her relationship to Wall Street. RuPaul basically nailed what makes Clinton an effective politician. That said, I do think there’s a distinction we ought to make between appreciating what makes a politician effective and what a politician’s priorities ought to be.

Political critics must always hedge against being either too idealist or too cynical. Treating the federal apparatus as a farm for up-and-coming Democrat talent, with that explicit purpose in mind, is extraordinarily cynical. There’s a cold calculus involved in all political interactions, but Yglesias doesn’t even give lip service to the notion that perhaps those appointments ought to be filled by the best people for the job, regardless of partisan affiliation.

I don’t think it’s incurably starry-eyed to expect that the president, who’s supposed to govern all Americans, not just the ones who voted for her, with restraint and a semblance of parity, should try to hire the best people for the job whether or not they’re Democrats. Nor is it untoward to expect that writers who have spent the better part of a year snarking at Trump’s authoritarianism be a bit more reflective about how nakedly partisan they want their government to be. “Major goals,” indeed.

When a Trump supporter reads someone like Yglesias (yes, yes, I know how unlikely it is that the average Drumpfkin has even heard of Vox), he sees a representation of all that is wrong with Clinton-style governance, and perhaps the so-called Establishment as a whole. He sees a Hillary booster who wants to see the United States turned into a machine dedicated to the perpetuation of Democratic (read: left-wing) political power. And that’s not an entirely inaccurate impression. Bernie supporters may feel similarly, though less viscerally. Imagine if Yglesias replaced every mention of Democrats with “lobbyists”–also known as “those special-interest puppets politicians become when they fail their re-election bids.”

The view that the government should be nonpartisan is not incompatible with the view that sometimes it simply can’t be nonpartisan. Reality is hardmode. Really, I do get it. But what makes a republic work is a commonly-held faith that, on balance, our government does not work primarily, as a “major goal,” for the prospects of a single political party. It is supposed to work for all of us most the time, regardless of which party has the upper hand at a given moment. Not even to pretend that that’s the case is the privilege of the elite and the prerogative of those for whom government is ideological war conducted by other means.


Please, not the face!

Looking back, we young idealists and activists were not so much wrong in our assessments of Humphrey as we were totally wrong in our assessment of whether it matters if a corporate center liberal is elected over an insecure, unstable, right-wing candidate who does not respect the Constitution.

Our failure was not in our assessment of Humphrey but in our failure to understand Nixon and what was at stake. We could have turned the close election in favor of Humphrey. We could not have moved the election results by 5 points, but we certainly could have moved the needed one.

Our refusal to participate started a process of making our movement profoundly irrelevant. We allowed Richard Nixon to come to power. We allowed a right-wing counter-reformation to hold power and warp American politics for most of the next four decades. Within our movement, we allowed militancy to replace strategy.

We would continue to march. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of us would continue to protest the war. We shut down campuses. We helped organize returning veterans to join the fight against the war. Many long-term, positive, and enduring movements and changes in the country have their roots at least partially in our efforts. However, none of that changes the mistake made in 1968.

The one irreducible fact of this bizarre election is this: The only way Donald Trump does not become president of the United States is if Hillary Clinton does. In any closely contested state, staying home or voting for a third-party candidate is, in its impact, a vote for Trump. It does not take a great leap of moral or political imagination to envision the damage a Trump presidency will bring to our nation and to the world.

–Michael Ansara, The lousy reason I didn’t vote in 1968 — and why Sanders supporters shouldn’t fall for it

Notice the framing in this essay. Because Ansara writes to Bernie Sanders supporters, a non-Clinton vote = a Trump vote. Of course, Republican apologists are making the inverse argument to the #NeverTrumpers: a non-Trump vote = a Clinton vote. What both arguments have in common — and these arguments have been trotted out like clockwork for every election in my lifetime as well as, I’m sure, for every election in the lifetimes of my parents and grandparents — is that they treat this election as the most historically decisive election ever. This election, Ansara promises, is a paradigm shift. He should know, right? After all, he was there in 1968, man!

“We have a failure of political imagination. We have a failure of moral imagination,” Ansara alleges elsewhere. I’d add that we also have a failure of historical imagination. Only in a culture so blinded by presentism could we so easily forget the apocalyptic rhetoric that thunders down upon us in Every. Single. Election. Cycle.

Including 1968.

If the republic falls during the (terrifyingly possible, however improbable) Trump presidency, it will be easy to blame the people who refused to vote for Trump. (Me? I’d prefer to blame the people who actually vote for him, but whatever.) That would be a failure of historical imagination. Trump didn’t come out of nowhere. Even before this particular election cycle, the forces were at work that prepared the conditions for his dominance in the conservative/Republican electorate — just as those same (or perhaps slightly different) forces prepared the conditions for Hillary Clinton’s dominance in the liberal/Democrat electorate. In direct contradition to Ansara, I would argue that one of the things that made Clinton and Trump possible is the fact that our political institutions have for generations worked to conserve political power within a two-party system.

A key part of that system’s strategy is to denigrate, consistently and vociferously, the notion that people ought to vote their consciences. (And don’t you doubt that it pains me to echo Ted Cruz.) Do you want to know why Trump and Sanders did so well in the primaries? Sure, racism helped Trump and chimerical economic theory helped Sanders. A big part of it, though, was the widespread (and accurate) feeling that the entire institutional apparatus shared by the Republicans and Democrats was designed to deny real choices to the American electorate. Both Trump and Sanders represent significant deviations from their parties’ respective orthodoxies. The grassroots turned to iconoclasm within the two parties because they felt they had no constructive alternatives outside of those parties.

Let me put it another way. The two-headed leviathan has succeeded for 200-odd years in squelching the rise of alternative political parties; in large part, it has done so by absorbing the radicals and agitators into its coils and domesticating them. The risk the leviathan has always run with this strategy is that a candidate or movement can come along and essentially break a party from the inside if he or she gathers enough constituent support from the heterodox radicals within the rank-and-file.

To wit, the Democrats’ cultivation of a radically progressive base, with its own ideological rigidity, nearly backfied as spectacularly as the Republicans’ own cultivation of radicalism. There’s been a lot of talk about Bernie pulling the Democrats left, but the party still nominated a conventional lifelong politico who portrays herself as quintessentially conservative in temperament. With all her problems, the Democrat Party ended up backing a candidate who will not smash its liberal, coalitional approach to governance all to pieces. It came pretty close to doing so, though. And Clinton’s nomination might mean that Democrats lose the votes of would-be revolutionaries. Considering that the best intellectual case the conservative movement can muster for Trump is a Flight 93 analogy, the Democrats ought to be a little more sanguine about the fact that their primary did not spur them to seal an ideological suicide pact. The Republicans are reaping that whirlwind right now, and the most unlikeable candidate the Democrats have ever nominated will benefit as a result.

In a healthy, diverse political ecosystem, we’d have more viable parties, which comes with a higher likelihood that any one party would have to share power with a rival in order to govern effectively. In the political ecosystem we have, the two behemoths treat elections as zero-sum games.

Zero-sum politics is great for authoritarians. Who wants to share power anyway? Who wants to treat a diverse body politic as a melting pot of opinions and viewpoints? We should shut up and be grateful that we have any choice at all. I imagine a protection racketeer asking a luckless shopowner if he prefers a fist to the head or the stomach. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that maybe we don’t need to get worked over at all, and that there is something seriously diseased about the relationship we, the American people, have cultivated with the institutions which are the self-appointed gatekeepers of our elected offices. We reinforce this diseased relationship every time we pleadingly mumble, “Not the face!” and pull the lever for the lesser of two evils.

The only people who benefit from defining the voter’s franchise so negatively are those who treat elections as zero-sum games.

That is to say: the only people who treat elections as zero-sum games are authoritarians. Right now, that describes both Republicans and Democrats.

Ansara admits that he didn’t vote in 1968. He’s right to acknowledge that as a moral and political failure of imagination. It would have remained a failure of moral and political imagination had he voted for Humphrey, despite his disdain for the man. The fact that the citizens of the United States, decade after decade, refuse to consider other parties is not pragmatism. It’s complacence. If Bernie Sanders supporters recognize Clinton for the ethical train wreck wreck she is and decide to vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin or anybody else who isn’t named Donald Trump, that’s not a failure of moral and political imagination. It’s having the courage of one’s convictions.

If you don’t vote for Clinton, you’re not strengthening Trump; you’re strengthening the party of whomever you do vote for. Ansara, by refusing to vote at all, simply weakened the institutional viability of all the potential alternatives to the Republican and Democrat candidates (not to mention those candidates themselves). He weakened those alternatives in 1968 by not voting at all; he’ll weaken them again by voting Clinton in 2016.

None of this is to say that I don’t see Trump as a direct threat to our constitutional republic. I do. I think Hillary Clinton represents a far less severe threat than Trump does. My sentiment that Clinton is not nearly as bad as Trump does not, in itself, obligate me to vote for her. I’m obligated to vote for a candidate that would discharge his or her duties in a way befitting my conception of what the American president ought to do for the next four years. That obligation is both moral and political. And because I possess (dare I say) a historical imagination, I can assert with some confidence that this election is unique but not special.

Despite the apocalyptic tenor of even the most mundane election conversation (including much of that found on this blog, I admit), the stakes of this election are not so absolute that I must abandon all principle and vote on the basis of He Whom I Most Fear. The awfulness of Trump does not mean Clinton is entitled to my vote by default. A vote for Clinton should mean I actually am with her, not merely against him.

Political parties have always sought more power than they had, but they haven’t always behaved as though total dominance of the entire governmental apparatus was the only way to get good things done. Authoritarianism is now the norm in the political discourse of both major parties, and I refuse to bow to its abusive logic. If Trump wins, America will be worse off than it would be under Clinton. If I uphold the myth of the binary choice, then all I do is enable the two parties’ zero-sum political authoritarianism for another four years.


“The Supreme Court should represent all of us.”

Hillary Clinton on the Supreme Court, from last night’s debate:

You know, I think when we talk about the Supreme Court, it really raises the central issue in this election, namely, what kind of country are we going to be? What kind of opportunities will we provide for our citizens? What kind of rights will Americans have?

And I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people, not on the side of the powerful corporations and the wealthy. For me, that means that we need a Supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women’s rights, on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community, that will stand up and say no to Citizens United, a decision that has undermined the election system in our country because of the way it permits dark, unaccountable money to come into our electoral system.

I have major disagreements with my opponent about these issues and others that will be before the Supreme Court. But I feel that at this point in our country’s history, it is important that we not reverse marriage equality, that we not reverse Roe v. Wade, that we stand up against Citizens United, we stand up for the rights of people in the workplace, that we stand up and basically say: The Supreme Court should represent all of us.

That’s how I see the court, and the kind of people that I would be looking to nominate to the court would be in the great tradition of standing up to the powerful, standing up on behalf of our rights as Americans.

And I look forward to having that opportunity. I would hope that the Senate would do its job and confirm the nominee that President Obama has sent to them. That’s the way the Constitution fundamentally should operate. The president nominates, and then the Senate advises and consents, or not, but they go forward with the process.

Damon Linker:

On the Supreme Court, Clinton said, in effect, that she thinks the Court should serve as a second legislative body in which liberals hold a majority of the seats and exercise veto power over the other branches of government.