Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hillary Clinton's Message Works With Independents Too

It wasn't that long ago that the big question everyone asked of Democrats was how they were going to compete in Southern states. It was assumed that only by nominating candidates like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton could they hope to win the presidency. Most of that talk ended with the election and re-election of Barack Obama. Since then it's been my fantasy that someday pundits will start asking Republicans how they are going to compete in states like Virginia...or better yet, West Coast states (which Reagan actually won).

But when it comes to the old trope about Democrats competing in the South, apparently Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman didn't get the memo.
Hillary Rodham Clinton appears to be dispensing with the nationwide electoral strategy that won her husband two terms in the White House and brought white working-class voters and great stretches of what is now red-state America back to Democrats.

Instead, she is poised to retrace Barack Obama’s far narrower path to the presidency...
Martin and Haberman never get around to actually providing the numbers to demonstrate what they call Bill Clinton's "national electoral strategy" and Barack Obama's "far narrower path." So here they are:

1992 Clinton electoral votes: 370
2008 Obama electoral votes: 365

The difference basically comes down to Obama trading off states like Arkansas, Kentucky and West Virginia for Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Not exactly the chasm they made it out to be.

But the bigger point Martin and Haberman want to make is not as much about geography as it is about WHICH voters Hillary Clinton wants to appeal to.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, when a declining pool of voters is truly up for grabs. Her liberal policy positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, a less difficult task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory..
That very well may be the case. And firing up Democrats to actually get out and vote is not a bad strategy. But it totally misses what I noted from Brian Beutler's article last week:
The nature of the strategy involves staking out a variety of progressive issue positions that enjoy broad support, but it’s not as straightforward as simply identifying the public sentiment and riding it to victory. The key is to embrace these ideas in ways that makes standard Republican counterspin completely unresponsive, and thus airs out the substantive core of their agenda: Rather than vie for conservative support by inching rightward, Clinton is instead reorienting liberal ideas in ways that make the Republican agenda come into greater focus.
Clinton's "liberal policy positions" will have the Republicans running AGAINST raising the minimum wage, efforts to curb climate change, immigration reform, voting rights, campaign finance reform, etc. So please tell me who loses independents given that scenario? Someday perhaps national political pundits will acknowledge that it is the Republicans who have gotten so extreme as to make a core Democratic message appealing to a broad spectrum of the country.

Apparently that was also Dan Pfeiffer's reaction to Martin and Haberman.


  1. Enough with the "white-working class" crap what they don't tell you is that Bill Clinton won states such as Vermont,California,New Jersey,Colorado,Pennsylvania and Illinois. These states voted Republican In 1972,1980,1984 and 1988. No One's talking about this in the mainstream press. How dare they call Obama's electoral victories narrow. Like you said Bill Clinton's victories don't differentiate much from Obama's only a few trade-offs. The Obama Coalition is here to stay so the mainstream press needs to get over it.

  2. Mo'nin, Nancy
    In response to Odie Jackson, Amen to your over-all assessments but it's not just the mainstream press. Some of the Progressive folk are thinking the same way and have for a while now. Booman, still, continues to beat that same old drum, for example. His latest piece is up right now about this very matter. Sometimes, Progressives don't wrestle well with progress, either.

  3. No matter how good her messaging is, it's going to be drowned out by memes like this one that paint her as taking money for arms: I don't want to spend my time defending a candidate from that kind of thing for the next 17 months.

  4. That's the emo unicorn brigade.