RUNNING IN PLACE

Posted in Rants on July 14th, 2016 by Ed

As the general election campaign shapes up along the lines of yesterday's post, one glaring flaw in what is very likely to happen becomes apparent.

Hillary is proceeding exactly along the lines that anyone familiar with the Clinton / New Democrat brand would expect: play it as safe as possible, emphasize dull competence, propose nothing until it's already clear that a large majority favors it, and give Republicans more than enough rope to hang themselves. To reiterate a point I beat nearly to death already, this is a terrific campaign strategy for 2016. Any competent campaign professional paid to advise her campaign would tell her to follow this course. The problem is, what makes for an effective approach to campaigning will translate to a terrible approach to governing.

Going all in on a safe, boring, status quo message is 99.9% likely to net Clinton a win in November, but therein lies the danger. Using the election as validation, she's likely to double down on it at a time when the nation faces a number of serious problems that demand the kind of leadership that mushy centrist Beltway types are fundamentally incapable of demonstrating. This is precisely why Sanders was the superior candidate; more accurately, he would have made the better president of the two. Just when the country most needs someone to move it forward, we have a candidate and likely winner whose entire political ethos is based on maintaining the status quo. She's betting – wisely – that older voters are averse to uncertainty, and nothing in the recent history of American politics is more unpredictable than Trump, whose campaign is rapidly descending into SNL skit territory. "Vote for me and I promise to keep everything basically the same" will seem appropriately comforting at the worst possible moment for the country.

That has been the argument against Clinton essentially forever. What matters to her is getting elected, but it's pretty clear that there isn't a whole lot beyond that on her wish list. Whenever a candidate runs for president without being able to articulate a goal beyond getting to be president (Mitt Romney, for example) we can safely be assured that they're not going to be going out on many limbs if and when they accomplish their only goal.

People remember the 90s fondly because they were strong economic times, not because Bill Clinton accomplished much of anything as president. The things he did do were straight off of the Republican agenda – NAFTA, welfare reform, and other fantasies from the neoliberal wank bank. This time around it's likely that the personal animosity between Republicans and Hillary Clinton – say what you will about her, you'd be hard pressed to find someone not named Obama who has been attacked and insulted more persistently and viciously than her for the past 20 years – will preclude the likelihood of many GOP-White House collaborations. So assuming continued GOP control of the House, which is all but inevitable, where does that leave us if the most likely possibilities at the moment play out?

It leaves us at a stalemate of the variety we saw during Bill Clinton's second term. Basically nothing will happen for four years. We got away with that from 1996 to 2000 when the GDP was growing at rates not seen since the 1950s. This time around, sitting on our national hands for four years while all of the problems ripping at the fabric of the nation fester will have much more serious consequences.