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.
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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.
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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.

36 thoughts on “RUNNING IN PLACE”

  • I'm not as pessimistic about her, nor am I as pessimistic about Obama, as my friends on the far left and far right. She's not an orator, she's not a vanguard. She's an incremental improver. I'm OK with that. I'm in favor of incremental improvements.

  • PogueMahone71 says:

    I understand the frustration with HRC, but, really, what's the alternative? The Democratic Party basically cleared the deck for her, leaving her running against a primary opponent wholly unsuited for the presidency. And the only person *less* suited to the presidency is her opponent in the general election. I understand the distaste for Clintonian trianglulation, and risk-averse policy making, but her opponent (and this is the most generous description of him) is an American version of Silvio Berlusconi. No Democrat wants THAT.

    So what should the average citizen do?

  • Well, I dunno. I am not sure Bernie could have gotten anything through a GOP-led House, either. Actually, ANY Democrat would face stalemate because the GOP in the House are barking mad. The advantage with Bernie is that he wouldn't cease pointing this out to anyone who might stand still long enough to listen. Then maybe, just MAYBE our citizenry will wake up and realize the Republicans are all barking mad. Or not.

    I think we'll see Hillary pulling an Obama, in that she will simply cave to the Republicans so that something gets done. Oh, she'll make a show of trying to compromise, but in the end she'll cave.

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    "This time around it's likely that the personal animosity between Republicans and Hillary Clinton…will preclude the likelihood of many GOP-White House collaborations. "

    I can't see Bernie doing any better in that regard. In fact, can you imagine the crazies in the GOP House reacting to calls for them to cooperate with a self-described socialist?

  • Mark Martin says:

    I do remember articles about Hillary receiving high marks from colleagues – even from Republicans – when she was in the Senate. Be that as it may, I'm cynical about any sitting president's ability to enact change. The biggest single threat Americans face is a Congress owned and operated by the moneyed special interests and donor class. That's what needs to change.

  • The Jack of Hearts says:

    I don't know, Ed. I think campaigning is different from governing. Not unlike how someone who doesn't interview all that great can end up being fantastic on the job, once management first tries the stellar interviewee and they just don't work out in the day to day reality.

    I don't think we can really predict how she will be as president until she actually is. There were some admittedly disappointing aspects to the Bill Clinton presidency twenty years ago, but although she had some influence there, they are different people, and he was steering then, she was not.

  • Emerson Dameron says:


    Make peace the Fecal Duality of the 2016 White House race and focus on down-ticket candidates. Howard Dean's "50-state Strategy" remains the best hope for long-term progress in the Democratic party and deserves a real chance.

  • philadelphialawyer says:

    Sanders does not have the make up of a good president. The way his campaign was run shows that…all the money wasted on rallies, and insider media payouts, and almost nothing spent on GOTV. The non sense about the Pope "inviting" him to Rome. The unpreparedness to back up his slogans with real detailed policy proposals in the NY Daily News interview. The writing off of the Black vote. The failure to ever vary his message, and to broaden his support group.

    To be an effective president, one must be assemble a winning coalition, and be a team player, and an effective executive. Bernie is a barn burner, not a bridge builder. The classic back bencher, no compromise, "conscience" type legislator. That is the role that best suits his talents. He is not a detail guy. His best skill is giving firey speeches to folks who already agree with him. Not governing.

    He is also a big fish from a small pond. He fled FROM NYC, and represents what amounts to a rotten borough in the US Senate.

    By contrast, Hillary is a team player. She has put together a winning coalition. She knows the issues, and the policy choices, inside and out. She has learned from 2008 and run a smart, disciplined campaign. She went TO NYC and represented NY State in US Senate. She ran an important Federal executive agency. She has been on the nation stage for a quarter century, and has already seen how the White House works.

    Forget their issue stands, and just focus which candidate is actually more likely to succeed in the job, and I just can't possibly see any argument for the notion that Bernie was the "superior" choice.

  • I like Bernie Sanders, I just think the Republicans would eat him alive.

    What I like about Hillary, despite all her faults, is that she hits back.

    When you're dealing with bullies, and the GOP is full of them, you have to be willing to hit back.

    Hillary has taken everything they're thrown at her since 1992.

  • what philadelphialawyer said. I've never understood this notion about the Clintons that they're only interested in getting elected. They just understand that before you can change anything, you have to get elected, and you have to either get your allies elected or flip some Republicans. Which, yes, means compromising. But that's life- like the Buddha said, it's unsatisfactory.

  • philadelphialawyer says:

    Rich S:

    No one paid me. Really, it is actually possible that someone on the internet honestly disagrees with you about the Clinton/Sanders choice.

    You might also want to consider that logical fallacies (such as ad hominem, poisoning the well, and the shill gambit) are not effective arguments.

  • His hectoring style and uncompromising idealism is what eventually put me off Bernie. I suspect a Sanders Administration would have been Obama-on-steroids; the President pushing legislation that the GOP Congressional flying monkeys would screech and fling poop at followed by a sour rant from the White House about monkeys flinging poop. All that would be reported as "Both Sides Do It" and the great unwashed would respond predictably.

    So while I hold no brief for HRC, a Sanders Presidency would have been no less a tire-fire. Just a different kind of tire-fire…

  • I think this is an excellent argument for a 1 term Clinton presidency. I can't imagine her being willing to step down, but she could achieve her dream, make incremental improvements, and step down for the next generation to step in.

  • The most serious problems in our society, the imbalance between capital and labor, race relations, and climate change, are beyond the power of any President to address, because voters don't want them addressed. They may say they do, but when confronted with specific solutions, they run in horror, as those solutions would require a continuous effort on their on part to work.

  • I'm kinda surprised to be with most of the commenters here.

    a) The historians say Clinton has more relevant background experience for the Presidency than all but three other presidential candidates in US history. When she was Senator and SOS she managed to accomplish some good things with her boring incrementalism. So how about seeing what she actually does before writing her off as useless?

    b) When the alternative is Trumppence ….

  • I'm not sure what this type of post is meant to accomplish. Bernie lost, Hillary won, Bernie endorsed, the opponent now is a vulgar orange toddler with a freakish hairpiece and an itchy twitter finger. Either Hillary or Hitler's reincarnated arsehole will be POTUS. I know which one I prefer.

    I'll tell you exactly why safe is not only good, but pretty flippin' great for many of us: preserving, among other things, social security, what health care progress we did make, gay rights progress, women's reproductive rights, minority rights, freedom of/from religion. And the Supreme Fucking Court, fer cry-yi-yi.

    So, seriously? We're worried about SAFE?

  • I agree that the GOP-controlled House will stymie most of Clinton's domestic agenda. However, I expect to see the Dems take a (small) majority position in the Senate.

    One of the most significant assets Clinton will bring to the office is her experience dealing with "the vast right-wing conspiracy" that, yes, exists. Unlike Obama, who I believe bought at least a little into his own hype about being able to united the country, I do not believe Clinton will labor under any such delusions.

    This means that she will have about a 2-year period in which to confirm federal judges (lifetime appointments, of which there are now nearly 90 vacancies) and executive officials. It means that we should expect her to move on this immediately.

    That, for me, would be sufficient to call her first term a success. It won't seem much at the time, but the effect of 80+ federal judges interpreting law and laying down precedent (not to mention, of course, the makeup of the Supreme Court) could just be a fundamental shift in this country toward reining in monopolists and plutocrats.

  • @Ed, Nate Silver has bumped Trump's chances of winning the election up to about 33%. The New York Times/ CBS poll out today show Ms. Clinton and Trump dead even. With Tim Tebow speaking at the convention, the sky's the limit!!

    Seriously, I am starting to think we're REALLY fucked.

  • Also, @swellsman, see no reason to think that a Republican Senate (a strong possibility next year) is any more likely to confirm Ms. Clinton's judicial picks than they have President Obama's.

  • The similarities to a hostile business takeover are telling. Current leadership is passing the torch to an insider, stay the course etc. for a successful business. The fancy suit fly boys from a hedge fund are circling with tales of unlocking potential, fast money, brash, big stuff. The big money WS types like the takeover notion but crap at the style of the fly boys, thinking their precious investments might be at risk. Employees, suppliers, customers begin to wonder and worry, but have little say.
    We're in the phases prior to a shareholder vote. Speculation, threats, promises, alliances.
    Thank goodness the vote for POTUS includes everyone, not just shareholders.
    I loved Bernie's message but believe he would get eaten alive by the sharks in Congress.
    I end up thinking it's not remarkable that HC is the DP candidate. There is no one on the DP scene who has gone through, and survived, the blunt force trauma of years of attack by the Rs in Congress. No one even close. Given that Congress is unlikely to change soon, who else could stand up to that? Yes, the vision thing is important, critical even. But when the attack comes endlessly from a thousand directions, incremental change sounds pretty good to me, even if it just means assuring smaller increments of a downward spiral at times.
    The POTUS makes a gazillion decisions. If most or even many of those lean towards the DP platform-I'll take it in a flash. And hope Bernie keeps at it every way he can.

  • Skepticalist says:

    With HRC in office we'll get to see the Republicans try to make the White House manly again.

    It should be easier going for them this time. They won't have to trod so carefully on the scary job of trying to make the White House white again. Even though they were given eight years to do it, this fortunately cost them dearly.

    I can only imagine the kind of anti-Bernie campaign his nomination would have provoked. A dangerous and a not very Christian Socialist. Zounds!

  • philadelphialawyer says:


    Yeah, it is as if the Trump thing never happened. The other side has chosen a neo fascist . That, if nothing else, should show people that the country is NOT exactly solidly united behind a progressive agenda. Trump is polling at forty per cent or better, nationally. That is an awful lot of awful people…people who have apparently not gotten the memo that we are on the verge of a Golden Age of Progessivism. Combine that with the fact that, assuming Bernie was the more progressive candidate, not even half of the Democratic primary electorate wanted him, and one wonders why it is so clear that the country is ready to be "moved forward."

    Most Democrats, apparently, think the status quo (defined as incremental progress, HRC building on BHO's legacy) is pretty good. Most Republicans are ready to go Brownshirt. And the rest of them purport to be MORE conservative than Trump. Bernie thus represents a minority of, at best, a very small, very slim majority.

    And if we are going to judge them on the basis of how they would interact with the DC Republicans, I think Hillary, as a moderate Democrat, would, as POTUS, face a stalemate. Bernie would face an all out Republican war. And have far fewer troops to call on to back him up.

  • @ seniorscrub: Several presidents in the 19th century declined to run for a second term: Hayes and, perhaps most significantly, Polk, who just fucking owned the job his first four years, and then decided he was done.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    If nothing else, HRC will fill the Federal bench, and the SCOTUS, with anti-Scalia's/Thomas'/Alito's and Roberts.
    Oh, and the ancient human weather vane, Kennedy.

    So, that's not nothin'!

  • Yeah to all of the above, more or less. What's absolute is we're screwed no matter how it's parsed and articulated. Buena fucking suerte to all of us.

  • "This is precisely why Sanders was the superior candidate; more accurately, he would have made the better president of the two."

    Suppose that were true. So what? Candidates don't count for much until they are elected.

    You live in WHERE and still believe a [minority] associated with a [minority] religion with a [minority] political philosophy had the slightest chance to be elected? Idealism, meet reality.

    Further: Triangulation in the face of overwhelming dog-in-the-manger opposition looks pretty effective to me.

  • @philadelphialawyer
    How smug of you. However, I give not one fuck if you disagree with me. Your argument was bullshit generalization supported by nothing.

  • One thing we will get is 2-4 center-left SCOTUS justices replacing Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsburg and Breyer. And maybe a 5th if reports of Clarence Thomas stepping down are true. And maybe even a 6th if Sam Alito looks at his future as part of a small conservative minority and decides that persistent sneering from the bench will not be a satisfying career trajectory.

    So that's not nothing.

  • The Hillbots are out in force here.

    Anyone who thinks that Hillary Clinton will lift so much as a pinky finger to help the struggling 99% achieve an iota of the security they lost is delusional. You have to look at what she DOES not what she SAYS.

    But if you do look at what she SAYS, and keep looking, you will find that this is a power-hungry money grubbing shill who will do or say ANYTHING to get elected. She could care less about the masses who she is counting on to pull the lever for her out of fear.

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