Over the past few days, a number of writers have expressed disappointment bordering on shock at the political tactics of the Clintons. The short of it is that they’ve basically become everything fought against in the 1990s.
…after decades of hardball politicking, she and her husband have become completely indistinguishable from the forces that first tried to destroy them.
Carl Bernstein (h/t: warner):
What you see is what you get: Hillary’s cynical view of the larger interests of the Democratic Party, exhibited in her 3 a. m. red telephone ad.
So speaking for myself I’ve spent too much time over, what, 15 years now? … defending both Clintons from similarly ginned up nonsense to have much energy left to help out as they pull the same puffed up outrage act against another Democrat. I guess I’m just not feeling it.With the Wright business and now with this, the more nuanced version of the Clinton line has been that what ‘we’ think is not really the point. It’s what Republicans will do with it in the fall. And that’s a real concern that I definitely have. I won’t deny it. I’ve never thought Obama was a perfect candidate. But as we get deeper into the primary calendar, increasingly so, this ‘what the Republicans will do’ line has become more of a simulacrum, or a license, if you will, to do what Republicans actually do do. That is to say, to grab for political advantage by peddling stereotypes about Democrats and liberals that are really no less offensive than the ones we’re talking about about Americans from small town and rural America.
And seeing Hillary go on about how Obama has contempt for folks in small town America, how he’s elitist, well … no, it’s not because I think she’s either. I never have. But after seeing her hit unfairly with just the same stuff for years, it just encapsulates the last three-plus months of her campaign which I can only describe as a furious descent into nonsense and self-parody. Part of it makes me want to cry. But at this point all I can really do is laugh.
And it’s killing me that I can’t find this quote, but one Democratic official earlier this week remarked that Hillary Clinton’s strategy for building the Democratic Party looks remarkably similar to the GOP’s strategy for building the Democratic Party.
But all this disappointment and confusion can be cleared up with one simple revelation: The Clintons are acting like Republicans because, well, they are Republicans. They’re Republicans who at some point realized they would have greater political success in the other party. I wouldn’t go so far as to use the term “Manchurian Republicans,” but I encourage others to take that and run with it.
Hillary Clinton, a former Goldwater Girl and President of the Young Republicans at Wellesley, perhaps stated it best during her college years in a letter to a friend: “I’m a heart liberal, but a mind conservative.”
The thought of the Clintons as Republicans may sound absurd, but let’s stop and think about what they’ve accomplished on behalf of the Democratic Party: NAFTA, welfare reform, Telecom Reform Act (paving the way for the expansion of Rupert Murdoch’s empire), death penalty expansion, extraordinary rendition, Defense of Marriage Act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and consistent Democratic losses in Congress throughout the Clinton administration. Triangulating– a political tactic that has become synonymous with the Clintons– is not taking two sides of an issue and finding a third way. It’s taking the Republican side of the issue, wrapping it up in a Democratic package, and finding a way to sell it to both sides.
The Clintons are now engaged in a campaign that long ago became mathematically hopeless and now serves zero purpose whatsoever other than to undermine the most promising Democratic candidate in a generation by using tactics perfected by Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. They are doing all they can to help John McCain convince small town, rural, and red state voters that Barack Obama– a candidate who has been remarkably strong in all those demographics– is really an out-of-touch, unpatriotic, liberal elitist. Because of the efforts of the Clintons over the last few months, an election year that was set up for sweeping Democratic victories across the country is turning into a genuine toss-up.
Whatever short-term bones and moral victories the Clintons have thrown the Democratic Party over the years, most of their major accomplishments– from surviving Monica-gate to fanning Bitter-gate– have served to undermine its long-term interests. To use a basketball analogy, they are the selfish superstars who score 40 points every night, but don’t really believe in the system the team is running, don’t distribute the ball, don’t make their teammates better, do nothing to aid the team’s up-and-coming young players (because there’s only room for one star on the team), and don’t really care that the team loses every night– as long as they get their stats, their endorsements, their individual awards, and their faces on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
So at what point do the Democrats realize that they need to win in November more than they need the Clintons’ 40 points a night? At what point do superdelegates use the power they’ve been given to “do what’s in the best interest of the party” to do what’s in the best interest of the party? And lastly, at what point will people stop being disappointed, surprised, saddened, or shocked that the Clintons look so transparently similar to the Republicans, not only in tactics but philosophy?
It’s not that they’ve suddenly turned into Republicans, they’ve just gotten worse at hiding it.