by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Thomas Donlan of Barron’s devotes his latest editorial commentary to Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton’s efforts to woo rival Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
As the winner of the nomination fight, Clinton will have to be that indulgent adult, signing on to a leftish platform in order to have a base for the general election.
One year ago, Sanders leaned on a lectern on the Capitol lawn to give a five-minute news conference announcing his candidacy. His remarks were replete with economic nonsense about people working longer hours for lower wages, corporations shipping jobs overseas, and “horrendous trade deals” such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
His first and most misleading campaign claim was that “99% of all new income generated in this country is going to the top 1%,” which was based on statistical sleight of hand. His most important offer to young people and their parents was free college tuition for all, a system like the underfunded and overcrowded universities of Europe.
His other big issue also was a fantasy about inequality: “We now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates.” One year later, Jeb Bush and other well-funded candidates have fallen by the wayside, and through March, Sanders had outspent Clinton and all of the Republican candidates. Clinton did have additional support from supposedly independent unions and political-action committees, but Sanders overcame the money challenge.
In a year of jousting with Sanders, Clinton has drifted closer to her opponent. Whether this was a matter of tactics or intention is not clear, but the changes are clearly toward Sanders’ positions that are popular with the Democratic base. She is now against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and dubious about Nafta, the Keystone XL pipeline, the Iraq War, and longer prison sentences. She is now for immigration reform that includes citizenship for 12 million illegal immigrants, same-sex marriage, a $12 federal minimum wage (although she approves of New York and California going to $15), and lifting the Cuban embargo.
Every candidate evolves, and politicians who don’t evolve in the direction of the majority of voters don’t win elections. But the duality of the U.S. presidential system requires careful attention to the party base in the primary season and a neck-snapping pivot to the center for the general election. It isn’t an easy trick, and Clinton has not done it gracefully.