Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Does having a leftist challenge hurt or help Hillary?

By Richard Barry

Go get 'em, Bernie

It is being reported that Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, will announce on Thursday his intention to run for president in 2016. Though an Independent, he plans to enter the primary and caucus contests as a Democrat, according to his advisors.

Sanders, who calls himself an independent socialist, will of course be running to the left of Hillary Clinton. The question is whether that helps her or hurts her.

I like Senator Sanders. I like Senator Warren. But if the left-wing of the Democratic Party thinks Hillary Clinton is incapable of successfully addressing a challenge from their quarter, they are mistaken.

Despite what we hear from the vocal left of the Democratic Party, the American electorate is quite conservative, as is the Democratic Party. Sanders will say important things about income inequality, the challenges facing the poor and the middle class, and the need to better regulate Wall Street, etc., etc., and Hillary will agree with him, but she will also position herself as a moderate when dealing with various scourges because that is where the votes are. Yes, she will care, and she will promise to do things, but not too much and not too fast, but thank you Senator Sanders for providing contrast.

If you haven't noticed, Hillary is already doing a decent of job of holding Elizabeth Warren close.

I am trying to imagine an issue on which Sanders will seriously challenge Clinton that will have a significantly adverse impact on her vote share in the general election. Sanders will not be there for the general election, and not being far enough to the left will matter not at all when it comes time for Clinton to face off against the GOP nominee.

The greatest danger, and I truly hate to say this, is that Hillary will allow herself to be so spooked by her left flank that she gives away too much and alienates moderate voters who could vote for a Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio.

What a world.

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  • I don't think there is any need to worry. Clinton knows what she is doing. Having a primary is a good thing for the party because it generates excitement for the base.

    We also need to get serious about what populism in the US really looks like. It is socially conservative and economically liberal. The push from the left is on economic issues. On these, I think Clinton has already made the necessary adjustments (although I'd really like to see her come out against TPP -- which she won't do). But the left is not going to push Clinton into looking weak on national security or "law and order." And those are the only things that might hurt her.

    But I will take issue with people moving from Clinton to Bush. The 2016 election will come down to the economy. Unless something major -- like a war -- happens, that will be what elects the president.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 1:06 PM  

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