Bernie, Hillary, and embracing the right-wing narrative

Like any politician, Hillary Clinton certainly has her flaws.  She is clearly very calculating.  And all-too-often in such an off-putting, transparent way. She can be overly cautious.  She’s not a particularly inspiring or charismatic figure.  That said, I think it is fair to say that a lot that people find wrong about her regarding her honesty and personal ethics really do stem from what has been essentially a 25-year war by Republicans waged against her character.  Yes, imperfect she is, but it is frustrating to see Bernie supporters largely adopting GOP talking points against her.  Really enjoyed this piece on the matter by Chez Pazienza:

Bernie Sanders will never be president. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. He stands very little chance of pulling down the Democratic nomination and no chance at all of winning a general election. His rabid acolytes can argue with this all they want but they’ll be wrong for several inarguable reasons: because the “political revolution” Bernie Sanders needs to advance his campaign and agenda is pie-in-the-sky thinking that simply doesn’t occur in representative democracies like ours, where change always comes incrementally and our entire system is designed so it can’t be remade in one fell swoop; because he’s a one-note candidate who concerns himself with nothing other than his admittedly noble lifelong obsession with wealth inequality; because America isn’t evolved enough to elect an avowed socialist, democratic or otherwise, and it unfortunately won’t get near someone who openly eschews religion; and maybe most importantly because once the GOP considered Bernie a sworn enemy rather than the perfect foil it can use to destroy Hillary Clinton, it would eat him alive. Eat. Him. Alive... [emphases mine]

And you almost certainly have friends clogging up your Facebook feed with impassioned screeds about how Clinton just can’t be trusted, how she’s an establishment shill with too little integrity and too much scandal and baggage attached to her, how she might even be the embodiment of pure political evil. Obviously, Clinton carries with her more than 25 years in the white-hot public spotlight that Sanders doesn’t — despite his career in the Senate — and over that length of time people have been able to form opinions of her and they’re ones not likely to change at this point. What you know about Hillary is what you know about Hillary. There aren’t a lot of surprises. Maybe you figure this is bad for her, but in truth it can be argued that this is a positive rather than a negative because there’s nothing the Republicans can throw at her that we haven’t already been fed to death.

And when you take a step back and look at Clinton objectively — which is admittedly difficult for many, even, or maybe particularly, on the left — that’s exactly the point. Hillary Clinton’s reputation is largely the result of a quarter century of visceral GOP hatred.

With the exception of maybe Barack Obama, whom they’ve irrationally loathed with the fire of a thousands suns, it’s tough to name anyone conservatives have more vigorously derided throughout the years than Hillary Clinton…

There are reasons you may choose not to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016, but one would hope they’re policy issues rather than problems with her personality — because the “personality” that’s been sold to the American electorate is largely manufactured, and not by Clinton herself (another facet of the smear: that she’s a phony). The reality is that Clinton was one of the most liberal members of the Senate during her time there, ranking within ten points of progressive messiah Bernie Sanders and her history as a crusader for progressive causes is precisely what so motivated the GOP to destroy her in the first place. As far as the right was concerned, Clinton stepped far over the line when she pushed for healthcare reform way back in 1993 and her activist past informed a future as a “difficult woman.”…

You can say you don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s scandal-prone and who wants to go through another four or eight years of that. But remember two things: One, no matter what Democratic candidate gets elected, he or she will face a daily trial by fire from irrationally outraged conservatives. Seven years of Barack Obama-fueled insanity proves that. Two, the supposed scandals that Clinton’s been enduring for the past 25 years are mostly nonsense. The GOP wouldn’t have it any other way. And they couldn’t be happier that right now so many liberals have turned against the woman they utterly despise in favor of someone they’re fully aware they can beat.

Good stuff.  I’ll conclude with the commentary of my Bernie-supporting FB friend (and she’s over 50!) who shared this:

I’m still voting for Bernie in the primary because I would like to pull my party back at least to the center, but I will work my ass off for Hillary in the general. And I won’t repost any vitriolic crap about her because even if you slap a hammer and sickle on it it is still only serving the right-wing agenda.

Photo of the day

Also from In Focus photos of the week:

A dog runs on the frozen surface of the Yenisei River in Taiga area, with the air temperature at about minus 28 degrees Celsius (-18.4 degrees Fahrenheit), outside Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, Russia, on January 28, 2016.

Ilya Naymushin / Reuters

Chart of the day

Interesting recent Wonkblog post on how the gap in school performance between boys and girls (girls outperforming boys K-12 has been a widely documented phenomenon) shrinks dramatically as the quality of the school improves:

It’s obvious from this chart that test scores are higher at the better-ranked schools. That’s why the dots slope upward to the right. The better the school, the higher the test scores.

What’s striking is the difference between the test scores of boys and girls, and how it widens at lower-quality schools. At the best schools in Florida, boys and girls are on equal footing. At the worst schools in Florida, the boys fall behind the girls…

To prove that the school environment itself has been causing boys to fall behind, the economists compared brothers and sisters who went to the same school. Siblings are more similar than strangers, since they usually grow up in the same household, were exposed to the same things, and had access to the same resources.

Furthermore, since their previous research has shown that boys are more sensitive than girls to family disadvantages, the economists also controlled for that fact in their statistical tests. They accounted for how poverty, low mother’s education, bad neighborhood quality, and a slew of other factors widen the gender gap. They also examined families that moved school districts to see how the same children fared at different schools.

After stripping away all the alternative explanations, the economists found that the schools themselves do deserve some of the blame for causing boys to suffer academically compared to girls. There’s something about the way that class is conducted at Florida’s worst schools that disadvantages boys. It may have to do with how students are disciplined, or the way that lessons are taught… [emphasis mine]

It’s unlucky enough to be born to a poor family, to grow up in a poor neighborhood and attend bad schools. As recent research shows, it’s doubly unlucky to be a boy facing those circumstances.

Fascinating.  What to do about this?  Unclear.  But recognizing that this is part of the problem is a good start.


Rubio = Kerry? (plus, how Trumpism wins)

So, one of the thoughts I had last night was that, although he didn’t win, Rubio in the Iowa Caucus kind of reminded me of John Kerry in 2004.  That worked out well for Kerry.  Peter Beinart draws the parallels:

Marco Rubio’s last minute surge in Iowa has a lot in common with John Kerry’s last minute surge to victory in Iowa in 2004. Like Rubio, Kerry was an early frontrunner. Like Rubio, Kerry underperformed all fall as an anti-establishment candidate (Howard Dean) came from nowhere to dominate the field. Like Rubio, Kerry benefitted in the closing weeks from a nasty battle between the two Iowa frontrunners (Dean and Richard Gephardt). Like Rubio, Kerry counterpunched in those final weeks by stressing his electability. Among the Iowans who called electability “crucial” to their vote, Kerry beat Dean by 16 points. Among the Iowans who said they cared most about which candidate could “win in November,” Rubio beat Trump by 18.

For party insiders, Kerry’s success proved that Democratic voters had come to their senses; that Dean’s moment had come and gone. But that wasn’t right. Kerry had beaten Dean not by challenging the Vermont governor’s anti-war message but by pledging to more effectively sell it. In October, Kerry voted against a bill to fund the Iraq war he had once voted to authorize and “began to sound more and more like an antiwar candidate.” One poll found that 13 percent of Iowa voters considered Kerry the candidate best described as having “opposed the war.” As Dean’s pollster would later lament, Kerry was “liberally borrowing our message.”

Beinart continues with lots of examples of how Rubio has basically co-opted Trump’s message– as Kerry did to Dean.  I personally find this one particularly offensive and depressing that this is what may be the “establishment” candidate:

Rubio also began hinting that President Obama was a kind of traitor. “Barack Obama,” he warned darkly, “has deliberately weakened America.” He wants to “cut [America] down to size.” And having once pitched himself as a bridge between the GOP and the changing face of twenty-first century America, Rubioinstead began appealing to “all of us who feel out of place in our own country.”[emphasis mine]

Comparatively, Rubio remains the “moderate” in the GOP race, just as Kerry was among the Democrats in 2004. But Trump has redefined what “moderate” means. In 2008 and 2012, Mitt Romney and John McCain never had to praise a rival for suggesting a religious litmus test for entering the country. During their presidential bids, Romney and McCain both shifted right on illegal immigration. But they didn’t backpedal on their support for legal immigration. And they never implied that Obama trying to sabotage a country he didn’t really love.

Trump may have lost in Iowa but Trumpism won. The fact that the moderate in the GOP race is now peddling a version of The Donald’s message testifies to how profound his effect has been.

I hope Rubio does not equal Kerry because Kerry got the nomination.  And Rubio is clearly the strongest contender with any viability in this year’s Republican primary electorate.

That said, Frum argues this is still a tough road for Rubio:

First, Rubio must perform strongly in New Hampshire next week. Even more importantly, all the other candidates you used to like must perform poorly. If, hypothetically, John Kasich or Chris Christie rather than Marco Rubio finishes a strong second to Donald Trump, Rubio’s future as the Great Establishment Hope would suddenly look a lot less hopeful.

Then, in the days after New Hampshire votes, all the other candidates you used to like must rapidly withdraw gracefully from the field…

Next, in a year when the Republican base is seething against Republican leadership, you must find some way to convince those voters that the tens of millions in campaign donations and super-PAC dollars about to flow to Rubio don’t mark him out as the new “establishment man,” even though, of course, it’s true.

You must also somehow persuade Donald Trump to exit the race quietly, rather than smash all the scenery on his way off the stage.

Actually, I see all those things as reasonably likely to go in Rubio’s favor.  I’m still not sure he’s all of a sudden the favorite, but then again, I’m not sure he’s not.  That said, the betting markets just moved strongly to Rubio.


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