Moving on to her “I’m not Trump” campaign

June 8, 2016

The June 7 primaries finally settled the Democratic nomination race, but Elizabeth Schulte explains why the outlines of the general election are already well in focus.

HILLARY CLINTON did well in the final major day of the Democratic presidential primaries, winning all but one state, though the outcome in California, the biggest contest of the whole season, was still in doubt as this article was published.

Even if Clinton were to lose California to Bernie Sanders, she would be well ahead in the number of delegates awarded based on the outcome of primaries, though still shy of the 2,383 threshold--a majority at the party's nominating convention in July.

Sanders, whose left-wing campaign surpassed all expectations and inspired huge numbers of people, has promised to continue his campaign, possibly through the convention. But on election night, there were signs--including reports of a Thursday meeting between Sanders and Barack Obama, scheduled at Sanders' request--that he might relent and concede.

Either way, though, the Associated Press (AP) wasn't waiting around.

On Monday night--with hours to go before polling places opened on the day with the second-largest number of Democratic delegates at stake--the news service announced that Clinton had enough pledged delegates plus "superdelegates" supporting her to have a lock on the nomination.

Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in Arizona
Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail in Arizona (Gage Skidmore)

AP based its findings on a survey of the superdelegates--the party's high-level officials, officeholders and operatives who get a vote at the convention just for being Very Important. Clinton has been piling up superdelegate support since long before the first primary. The 571st to promise to vote for Clinton at the convention put her over the top, according to AP.

So voters who took a look at the New York Times before they went to the polls were treated to a front-page banner headline broadcasting Clinton's "historic" achievement--of winning the election they had yet to vote in.

If they voted at all. On election night, analysts speculated, based on still-incomplete returns, that turnout in the Democratic contests may have fallen compared to other states, probably because of the AP projection.

In California, Long Beach resident Arie Gonzalez told the Los Angeles Times, "It's like, why vote?...I can't believe Democrats have all these superdelegates and that we vote consistently always with Iowa first and California has no voice by the time it comes down to it. We're a tenth of the population. It's ridiculous."

In fact, the media were merely ratifying what Hillary Clinton's supporters have been preaching for months--more and more frantically when their candidate kept losing to Sanders, who was harangued endlessly about the need to shut up so Democrats could "unify."

"It's time to stand behind our presumptive candidate," Michael Brown, a superdelegate from Washington, D.C., who came forward in the past week to back Clinton before the District's June 14 primary, told the AP. "We shouldn't be acting like we are undecided when the people of America have spoken."

Except that quite a few "people of America" didn't speak. As the Intercept commented, it was a fitting end to a race where party leaders and prominent liberals relied on their control of the party and media apparatus to steer the nomination to their choice: "Anonymous Superdelegates Declare Winner Through Media."

THE PREEMPTING of the actual vote by superdelegate math overshadowed coverage of the wave of enthusiasm that Sanders rode going into the final big primaries. In California, a campaign event in Oakland drew 20,000 people, and another in LA turned out 13,500, despite being moved to a different venue at the last minute.

This has been the story since the start of the campaign. From the moment he said he would run for the Democratic nomination, Sanders, the self-declared socialist, drew crowds eager to hear a candidate who talked about taking on corporate greed, challenging the corruption of the U.S. political system and putting working people ahead of Wall Street profits.

Suddenly, Clinton--a fixture of the Democratic Party establishment since before her husband occupied the White House and the presumptive nominee in 2016 since just after Barack Obama won re-election in 2012--had a fight on her hands against a candidate who connected with the disgust with the status quo felt by millions.

All along, Clinton was looking forward to the general election campaign against whatever right-wing monster the Republicans nominated--and when it turned out to be Donald Trump, Christmas came early in Clinton-land. It's a lot easier for Hillary Clinton to convince people she's the right choice against a billionaire reality TV star than a serious left-wing challenger.

That's why, since mid-April, when it became clear that--thanks to the superdelegates, at least--Clinton would stave off the Sanders challenge, she's all but ignored Sanders, focusing instead on Trump in her stump speeches and public appearances. While most people can barely stand to look at Trump, Clinton can't wait to put him in an even brighter spotlight.

She could do this, of course, because she knew that the Democratic establishment and a corporate media loyal to the status quo wouldn't ignore Sanders--that they would keep up the shrill chorus demanding that Sanders be reasonable and surrender.

A CLINTON-Trump match-up gives Clinton the opportunity to camp out on the turf where she's comfortable--the so-called middle ground, as defined by the Washington consensus. Clinton's ideological territory is located to the left of Trump's on most, though not all, issues--but it's quite a hike from where Sanders made his left-wing stand.

We got a preview of the general election "debate" to come with Hillary Clinton's celebrated speech on foreign policy last week. Most of the corporate media lapped it up, declaring that it showed her command of the issues, compared to Trump. But the only thing Clinton's speech demonstrated was her ability to land one-liners about a way-too-easy target.

"This is not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes," Clinton warned of Trump, "because it's not hard to imagine Donald Trump leading us into a war just because somebody got under his very thin skin."

But what she didn't talk so much about is where Hillary Clinton stands on foreign policy issues--and for good reason. If she did, it might seem less like Clinton is fighting the right, and more like she's a part of it.

As secretary of state, Clinton supported the coup-makers in Honduras who overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya; the deadly 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan; and the Obama administration's escalation of drone warfare. She used her position to travel the world convincing governments to start fracking for natural gas and oil, among other priorities of Corporate America.

Clinton says she's ready to stand up to Trump and his agenda, but when ordinary people do just that with actions, not just words, she's on the other side.

When immigrant rights protesters and others mobilized in San Diego and San Jose to protest Trump's message of bigotry and hate, the media trained their cameras on a handful of altercations. There was little mention of rabid Trump supporters heaping racist abuse on demonstrators, calling them "gang members"--and usually none at all of the overreaction of armed-to-the-teeth local police.

And true to form, both Clinton and Barack Obama chastised protesters. "It is very important for us to remind ourselves of who we are and what is best about American democracy, and not slip into some of the bad habits that currently manifest themselves in the other party," Obama said at a private DNC fundraising event in Miami.

According to the Democrats' logic, opposing Trump is Clinton's job, not people in the streets. So the immigrant rights supporters who turned out in large numbers in San Jose when Trump descended on their multiracial city are supposed to rely on Clinton, who voted for strengthening the U.S. border with Mexico, to take on Trump and his plans to build a border wall.

No way. The people who have mobilized to challenge Trump in several cities are showing that there's another way to confront bigotry and reaction than waiting for a Democrat to stand up for justice--only to see them fold.

THE MESSAGE to the Democratic Party's more liberal voting base is already clear: Sure, you may have some criticisms of Hillary Clinton, and you may have liked what Bernie Sanders had to say--but it's time to get real and start helping ensure the victory of the "lesser evil" in order to stop the "greater evil."

But everything about Clinton's political career is further evidence that voting for the "lesser evil" leads to of evils of both kinds.

Take the issue of immigration, where Trump's open bigotry is, indeed, frightening. The truth, though, is that Barack Obama campaigned for president in 2008 promising that he would stop the Republicans from carrying out their reactionary enforcement-only immigration policies. But in office, he's adopted many of the right's proposals, while failing to fight for better measures in legislation. Now, with less than a year in office, he's deported more people than any president in history.

During the coming campaign, the liberal organizations and political figures will ask us to forget all that and vote for the Democrats anyway. They'll make the appeal to the party's liberal base that Clinton stumbled so badly in making during the primaries.

And the time is coming soon when Bernie Sanders will join those voices. When he finally concedes that he's lost the nomination, he will do what he's promised all along and urge his supporters to support one of the prime symbols of the status quo that he called on them to rebel against.

Clinton, meanwhile, will make the Democratic presidential nominee's time-honored "move to the center"--though after a primary where she turned into the "No we can't" candidate on health care, college tuition and more, she doesn't have far to go.

Clinton will take the support of liberals and progressives for granted, and start concocting strategies to win over moderate and conservative "swing voters." So get ready for more speeches like her foreign policy address where it's hard to see what distinguishes her from a more mainstream Republican than Trump.

But this campaign strategy might not work out so smoothly. Clinton is sending her stick-with-me-America-is-already-great message to a population of working people whose lives are far from great, and getting even less so all the time.

A recent poll by the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research illustrates growing dissatisfaction with the political process and the two political parties. The May study of registered voters, Republicans and Democrats, showed that 90 percent lack confidence in the U.S. political system. Some 40 percent said it was "seriously broken."

"The views of ordinary voters are not considered by either party, according to most Americans," the study stated. "Fourteen percent say the Democratic Party is responsive to the views of the rank-and-file; 8 percent report that about the Republican Party."

But as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting pointed out, the corporate media didn't report on this poll. They were too busy conducting a survey of anonymous superdelegates so they could tell primary voters that Clinton was already the winner, so they don't need to bother.

This exposes the gap between what the Democrats are offering and what the people who are expected to vote for them want. Supporting Hillary Clinton won't close that gap. We need to start organizing for an alternative--in politics and in all the protest movements throughout society--that can.

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