Guest Blogger Steve Caine: The Democrats’ Challenge

May 21, 2016

Part 1 – Clinton v. Sanders

Friends tell me the Democratic nomination process is a carbon copy of 2008 and all will be well in the Fall. Or they tell me Donald Trump is a disaster for the Republican Party, he will be on the wrong end of a landslide Democratic victory, and he may have an impact on down-ballot races. Or both. Both sets of thoughts are wrong: The challenges faced by Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are daunting. Unless they are addressed the outcome may be very, very bad.

First let’s look at the myth that this year is a duplication of the 2008 process. In 2008, the “insurgent” candidate was a young, multiracial, very attractive candidate named Barack Obama. We may not have recognized it at the time but we were in the infancy of an electorate rebelling against the status quo and business as usual. More than anybody else in the race on either side of the aisle, Senator Obama filled that niche. Then Senator Clinton reinforced that divide by running a campaign based on inevitability which bordered on entitlement. Simply, it was her turn! True, her being the first woman seriously vying for the Presidency was as groundbreaking as Obama’s race. In the end, however, he was the fresh face representing change, as against her legacy rights.

(There was also the fact that Senator Clinton ran a terrible campaign. By the time her team realized she was on the wrong side of experience v. a lack of experience, it was too late.)

What makes this year so different from 2008? There is a fundamental, ideological difference between Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders which was not present in 2008. Senator Clinton’s campaign was about Senator Obama as an inexperienced young guy. She had many accomplishments, and he “gave a speech in 2004.” Could you trust such a person to know what to do if he received a 3 a.m. call? Never was there a suggestion that his actual policy positions or character were issues.

Contrariwise, Senator Sanders has impugned Hillary Clinton’s ethical standing, openly attacking her connection to what he claims are corrupt and rigged political and economic systems. Those attacks are every bit as damaging—in fact, they are probably more damaging—than the Republican noise machine’s endless: Benghazi.

The fierce anger towards Senator Obama by the PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) crowd in 2008 was mostly personal. Many had waited a long time to finally crack that “glass ceiling”. Then there were the casual put-downs by Obama: “You’re likable enough, Hillary.” But come the election, there were no issues regarding Barack Obama’s positions. With an assist from Hillary Clinton’s strong, full-throated endorsement, the anger subsided.

Now, Senator Sanders says he can’t tell his voters what to do. He’s right—he can help, but he’s still right—and his being right really reflects the way in which this election cycle is like 1968 or 1980. In 1968 Senator Eugene McCarthy never endorsed Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and while Senator Ted Kennedy did endorse President Jimmy Carter and campaign for him, in both cases the primary electorate was so divided that the losing candidate’s activities mattered little.

I have no doubt that Senator Sanders will support Hillary Clinton. But, will it mostly be anti-Trump; will it be strongly pro-Hillary; will it be lukewarm; will it matter? We simply don’t know.

I am a Hillary supporter and mostly don’t care for Senator Sanders or his positions. I hope and pray (though I doubt God will intervene) that Senator Sanders strongly supports Hillary Clinton, that his support does not come “too late,” and that it matters to his supporters. But make no mistake about it, there is a lot at stake here and it’s no time to be timid.

We, who support Hillary and are appalled by Trump, need to get out there and represent Hillary for what she is, right on the issues that matter. Don’t get depressed, get working. For Republicans reading this, please hit your delete key.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Clinton v. Trump.

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