When her husband was running for president in 1992, James Carville famously advised Bill Clinton on the zeitgeist of the American electorate at the time by saying, "It's the Economy, Stupid."
Somebody needs to tell Hillary Clinton that in 2016, the American people are once again simmering, and let her know that the American people are shouting, "It's the Rigged System, Stupid!"
Donald Trump is leading in the Republican primary polls partially because he's tossed the dog whistle and speaks directly to the racist xenophobic misogyny carefully cultivated by the GOP since the days of Lee Atwater's "Southern Strategy" for Ronald Reagan's election.
However, another large part of The Donald's appeal to some voters is that he is the ultimate outsider: a billionaire funding his own campaign who, it is presumed, cannot be bought. Trump's statements at recent GOP debates about the pay-to-play politics and how he has bought politicians on both sides of the aisle have won him many supporters.
The popular insurgent candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders is another indicator of the general public's disdain for the status quo of a political system rigged for the rich. And at her electoral peril, Hillary Clinton is allowing the frame of The-Fix-Is-In to define her as the More-Of-The-Same candidate against Donald Trump's anti-establishment position.
Look no further than Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign co-chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. As head of the Democratic National Committee, it is her job to promote the election of Democrats nationally and provide the greatest exposure to Democratic messaging for the general public. Instead, she's helped prove Donald Trump's point that the system is rigged and the fix is in.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz remembers well the lessons of her failed attempt at getting Hillary Clinton elected in 2008. Clinton was the presumptive Democratic nominee, leading her next closest competitor by over 20 points in the national polls at this time in 2007. But then, this unknown Democratic senator with a funny name that starts with a "B" started generating massive crowds as he delivered speeches full of progressive rhetoric. He grew an unprecedented grassroots network, taking in millions of small donations and building an unparalleled online presence. In debate after debate, this challenger saddled with labels like "socialist", "Muslim", and "Hussein" that would make him "unelectable" became known to the American people. Clinton began to fade against this challenger from the left who repeatedly reminded everyone that on key issues, like going to war in Iraq, Clinton was indistinguishable from Republicans.
So in preparing the schedule of debates for the 2016 election, Wasserman Schultz pared down the number of debates scheduled from the 26 that preceded Barack Hussein Obama's nomination to a mere six in this election season. Furthermore, Wasserman Schultz ensured that the debates would be scheduled in ratings graveyards, such as the most recent debate, a Saturday night before Christmas during a nationally-televised New York Jets football game, and the next debate, a Saturday night in the middle of the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend during a nationally-televised NFL playoff game.
Preceding that last debate, the last flimsy veil of neutrality was torn from Debbie Wasserman Schultz's handling of the primary campaign. By allowing a security flaw reported in October to remain unchecked, the software that handles crucial campaign data for all Democrats was breached by a staffer for the Bernie Sanders campaign. In response, Debbie Wasserman Schultz ignored the contract that allows a ten-day period to rectify the situation and instead instituted an immediate "death penalty" for the Sanders campaign, cutting off all access to all campaign data, something that impacts a grassroots campaign like Sanders' far more than it would a corporate campaign like Clinton's. Only through a lawsuit threat did Wasserman Schultz relent and restore Sanders' access.
Whether Sanders can overcome the sandbagging of his campaign by his own party's committee chair remains to be seen. But should Clinton eventually take the nomination, for many Democrats, her victory will be seen as tainted by that political corruption. You can bet Donald Trump will throw that in the She's-More-Of-The-Same stew with various donations made to the Clinton Foundation by foreign countries that later got sweetheart arms deals overseen by Secretary of State Clinton, amassing $5 million in speaking fees from the too-big-to-fail banks, and even how she ended up becoming a Senator from a state she had never lived in.
Democrats like Clinton and Wasserman Schultz embody that "Third Way" thinking, the Democratic centrism that was a hallmark of Bill Clinton. But he wasn't elected by a majority, remember. Another independent billionaire, Ross Perot, sucked away some of the Republican support for incumbent George H.W. Bush, leading to Bill Clinton's election with just 43 percent of the popular vote.
Propelling much of Perot's support was his criticism of the professional political class. "Our system of government is the problem. We've got to change the system," Perot said presciently in 1992. "I'm critical of the system and not individuals. I have said that you could replace everybody in Congress, find the best people in the country, put them in that system, and in months they'd look just like the people you're replacing."
That kind of talk got Perot almost 20 million votes, mostly from Republicans.
Another hallmark of Democratic thinking is the Lesser-Of-Two-Evils situation - the belief that the party establishment need not heed calls for more progressive stances, since anybody who supports progressivism would never allow a Republican to thwart their causes, so they'll hold their nose and vote for the centrist "Third Way" candidate. You'll hear this from Hillary Clinton's supporters who criticize Sanders' supporters who will not vote for her in the general election, combined with threats of a President Trump, a repealed Affordable Care Act, and another couple of conservatives on the Supreme Court.
The danger facing Hillary Clinton, though, is that in this election, the greater evil may be perceived to be the continuation of the corrupt political system. Not only will a significant portion of Democratic and progressive voters feel the game is rigged and stay home on Election Day, but those independents and moderates who already see Clinton as untrustworthy and calculating will have their prejudices confirmed. If her opponent is Trump, he will paint her with "Professional Politician, Owned by Wall Street" in every speech and debate and many will see him as the lesser of two evils. Add to that the Republicans and conservatives who see her as the embodiment of evil itself and will turn out in record numbers to oppose her and you have a recipe for a second-straight Hillary Clinton presidential campaign failure.
One comment I read on the Internet summed it up. He expressed his support for Bernie Sanders as the only candidate who would fix the corrupt political system. He then said if the election came down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, he'd vote for Trump, because he'd rather have a candidate who breaks the corrupt political system than one who thrives in it.
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General Election: Nov 3, 2020
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