To Become President, Hillary Needs to Move Left and Right at the Same Time

Barring cataclysmic developments, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee. The election dynamics and delegate math are clearcut. A lot of media coverage will try to spin up more of a contest than there is, because that is the nature of the media these days. But to win the White House, the former secretary of state will need to incorporate the democratic socialist appeal of Senator Bernie Sanders even as she creates space in a new governing coalition for some moderately conservative Republicans alarmed by their party's slide into anti-Enlightenment neo-fascism.

Paradoxically, Hillary is at once at risk of losing the general election to a rampaging Trumpist populism and in reach of winning a smashing victory.

Even with three weekend wins in the overwhelmingly white caucus states of Kansas, Nebraska, and Maine, admirers of Bernie Sanders have to acknowledge the obvious: Hillary Clinton has a powerful and strengthening grip on the Democratic presidential nomination. In the all-important count of delegates to the Democratic national convention, the former first lady essentially matched Sanders's three weekend caucus victories by garnering delegates in those states and winning a smashing 71-23 victory in the Louisiana primary election. And she already had a big lead overall. She is nearly 200 delegates ahead among those won in the contests so far and over 600 delegates ahead counting the party's super-delegates. As she learned from Barack Obama in 2008, who had a lesser lead at this point, if a campaign holds form it is very hard verging on impossible to make up a significant gap once it is established.

Hillary has beaten Sanders in every state with major non-white populations, the key to any Democratic victory in the fall. While he is strong in caucus states, where activists hold disproportionate sway, she's won every higher-participation non-Vermont primary state other than New Hampshire and Oklahoma. That includes Massachusetts, the biggest state in Sanders's New England stronghold.

In fact, she has won all of the larger states contested so far. That's something I expect to continue in looming primaries in Michigan, Ohio, and Florida.

There should be an intricate two-step in store for Clinton and Sanders, in which he achieves his fundamental goal of establishing a powerful progressive wing of the Democratic Party beyond identity politics and she achieves her goal of a productive presidency.

Sanders took a very powerful shot in the first three contests -- Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada -- last month and nearly shattered Hillary's hold on the Democratic nomination. But it didn't quite happen. As expected, Hillary held form in February, barely, and that, barring cataclysm, is that. (Given how far he's come, Sanders would be foolhardy not to hang around in the event of a Clinton disaster.) Yet Sanders can and should have an outstanding run ahead, winning more states and garnering very large numbers of national convention delegates in the process.

Team Sanders brings huge assets to the table in any accommodation with the Clintons, not least a literally history-making online fundraising capability and the ability to draw both large crowds and an enthusiastic new generation of young activists.

In the new politics of discontent, Republicans have slid into the neo-fascism implicit in their long stoking of the resentments of their "base" voters while Democrats increasingly look toward democratic socialist solutions to our corrupt political system, hollowing economy, and massive inequality. A number of Sanders's particulars may be off, but the reality is, due to present economic trends and future technological likelihoods, we will either have more socialism in our future or more feudalism.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and the neo-fascism that is Trumpism presents a clear and present danger both to Democratic hopes and America's future. With the prospect of the first woman president falling rather flat -- a woman in power hasn't proved a panacea elsewhere in the world -- the advent of Trumpism can help solve Hillary's problem of apparently lacking a mission beyond self-advancement.

But it won't be at all easy. When Trump got away last summer with the baldest sort of personal hypocrisy in claiming John McCain wasn't a war hero -- Trump himself is a chicken hawk Vietnam War draft dodger -- I became convinced of his ability to slide through what would ordinarily be terminal political events.

Yet the danger of Trumpism provides the Clintons with an opportunity to bring together seemingly antithetical constituencies in the form of emerging democratic socialists and moderate conservatives who all believe in the Enlightenment values of America's Founders. Both Trump and his principal challenger, ultra-rightist Ted Cruz, have clearly rejected the Enlightenment world view of Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and George Washington. (Marco Rubio? Who knows what that chameleon really thinks? Not that it matters, since his phoniness has doomed his candidacy. John Kasich? Obviously far too sane and knowledgeable for the devolution GOP.)

Policy wonk Hillary has already presented a programmatic element around which she can begin knitting a new alliance of left, center, and right; i.e., her call to bring back massive US corporate funds parked offshore for entrepreneurial and innovative investment in America.

The overall dynamic would be not unlike that pursued by Jerry Brown as he won his second term as Governor of California in a landslide, at once embraced by the likes of Cesar Chavez and Tom Hayden (whose Nation article two years ago prefigured the Sanders ascendancy), Steve Jobs and Bob Noyce, and Howard Jarvis.

Hillary Clinton has a great opportunity here. Trump's gross irresponsibility, which is nonetheless more likely to lead to victory than the extremism of Cruz's ultra-conservative orthodoxy as it is based on incendiary populist appeal -- after the fashion of the fascist model -- makes it unnecessary for Hillary to make potentially dangerous promises to win right-of-center support. Potentially dangerous promises, that is, like more ill-advised interventionism to win over some neoconservatives upset by Trump's very much after-the-fact denunciation of the Iraq War, who seem to be poking their noses under the Clinton tent.

To avoid adding to her underlying image problem, all of her moves need to be conceptually coherent and organic with her persona. I know, I know, which persona is that? The one we are presumably going to become very familiar with, naturally.

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