Friday, June 3, 2016

A Cure For Political Codependency (The Hillary-Bernie Endgame)

<Deer in the headlights, or waiting
for her ship to come in? You decide...>

Why is Hillary Clinton struggling so much lately on the campaign trail? The coronation cakewalk that once seemed ripe for the taking now seems more like a sidewalk surfer trying to balance on a banana peel. With five months of this spectacle left to go, it's not a pretty picture.

Well, I'm reminded of a headline from your favorite satirical rag and mine, The Onion: "Hillary Clinton To Nation: Do Not Fuck This Up For Me." The last word in the headline is the key one, isn't it? Though it's no secret that most politicians are self-absorbed to some degree, Clinton seems particularly prone to this malady.

More than most of her counterparts, Clinton relishes talking about her accomplishments, her goals, her ideas -- we even have statistical proof, courtesy of Pacific Standard (see below), whose reporter simply tallied up the percentage of "me" versus "we" statements in her 2016 presidential announcement, versus those of President Obama (2008) and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) (2016).

Guess what? Clinton's "me" statement score clocks in at 100 percent. By contrast, Paul and Obama scored 45 and 65 percent, respectively, in terms of "we" statements. Though hardly a scientific analysis, it's indicative of something, right? Well, go figure.

"J.R. Ewing said it best: 'Once you give up your 

integrity, the rest is a piece of cake.'"

That said, Clinton's problems run deeper than some journalist's scorekeeping. Some of the most perceptive commentary on the campaign is actually coming from the financial press, whose overlords may have a pretty damn obvious dog in the fight -- as in, "no Hillary, no Bernie, maybe Trump, if he keeps my taxes low to nonexistent" -- but whose writers are scoring some solid bull's eyes.

MarketWatch columnist Darrell Dalmaide doesn't need to count how many times Clinton says "I" versus "we." As Dalmaide suggests, just compare the keynote slogans of Donald Trump ("Make America Great Again") and Bernie Sanders ("A Future To Believe In") with Clinton's ("Fighting For Us") in, "her fighting in the trenches against that right-wing conspiracy." In other words, let Hillary handle the heavy lifting; our job, apparently, is to cheer on her efforts from the sidelines.

Conceptually, this makes for a soggy recipe, particularly when compared to the declamatory style that her opponents favor. So what is Sanders getting right on such a regular basis? The answer, as Los Angeles Times commentator David Horsey suggests, lies in the rationale voiced by one of Sanders's college supporters: "Bernie just says what relates to us. He doesn't try to relate to us, he gets us."

Such statements speak volumes about Clinton's struggles to connect with voters beyond superficial levels. Then again, as Fortune's article notes, we're talking about someone known for micromanaging her image, almost comically so, at times....such as asking to read a high school speaker's comments before one of her own appearances, and so on. Go figure, eh?

As many reporters note (in these links below, and elsewhere), Clinton's aides protest mightily that she gets a bad rap. Yes, they acknowledge, she's a Baby Boomer, leaving her open to brickbats from left and right alike -- because she belongs to a generation often derided as the most narcisisstic, self-serving, solipsistic lot seen in recent memory. Behind the scenes, she's warm, thoughtful, and caring. If only she didn't keep such a protective force field around her at all times. And so on, and so forth.

Of course, all these lamentations mean little if that force field doesn't come down. Judging by Clinton's dogged insistence on sticking to her stolidly conventional script -- show us those tax returns now, Herr Trump -- we shouldn't be holding our breath.

So where does this leave Sanders's coalition, then and now? As we had into the final week or so of primaries, I'm not sure it changes a damn thing. Once again, the adults in the room are muttering darkly as they close ranks, and move once more to herd all of us disobedient children back into line. Instead of buzzwords like "Yes, We Can," we get: "Anything's better than Trump!", and, "We can't let that old man blow up the party!"

As the last statements go, the answer to the first one isn't so clear-cut -- recall how many millions rejected Hillary for Obama in 2008, precisely because they felt it was time to shut the book on the Clinton legacy for good. That our system can recycle Bushes, Clintons and other political dynasties like them over and over, without missing a beat, only underscores the need for dynamiting the status quo sky high.

As for the second statement, I'd retort that the Democratic Party has done a pretty good job of blowing itself up without Sanders's help. That trend gathered steam during the 1990s, as Democrats finally cracked the DNA behind the money chase that their Republican rivals had played so much better for so long. However, instead of soliciting support, Democratic elders opted to take hostages in murmuring about "the lesser of two evils." Alas, all the promises of meeting complaints halfway -- or any way at all, for that matter -- typically evaporated with the next election cycle.

This is the logic of political codependency at its most warped and unresponsive. Like an alcoholic's or drug addict's long-suffering partner, we're asked to look the other way and shut our eyes, cross our fingers and hope against hope that tomorrow will miraculously get better, as the dysfunctional behavior that makes us so miserable rolls on. As Sanders suggests, in responding to questions about whether he plans to blow up the Democratic convention:

"So what? Democracy is messy. Everyday my life is messy. But if you want everything to be quiet and orderly and allow, you know, just things to proceed without vigorous debate … that is not what democracy is about."

If you're stranded without health insurance, or struggling to patch together several part-time jobs, I suspect that statement will resonate pretty strongly. And that sentiment, I suggest, is why Hillary is still struggling to close the deal....and why we shouldn't let up in the struggle for a better tomorrow, minus the alibis that got us in this mess. A future that's free of political codependency? How crazy does that sound? Go figure. --The Reckoner

Links To Go (Hurry Up & Read 'Em
Before Those Endgame Credits Roll):
Fortune: Emails Reveal How Carefully

MarketWatch: Hillary Clinton Needs
To Talk About More About Us,
And Less About Herself:

Pacific Standard:
Hillary Clinton Talks About Herself A Lot:

The Onion: Hillary Clinton To Nation:

USA Today:
Nixonian Palace Guard Now Protects Hillary:

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