Saturday, April 16, 2016


I'm not surprised to learn that, as he ages, Bill Clinton wants all those awful kids to get off his lawn -- but you'd think a guy who's spent his life immersed in politics would be too aware of the public mood to say something as tin-eared as this in 2016:
Former President Bill Clinton mused Friday that supporters of Bernie Sanders believe shooting people who work on Wall Street would help cure the economic imbalances that have animated the Vermont senator's presidential campaign.

"I think it's fine that all these young students have been so enthusiastic for her opponent and say, 'It's all good, just shoot every third person on Wall Street and everything will be fine,'" Clinton told a small afternoon audience in Washington Heights.
Shoot every third person on Wall Street? I think a lot of Americans these days believe that might be a pretty good idea. And not just on the left -- as Dave Weigel wrote in January, that anger shows up on the right as well:
At the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention, the name “Barack Obama” drew immediate grimaces and groans. Only two other words came close to matching that reaction.

Wall Street.

“If we go someplace and order dinner for $15, and we don’t pay, we get a criminal record,” said Sarah Pawlikowski, a tea party activist from Columbia. “Why is Wall Street treated any different?”

“I think a lot of people should have gone to jail,” said Cooper Wellons, a local land developer. “If I’d have done some of the things they did on Wall Street, I’d have gone to jail.”

Eight years after the start of the Great Recession, and seven years since the Troubled Asset Relief Program was implemented, the anger at major financial institutions has only grown -- in both parties....

In 2013, a Reuters-Ipsos poll of more than 1,400 Americans found that just 22 percent approved of TARP -- years after the banks had been stabilized. Last year, when Lake Research Partners polled on behalf of the progressive Americans for Financial Reform, it found 70 percent agreeing with the statement that “most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it.”
Of course, conservatives tend to see Wall Street as being in a liberal conspiracy with a big-government Establishment; the solutions proposed by Wall Street-bashing politicians on the right tend to involve, like conservative solutions to everything, less government.

But the anger is there. It's across the political spectrum. So forget what Bill Clinton personally believes -- why does he think sticking up for Wall Street is smart politics at this moment in time?

It's often said that left and right partisans are doing a really terrible thing these days by gravitating toward media sources that reinforce their political beliefs. Confirmation bias, we're told, leads liberals and conservatives to believe reporting and commentary that affirms their beliefs.

But why wouldn't this also apply to someone like Bill Clinton, who's centrist with a hint of liberalism? He formed his belief system a long time ago: On economics, don't be a passionate defender of old-fashioned New Deal/Great Society liberalism. Leaven that tradition with a lot of support for corporatism without abandoning it altogether -- do that and you'll win back moderate whites while retaining the loyalties of liberals and non-whites. This worked for him in the '90s. His wife is running on a modified version of it now.

Hillary's platform, as a result, is pragmatic, but it's dispiriting. And it completely overlooks a rage that's become utterly mainstream.

I assume Bill Clinton is still a voracious consumer of the news -- but I strongly suspect that he limits himself to a narrow spectrum of sources that are right down the middle. I bet, in his news world, the economy is recovering nicely, people have it pretty good right now, and significant discontent is limited to "angry voices on the left and right." All that anger, in his view, is stirred up up by mirror-image ideological media outlets at the extremes.

If I'm right about this, Bill Clinton's media diet tells him what he wants to believe. He completely misses rising anger at Wall Street. He's stuck in the same idea bubble he's been in for decades.


Chris Bronson said...

"Hillary's platform, as a result, is pragmatic, but it's dispiriting. And it completely overlooks a rage that's become utterly mainstream."

Make things worse less quickly isn't a vote getter. But it is all they can offer, apparently. I'd be nice to see the democratic party branch out to more of a social organization. Connecting members and fostering community. Instead it's all fundraising emails and lobbyist nonsense.

CH said...

I realize that anecdotal evidence often amounts to very little, but be that as it may, I have some which tends to support your view, I think. I live in a small-town/rural area in N Tx, which hasn't come near supporting a D for Pres or anything else for decades. In the "small-town" part, it's about 12% AA, 12% Latino, 75% Cauc; in the rural part, almost 100% Cauc. On at least a half-dozen occasions, none initiated by me except for having a Sanders sticker on my GMC, I've had people volunteer their positive opinions of Sanders - a couple of supermarket baggers (1 female, 1 male, both young); 2 middle-aged folks, again 1 of each gender, 1 disabled (as he told me) and the other working at a C-store; and 2 older folks (like yrs truly), yet again 1 of each gender, both retired (as they told me). All Cauc. None of these were people you'd pick out as likely to have, much less state, such opinions; the lady working at the C-store put it thus: "He's the only one making any sense." As for negative anecdotal evidence, in about 5 months or so of having the sticker on the truck, I've yet to be flipped off. Over the past many years I've had a lot of D stickers on my vehicles, and none have elicited the positive receptions I describe, nor have any escaped the occasional hostile gesture. I don't know, but I have a feeling we may be missing a chance of cracking a demographic here - a demographic that sees some merit in (figuratively, at least) shooting every 3rd suit on Wall Street. It maybe be worth noting, or not, that I'm just south of Oklahoma, culturally indistinguishable territory from my end of Tx - and as we all know, the Ok D's (on subsequent analysis, not many of them young or indies) overwhelmingly went for Sanders.
Then again, all this may mean precisely nothing.

JosephP said...

CH's comment, while anectodoal, is very prescient.