Wednesday, September 21, 2016


Brian Beutler thinks millennials aren't flocking to Hillary Clinton because we oldsters haven't reminded them frequently enough about the horrors of the Bush presidency:
If 18-to 29-year-olds vote for third-party candidates in sufficient numbers to tip the election to Trump, it will be the consequence of a liberal failure to build an oral tradition around the Bush administration, from Ralph Nader’s vote haul in Florida through the injustice of the recount and the ensuing plutocratic fiscal policy; the 9/11 intelligence failure; the war of choice in Iraq sold with false intelligence and launched without an occupation plan; the malpractice that killed hundreds in New Orleans; the scandalousness that makes the fainting couch routine over Clinton’s emails seem Oscar-worthy; and finally to the laissez-faire regulatory regime and ensuing financial crisis that continues to shape the economic lives of young voters to this day....

Here it’s useful to contrast the way Republicans scapegoated Jimmy Carter (who was not a great president, but more unlucky than genuinely incompetent or malevolent) to the way Democrats have treated Bush (among the worst presidents of all time)....

As Steve Kornacki wrote several years ago in Salon, the 1984 Republican convention “featured a parade of speakers attesting to the general awfulness of [Ronald] Reagan’s predecessor.” Democrats adopted a similar model for Obama’s reelection convention in 2012, but at least relative to the abject horror of the eight Bush years, they undersold it, and have continued to undersell it.
Maybe that's a significant part of the problem: Unlike Republicans, who've demonized Jimmy Carter relentlessly since his time in office, we don't have a well-oiled noise machine cranking out nonstop denunciations of Bush.

But would it matter to millennials? The Clinton years had financial deregulation, as well as welfare "reform" and talk about "superpredators." Later, as a senator, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize the Iraq War. As a private citizen, Clinton delivered speeches to big banks, and now she's doing campaign outreach to Republicans, while touting GOP endorsements. And she's associated with the Obama administration's continuance of Middle East wars and drone strikes.

None of this puts her in Bush's league -- and as awful as he was, Trump would be far worse, as would any of the Republicans who ran against him in the primaries, because the GOP has become more appalling in the post-Bush era (more pro-plutocrat, more anti-immigrant, more anti-Muslim). But I suspect that if you asked many millennials what they imagine a Clinton presidency would be like, they'd describe a clone of the Bush presidency -- just as militarist, just as racist, just as pro-fat-cat.

Maybe it's time to stop lecturing millennials on this subject and start listening to them. I'd like to see some focus groups conducted, with relatively open-ended lines of inquiry. Describe what you think Hillary Clinton would do in office. Describe a Trump presidency.

Clinton's policy positions are very progressive. However much she might compromise on them, she starts out very, very far from the Republican Party. She's not going to sign into law a Paul Ryan budget that gives 99% of its tax breaks to the 1%. She's not going to reinstate torture, as Donald Trump eagerly promises to do (and sorry, but I don't believe for a minute that either a GOP Congress or rank-and-file servicemembers will prevent him from doing that). She's not going to appoint Scalias to the Supreme Court. She's not going to slam the door on Muslims and Mexicans. She's not going to engage in an orgy of deregulation. She's not going to pursue an energy policy that pretends climate change doesn't exist.

Millennials may vaguely grasp this, but what do they think she will do? Cn we hear more from them? And shouldn't Clinton take what they say and address it directly?


Andrew Johnston said...

It's interesting that you highlight HRC's actual political positions, because basically no one else does. From what I've heard from various on-the-street interviews (particularly among the under-30 set), people either don't know HRC's positions or are ascribing things to her that are nowhere in her platform and never have been.

A lot of this is down to the way that the candidates have been covered this cycle, focusing almost entirely on trivia and controversy rather than anything meaningful. We can blame a lot of this on Our Wonderful Newsmedia and rightfully so, but that's hardly the end of it. Democrats and liberals have decided to do the exact same thing, selling their candidate solely on the basis of "Not Trump." I've seen a few people who seem upset that they have to do anything beyond that. But the problem is that the GOP is casting their candidate as "Not Clinton." When you have two people who are both cast solely in terms of opposition to one another, you end up with blank slate candidates who really don't inspire much of anything from anyone.

I think Dubya actually benefited from this. 2000 was a fairly boring election, with everyone trying to cast both Gore and Bush as identical empty suits. This made it a lot easier for people to cast their votes for trivial reasons. After all, if the candidates are basically the same, then why not vote for the one you'd like to have a beer with?

The problem with swaying young voters in particular with the "Not Trump" strategy is that we've already gone as far as we can with it. Look at the polls - voters under 30 are roundly rejecting Trump, but mostly in favor of casting protest votes or not voting at all. No one has given them a reason to support HRC, even though by all rights they should. "Not Trump" is half of a strategy, and far too many people have decided that the other half - the winning half - isn't worth their time and effort.

Again, we can all bitch at the media for their dedication to Both Siderism and anti-Clintonism and horserace bullshit in general, but a big part of the reason why those faux-scandals stick is because no one really knows what HRC stands for. When you don't stake out your own positions, you let other people do it for you.

Jimbo said...

One of the long-standing, surprising things about the national Democratic Party is that it really has no long-term, disciplined political communications strategy. Obama's 2008 campaign communications, especially with Progressives and young people was very impressive but as soon as he was inaugurated, the White House abandoned their major public resource and pivoted to trying to compromise with Republicans.

I'm not saying that the Democrats need their version of Faux News; that's pointless and counterproductive. But they need consistent and continuous messaging on the core parts of their platform that are about the Future (education, climate change SS reform (to increase benefits) and, of course, healthcare. They're just not doing that or even publicly shaming the MSM into covering those stories.

Knight of Nothing said...

It's worth remembering that millennials are polling for Clinton in higher numbers than any other age demographic.

Unknown said...

HRC did not "vote for the Iraq War". In Oct 2002 most Democratic Senators voted for the AOF only after GWB gave his word in a public speech and through emissaries to Democrats in the Senate the vote would be used only to force Saddam to allow WMD inspectors back into Iraq (there had been none since 1998 so no one had a clue (except by Cheney and "Curveball" et al) there were any WMDs in Iraq...And the assurance was that if there were WMDs and there was an action, it would involve the UN.

It worked. Saddam let the inspectors in in Nov 2002. There were no WMDs in any of the hundreds of locations. We learned thereby that Saddam had expelled inspectors to keep his regional enemies from learning he was nearly defenseless.

Bush/Cheney's reaction was to bail out of UN discussions and rush an invasion in March 2003 before the American people realized what was happening. One profound and revealing absurdity I personally reported was that months later, GWB stated in the Rose Garden with Kofi Annan present, that we had to invade because Saddam would not let inspectors into Iraq. Fact: The inspectors had to flee for their lives to avoid the invasion.

Anonymous said...

Can someone put the progressive blogosphere's "messaging" fixation out of its misery? Look, I get it, people on blogs are good at, and comfortable with, words and images. But punchy words and watchable images are not coextensive with politics. There's, you know, the whole "doing" part that comes after the "selling" part.

Anonymous said...

Millennials may vaguely grasp this, but what do they think she will do?

Start wars and be a corporate tool and be boring. Thanks, Bernie Sanders, that was a great "movement" you "led."

Knight of Nothing said...

I am sorry to repeat myself, but the "kids these days!" and "get off my lawn" attitude is really too much. Millennials are the just fine; it's us old white people (age 30+) who are fucking this up.

Knight of Nothing said...

The more recent numbers are even more slanted toward HRC -

Under 30: 48% HRC to 29% Trump

trnc said...

Unknown has it exactly right (except it was the AUMF), and it is quite stupefying to see the "Hillary totally voted for war" crap on a usually great blog, and especially so IN A POST ABOUT UNDERINFORMED MILLENNIALS! Dammittohell!

It also highlights something very important for millennials to understand - Bush got the inspectors in, thanks to the AUMF, but that isn't what he actually wanted, so he ran the inspectors out himself and did what he really wanted to do. If he hadn't gotten the AUMF, he would sure as shit have found a way to start that war. If anyone doubts that, I'd like to hear them make the case.

Jon said...

To some degree I feel like Millennials just hate boomers and blame them for everything that's wrong with the country. And they see Clinton as a perfectly representative boomer.

It makes me sad because the boomers, in addition to not being the monolithic beast they're made out to be, actually did a lot of good. They were the first generation, for example, to not regularly beat their children for every transgression, which is an underrated major moral advancement.