On Clintocracy

promoted - roxy

One misunderstanding that leads to the easy polution of our political discourse surrounding the Presidential race is that we seem not to realize is that the President is not a person. We have this leftover monarchic picture of the lone ruler sitting in a throne in the Oval Office dictating the way the country runs. The fact is the President is a team, a group of individuals performing a number of roles all needed to keep a very large government operating. This team is made up of close friends and trusted advisers of the team captain whose name appears on the ballot, but by pulling that lever, pushing that electronic touch-screen button, or hanging that chad, what you are really voting for is the team as a whole.

When you understand it that way, Obama's skin color, Hillary's ovaries, McCain's time as a POW, Edward's father's occupation, Romney's Mormonism, and the rest of the nonsense we are given to concentrate on is nothing but a distraction. The real question is what is the team, as a team, going to do for the country. In the case of the Clintons, we've already seen who the team is, how they work, and what happens when you let that team do what they do...and the results are not pretty.

Let me take you to a time far away. It was called the 90s. The Clinton team came into office and for the first part of their first year in office, they were Democrats. They did things like try to challenge institutions with histories of bigotry, like the military's explicit ban on gay and lesbian members. This was one of the last places where something like Jim Crow still existed, actual written rules designed to clearly and openly discriminate. They tried to tackle a health care system that was (and remains broken). And they got their heads handed to them.

As a result, they turned from Democrats into Clintoncrats. They decided that the key to all future action would be whatever served the interests of their team, not the interests of the Democratic party and not what served the interest of the American people.

The Republican Party, since the 80s, has been a coalition of three interest groups: (a) the corporate/limited government wing advocates for whatever is perceived by leaders of major industries to be in the best interest of their bottom line including, but not limited to, minimizing regulation, even when it saves innocent lives, limiting taxes, especially on the wealthiest, eliminating any government program that helps the environment or those who need help, (b) the militaristic wing has stood for a "muscular" or "Reaganesque" foreign policy" that considers the use of military force a tool to be used whenever convenient to coerce or change the governments in other countries in order to assure they act in accord with what they perceive as American interests (often those determined by the corporate wing), and (c) the religious conservative wing that demands policies dictated by a particular brand of Christian literalism which is infused with a deep jingoistic nationalism making flag burning and preventing gay marriage equally religiously and politically imperative. The Democrats, on the other hand, were supposed to be the ones who fought against corporate interests for the interests of the working people and consumers, the ones who fought for a foreign policy where war was a last option which could be avoided by fostering a world where justice, opportunity, and hope led people to be less militant, a country where pluralism and respect for difference allowed us to be our best selves integrated with those whose worldviews differ from our own. Reagan had made these virtues seem like vices, convinced Americans that government was always the problem and never part of the solution, made racism, classism, and homophobia fashionable, and we were in desperate need of someone who would stand up for the real virtues again.

Instead, the Clintons brought onto the team a Republican strategist named Dick Morris whose other clients included Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond. His notion of triangulation stuck with the Clintons and would reign supreme. Triangulation meant taking those points where the Republicans were the strongest, adopting their rhetoric and half of their policy, pointing to Democrats who cared about the issue and making them out to be out of touch idealists who should be mocked, and in the end standing for absolutely nothing so that the majority of American people who have a knee-jerk "they're both wrong" reaction would identify with you. Underneath it all is the belief that the American population is made up of three parts: one part will vote Democratic no matter what, one part will vote Republican come hell or high water (although they believe they will be raptured away moments before either or both), and the third will swing back and forth. Whoever captures them, they argue, wins. So the key, they thought, was to only care about this vast "middle" and pretend these are the independent moderates -- actually they are people who don't really think very much about politics at all and are influenced by spectacle. but spectacle requires money and by triangulating, the effect is that Clintoncrats could now push corporate interests and help themselves to half of the money that had been flowing generously into Republican coffers for decades. So, they could be pro-corporate while pretending to be "moderate" thereby gaining the votes of those they were harming.

This is what gave us things like the telecom bill. There is a stunning advantage to those in power, so the central idea behind Clintocracy was to take their power and use it to erase the differences between the two parties.

And thus, to gain a second term in the White House, Clintocrats displaced the Democrats. The effect was an interesting one. Short term it worked perfectly. Clinton got his second term even with the whole Lewinski debacle spurted daily across the newspapers and tv screens of every American. The Clintons sold the Democratic party to corporate interests and political consultants for re-election.

But it was the political equivalent of New Coke, which for our younger readers, was rolled out when Pepsi was taking over an increasing market share from Coke which had long dominated the cola market. The New Coke tasted exactly like Pepsi, but was labeled as Coke, the idea being that it would then attract everyone. It flopped like no one's business. The Democrats were swept out of Congress in the midterm elections of 1994. In the 2000 Presidential election, a large number of Democrats fed up with not having a Democratic party fled to Ralph Nader's campaign that was based on everything the Democratic party used to stand for, and those independent moderates voted based upon who they would rather have a beer with since, after all, such a criterion makes perfect sense when there is no difference between the parties as Clintocracy was so intent on showing. When the election was handed to Bush, the Clintoncrats still occupied their places in Congress where people like Joe Lieberman, Tom Daschle, and Hillary made sure that they would guarantee to lead the Democrats to defeat after defeat and give Bush everything he wanted.

They may not have been in the majority, but they were now firmly entrenched in the Establishment and that guaranteed them power, fame, and money, and given that Clintocracy gave up policy desires, that really was all they wanted and even in the minority they had it. Non-elected members of the team like Joe Klein, Paul Begala, James Carville, George Stephanopolous, and Lawrence Summers all found themselves in grand shape with the Democrats being a non-party. They didn't care that the Democrats would lose and lose and lose, they still won no matter what. All they had to do was to keep the great unwashed, the Democrats out of the Clintoncrat party structure which replaced it.

But then in 2004, something happened. Democrats got pissed. They'd had enough and they mounted a brief insurrection against Clintocracy. A rebel-rouser named Howard Dean, a medical doctor turned Governor from the land of Ben and Jerry (hallowed be thy names) told the people of the Democratic party that they had the power, he stood up and demanded accountability bellowing,

"What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting the President's unilateral intervention in Iraq?

"What I want to know is what in the world so many Democrats are doing supporting tax cuts, which have bankrupted this country and given us the largest deficit in the history of the United States?

"What I want to know is why the Congress is fighting over the Patient's Bill of Rights? The Patient's Bill of Rights is a good bill, but not one more person gets health insurance and it's not 5 cents cheaper.

"What I want to know is why the Democrats in Congress aren't standing up for us, joining every other industrialized country on the face of the Earth in providing health insurance for every man, woman and child in America.

"What I want to know is why so many folks in Congress are voting for the President's Education Bill-- "The No School Board Left Standing Bill"-- the largest unfunded mandate in the history of our educational system!"

And he was therefore eliminated by the Clintocrats and the media and replaced by a sleeping aid you usually can only get by prescription who in classic Clintoncrat style parroted Republican talking points at Dean in the debates and on the stump.

Then two things happened. First, the facade that Bush had perpetuated was washed away with the flood waters of Katrina. When the levees broke, so did Bush's hold on power. Bush's Watergate was literally a gate for water. Republicans had control of all of the government and every bit of it has been a disaster. Modern American conservatism has shown itself to be a complete failure in every realm. An American city has been practically wiped off the map. Our international standing is in the toilet. The economy is teetering precariously on the verge of something very, very scary. Jobs are gone. It is not a good time to be a Republican.

Second, Howard Dean, who lost in his bid for the Presidential nomination was made head of the Democratic party committee, replacing Clintoncrat Terry McAuliffe. Under McAuliffe, the Democratic party sought money and thereby gave influence to a small number of big money donors, funneled that money up to the Clintoncrat faithful in the consulting world, focused only on seventeen states while ignoring the rest of the country (remember that map showing a stripe of blue in the northeast, another along the west coast, and a couple dots in the north), and repeatedly got trounced in election after election after election at all levels, blaming the defeats on the Democrats who refused to be Clintoncrats. Dean changed that and commenced his 50-state strategy which built up the party infrastructure everywhere, which sought Democrats to run for everything from dog catcher and school board to Congress, even in the most heavily Republican districts. He brought the people back into the party and spread the wealth around to places that had never seen it under McAuliffe. It was ridiculed mercillously by the Clintoncrats...and it worked. That is the reason we were able to capitalize and now have majorities in both Houses.

Dean's tagline was "I want my party back." And it turns out that when he and the rest of us got it back, we have been able to take a couple of steps in the right direction. We are in a place where the utter disgrace that has been Bush conservatism could allow us to once again have a Democratic party that could begin to make the country and world a place in which people flourish, a place of justice and respect, and equality. We are finally out of the shadow of Reagan and at a juncture where a reformed progressive party could make a difference. The possibility of handing that moment back over to the Clintoncrats makes me want to cry.

I oppose Hillary Clinton for two reasons: first, under her, government will once again stand for nothing except protecting the interests of the Clintoncrats. Consumers will see more work like the telecom bill. Gays, lesbians, and other oppressed members of our society will see more work like the Defence of Marriage Act. The world and the people in it will suffer for restoring this team to power. Second, the take-away message to the DC insiders will be that you can still win elections by running against those Democrats who care about the environment, helping the vulnerable, the right to choose, fairness and equality, everything that is good and right. Once again, the Democratic party will become Clintoncrat and become invisible, poll-driven, and meaningless. We will abandon the political discourse to the greedy, bigoted, and nationalistic, and the Democratic party will again lose power. My prediction is that if Clinton wins the Presidency, the Dems will lose half their advantage in Congress in the first mid-term election and control of at least one chamber in the following Presidential race.

We've seen it before. We know what they do. We know how they are. We know what will happen. We've seen it before. Any Democrat who supports the Clinton team and doesn't expect to be stabbed in the back, kicked in the teeth, and thrown under the bus is a damned fool. The best analogy I can give you is Carrie Fisher's character in The Blues Brothers. She's been jilted, left at the alter. She finally is about to get her long-sought after revenge, but Jake takes off his sunglasses and once again she is smitten, giving herself over to him...and what happens? She's used and rejected, carelessly dropped in a sewer. If you really think that the Clinton team won't do it to us again, I've got some real estate in Florida for you...boy, oh, boy do I have real estate in Florida for you.

Cross-posted at Philosophers' Playground

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I am knocked flat out... Excellent piece and analysis, SteveG. THis quote is especially lovely:

one part will vote Republican come hell or high water (although they believe they will be raptured away moments before either or both)

I have been digesting Hillary material for the past couple days, including Steinhem's pre-Hamsphire op ed and Packer's New Yorker essay, but yours is the first that looks at the TEAM -- and for anyone who doesn't think the Team/advisors/etc. matter, one name: Dick Cheney.

. . . the Plum Book lists over 7,000 Federal civil service leadership and support positions in the legislative and executive branches of the Federal Government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointment, nationwide.

Devilish details.

My question is about Dean. I do not understand the punitive action against the Florida and Michigan Democratic parties even though they were grandstanding on the primary date. Didn't this play into the hands of Clinton, since Edwards and Obama abided by the Party decision and Clinton kept her name on the ballot.

Well you may say, so what, those delegates will not be seated. But that is not a given. The convention will decide--certainly those party organizations will appeal.

I found a lot of substantiating material on the Clintons and how they operated when in power in Reich's excellent book, "Locked in the Cabinet."

I am still trying to maintain optimism even if Clinton does get the nomination. This is a different period and their will be a lot of momentum by the base to roll back 35 years of Republican operations to destroy not only the New Deal but the Progressive gains under Teddy Roosevelt et al.

carol

for the chilling look down memory lane. This election time around so much is depending on getting it right.

isn't with the reasons not to vote for Clinton. I wish there was more information available addressing the the team behind Obama. I like Edwards but I think it's safe to say he has no chance of winning the nomination.

I don't have a good picture yet of Obama and that is something that bothers me.

If the race is a virtual tie between Clinton and Obama or if Obama's complaint to the Nebraska Democratic Party against abuses by the Clinton camp are held up, then the situation will change, don't you think?

carol

I personally do not like back-biting. We already have a clown for president and now this circus act running for president. I am personally very disappointed...and looking at Edwards with fresh eyes.

sorry

sorry

what will happen with the Nevada complaint. The Obama campaign isn't asking for the results to be overturned. I just don't know enough about the laws or regulations with for party caucuses to know what the possible penalties are for anyone or any campaign involved in something unethical or illegal. Even if there were something to come out of the Nevada investigation that hurt the Clinton campaign, Edwards doesn't appear to have any real support from the inside of the party and they have a role in determining the nominee too.

Here is a site that is tracking the Democratic superdelegate endorsement list.

As far as money and support goes, I think it has always been a contest between Hillary and the anti-Hillary candidate. Obama appears to have been anointed the anti-Hillary candidate by the establishment within the party and the big money. Think of how much cash Obama was reporting to have raised very early in the campaign. That type of support doesn't come from the little single donors. It might have been recorded that way but he was flush with cash early on surprising many people.

The Atlantic has an interesting article, The Teacher and Apprentice, on Hillary and Obama. It is one of the more informative articles I have read so far.

Well said, Steve G! ***** Instead, the Clintons brought onto the team a Republican strategist named Dick Morris whose other clients included Trent Lott and Strom Thurmond. His notion of triangulation stuck with the Clintons and would reign supreme. Triangulation meant taking those points where the Republicans were the strongest, adopting their rhetoric and half of their policy, pointing to Democrats who cared about the issue and making them out to be out of touch idealists who should be mocked, and in the end standing for absolutely nothing so that the majority of American people who have a knee-jerk "they're both wrong" reaction would identify with you. Underneath it all is the belief that the American population is made up of three parts: one part will vote Democratic no matter what, one part will vote Republican come hell or high water (although they believe they will be raptured away moments before either or both), and the third will swing back and forth. Whoever captures them, they argue, wins. So the key, they thought, was to only care about this vast "middle" and pretend these are the independent moderates -- actually they are people who don't really think very much about politics at all and are influenced by spectacle. but spectacle requires money and by triangulating, the effect is that Clintoncrats could now push corporate interests and help themselves to half of the money that had been flowing generously into Republican coffers for decades. So, they could be pro-corporate while pretending to be "moderate" thereby gaining the votes of those they were harming.

This is what gave us things like the telecom bill. There is a stunning advantage to those in power, so the central idea behind Clintocracy was to take their power and use it to erase the differences between the two parties. *****
Actually, there are alot of "STRUCTURAL" problems with the Democratic Party, and Bill Clinton (and Hillary, and James Carville, Paul Begala, Stephanopolous, and Al Gore, et al) DID RESURRECT the Democratic Party from election annhilation in 1992. Even with the Bush1 recession, the best candidate the Dems could field was Paqul Tsongas, who was as much a bow-tied ivory tower intellectual as Bush Sr. was blue-blood Skull&Bones man (turned Texas oil man). Watching the Clinton-Gore documentary campaign video, "THE WAR ROOM" reminds us of how the Clintons were FIGHTERS back then, harnessing Democratic OUTRAGE at the Bush1 economy, with more than a little assistance from Ross Perot's "Bush's budgets are BLEEDING RED INK" charts. But it is true that Hillary sat on the board of WalMart, and the Bill's campaigns wallowed in TYSON food corp. large (for Arkansas) donations. And, give him credit, Bill's honeymoon as President was killed BY DEMOCRATS - "conservative" GA Senator Sam Nunn, Chair of the Armed Services committee, the icon of the "inside the establishment" (inside DC) LONG KNIVES who SHOT DOWN Clinton for TRYING TO MAKE GOOD on his "Gays in the military" pledge. Clinton TRIED to MAKE GOOD ON A "liberal" campaign pledge; and he got SHOT DOWN by the formidible, if not dominant, Conservative wing of the Democratic Party. It was an embarrassing, humiliating loss, and a full 16 years later, the nation is still not quite ready for a complete "Gays in military" policy." More important, Bill & Hill learned NOT to make that mistake again: DON'T GET TOO WILDLY "liberal," idealistic, or ahead of the curve, of the inside-the-beltway crowd will STAB YOU IN THE BACK, and there is NOTHING "librul" voters can do (if they are willing to do anything) to save you.
And also, you are selling Clinton short for BALANCING THE BUDGET, without which the government can't fund NEW programs, hire for NEW jobs; pay for NEW education programs; and fund NEW minority-targeted "EMPOWERMENT ZONES." All of which were a VERY small-d "democratic" part of Clinton's successful economic record.
There were of course other sell-outs. The most glaring one is in the person of James Carville. In 1992 the "RAGIN CAJUN" was practically a pit bull, going after the economic injustice of the Bush1 White House. Today, Carville is married to Republican Party super-PR manager Mary Matlin, who personally represents Dick Cheney. Thus, Carville is PROHIBITED from saying "George Bush, and Dick Chenery, ARE LIARS" because to make that case would be to run his wife's defenses of Bush and Cheney into the ground, that is, effectively calling her a liar too. So (like Stephanopolous, to a lesser extent Paul Begala, and dozens of other formerly "Democratic" commentators like Tim Russert, Chris Mathews, Jake Tapper, & others), far from expressing OUTRAGE at the Inside-the-Beltway Plutocracy, these once "librul" commentators are most certainly part of the DC press corpse elite.
Also, "TRIANGULATING" is a process used by even THE MOST "LIBERAL" parts of the Democratic Party. Ralph Nader and his Naderites NEVER MADE A STRONG DISPLAY OF SUPPORT for WOMEN's ISSUES. UNIONS - one pillar of the Democratic Party, are the most vociferous opponents of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS - another pillar of the Dem Party. Both Union & immigrant workers will be happy to take GOOD JOBS building homes or building (or anything) in the middle of what had been environmentally protected lands.
And NO ONE these days wants to spend American money for FOREIGN AID. And, worse than that, almost NO ONE CAN TAKE ON THE RADICAL RIGHT "religious" groups on abortion and (heaven forbid) BIRTH CONTROL, whether here in America or overseas. BIRTH CONTROL should be FREE and EASILY AVAILABLE worldwide, which would of course reduce the immigration pressure of those seeking opportunity by emmigrating from their poor nations.
A huge part of the problem is not the "Muddled Middle", but the "good Mom and Pop" Democrats who want PRETTY, POLISHED, SAFE, comfortable candidates. Those might be virtues on a movie set, but UAW (United Auto Workers union) founding President Walter Reuther survived TWO ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS by Ford-Mo-Co goons, and never gave up his fight to bring job security, good wages, overtime, seniority, health care, pensions, and other benefits to American workers and their families. Sometimes you NEED A FIGHTER. It is no coincidence that the last two Democrats to win the White House were both SOUTHERN WHITE MALE SELF_MADE, OUTSIDE-of-DC governors. These were the qualities - independence from the DC "conventional wisdom" and success as chief executive of their states - that were appealing to national voters. Unfortunately, this "outsider" resume raised the hackles of the "inside the beltway" crowd, and both Carter and Clinton had short honeymoons, and had a tough time learning the DC economics and legislative curves.
Also, sorry for the rambling, but there is another extremely important factor re the Clintons, Triangulation, the Muddled-Middle, and the Ideals of the Democratic Party, that my college Poli-Sci textbook "Parties & Politics" discussed: for most of the '60s and much of the 70's, business big and small had ENTIRE RAFTS of new rules, laws, and legislation forced onto them, that they had never had to deal with previously. Johnson's "Great Society" greatly expanded the regulations, programs, and oversight of FDR's New Deal era. While many of these programs were popular (NIXON signed the EPA into law! Auto saftey standards, Medicare, Medicaid all had large popular support) THEY ALL CAME AT THE EXPENSE of business and Big-Business freedoms. For two decades the liberal agenda was ascendent (environmentalism, Civil Rights, the Vietnam war protest movement, the economic empowerment of a younger, better educated generation living under the threat of the Cold War's missiles, etc.) giving Big Business and the Radical Right an entire decade to flex their REACTIONARY muscle before the Clintons stepped on that White House stage in early 1993. Just as it was the "Gays in military" issue that humiliated and stopped cold Bill Clinton's "liberal" idealism in first weeks of his administration, so to it was REACTIONARY WHITE ENTITLEMENT that was THE CORE of the "HATE CLINTON" 90's - THE force that drove the relentless investigations and ultimately impeachment of Bill Clinton. However much Clinton may have tried to "triangulate" on other issues, the CORE of Right-Wing hatred for Bill & Hillary were that they represented the Civil Rights, Gay, youth, and progressive segments of society. Unfortunately, Clinton's SEX SCANDALS made it very difficult for other leading Democrats to stand up for the Clintons, which wasn't their fault, either.
IN SUM: In 1992 the Clintons, Gore, Carville, et. al did indeed speak for the outraged, "Liberty and Justice FOR ALL" wing of the Democratic Party. In early 1993 the Clintons were visibly humiliated for TRYING TO MAKE GOOD on the "Gays in military" pledge. They didn't get very much real support from other (not Gay activists) parts of the Democratic coalition, so they learned "TRIANGULATION" in a hurry. Clinton friend and WH counsel Vince Foster - a big fish in a small pond in Arkansas, a small fish in a big pond in DC - became depressed and shot himself, giving Clinton hater's fresh ammunition to pour more hate and caulumny on the Clintons, further driving them to seek protection from the establishment wing of the Dem. Party. The Republicans, New York Slimes, and Washington Post were able to make hapless JIM McDOUGAL's routine S&L failure look like a tsunami of Clinton corruption, PUSHING THE FAR LARGER, TRILLION DOLLAR S&L DEBACLE out of view, actually leaving in American 'news' consumer's minds the notion that McDougal's S&L failing was a huge part of the S&L scandal! (Neil Bush sat on board of directors of Silverado S&L, which cost taxpayers $1 BILLION dollars, and Pres. Bush Sr. sided with Charles Keating, fired the SF Bank District examiner (criminal audit) of Keating's LINCOLN S&L for another year... allowing Lincoln's losses to go up ANOTHER BILLION DOLLARS, for $2 billion in losses for Keating's Lincoln S&L, alone! That is, between Neil Bush and his father, President Bush (Sr.), American taxpayers were forced to shell out $2 billion to cover losses ($3 billion if you count the original billion Lincoln had lost before Bush fired the Bank Examiner) at TWO BANKS, ALONE... yet it was JIM McDOUGAL WHO DIED ON A COLD, CONCRETE FLOOR, in federal Max Security prison, in solitary, denied his heart medication by the jailers at the tender mercies of Ken Starr's federal prosecutors!
It was under tremendous pressures such as those: the Whore Media making it look like McDougal was a huge part of the BIPARTISAN S&L debacle, when in fact he was a tiny bit player, and the Clintons LOST money in their Whitewater investment (a ROUTINE REAL ESTATE FLOP - Arkansas Yuppies did NOT want to spend their vacation time in rural Arkansas, no matter how scenic the view) - that the Clintons were driven ever-to-the Right, to embrace the Big Donors and establishment wing of the Democratic Party. Many of these weaknesses were the Clinton's own faults - Hillary's contorted answers re file-gate and Rose law firm, Bill's sex scandals - but as the Gays in Military issue demonstrated, IF YOU STUCK YOUR NECK OUT too far for one set of "librul" ideals, not only would you give the establishment and the Reactionary Right an opportunity to bash your head, but other parts of the "Democratic coalition" would stand by and watch!