Monday, April 4, 2016

Clinton Fact Check: Huffpo's Ten Points

The inflammatory headline of the day comes from Seth Abramson over at the Huffington Post:

Headline: The Democrats Are Flawlessly Executing a 10-Point Plan to Lose the 2016 Presidential Election. Image: Hillary Clinton frowning while holding a microphone.

See, you might not initially think this is an attack piece on Clinton, but the frowny-faced image gives a hint of what's to come. The central claim, as you will soon see, is that if Democrats don't elect Bernie Sanders (who is popular and awesome) over Hillary Clinton (who is AN ACTUAL MONSTER), the party is dooomed and the Republicans will win the general.



Point 1 seems reasonable: "[Democrats] Assume that Donald Trump will be the Republicans’ 2016 nominee, though it’s now clear he won’t be." I agree that the other Repubs will be harder to beat than Trump, because they have a thin veneer of respectability that Trump doesn't bother to try for. OTOH, the other Republican candidates are often further right than Trump on the actual issues (assuming Trump's positions can be accurately assigned, which itself is questionable).

Point 2 begins the attack on Clinton, framing her as "the only person who can reunite the Republican Party once Trump failing to get the nomination has fractured it beyond repair." And I mean, he's not wrong that Republicans and other conservatives really do seem to hate Hillary Clinton. And that Clinton's general favorability rating has gone down over the course of the primary campaign.

As a counterpoint, I do suggest reading Sady Doyle's piece, America loves women like Hillary Clinton–as long as they’re not asking for a promotion. The GOP opposition to Clinton in particular is rife with sexism. Considering how much power women have as an electoral bloc, I feel pretty confident that the rest of us can outvote those hateful misogynists on the right. To quote Liss from Shakesville: "If never having been obliged to navigate repeated discrediting attacks cloaked in vicious misogyny is the standard by which a female candidate's fitness is judged, we will never have a female president."

There is also no small reason to believe that Sanders would have a tough time in a general election.

Point 3 includes two anti-Clinton talking points. The first is that the Clinton campaign "attempts to smear Bernie Sanders and his supporters". The second is that this supposed smear campaign will "Fracture the Democratic Party".

So, first: How is Clinton smearing Sanders? Well, she's claiming that Sanders is running a negative campaign against her. That's it. That's the smear. This seems to me like a DARVO tactic (Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender). The Sanders campaign has gone negative, and they know they've gone negative. This point is flat-out denialism, and it comes close to being gaslighting.

Secondly: Sanders himself has not been exactly supportive of Democratic party unity. On top of his failure to raise any funds at all for the DNC or downticket races (because of reeeeasons), Sanders also refuses to say whether he'd back Clinton in the general if she were to win the primary. And lots of people are celebrating that, as if it's more important to stick it to the Dems than to prevent a Republican presidency. Given this, it seems that that Bernie Sanders has done more to "fracture the Democratic party" than Clinton.

Point 4 is a rehash of Point 1, except instead of focusing on Trump's likelihood of losing, it focuses on Cruz and/or Kasich's likelihood of winning. Kasich beats Clinton in polls that don't matter (for an election that he's almost certainly not even going to be in), and Cruz LOSES to Clinton in those polls... which is supposed to mean that Kasich or Cruz is likely to beat Clinton? I find this whole point to be deeply insufficient in providing supporting evidence.

Point 5 claims that Bernie is the "most popular" Democratic candidate. Which is directly contradicted by Clinton's lead in votes, and by her supporters' enthusiasm. Abramson relies on that favorability rating from Point 2, plus those meaningless head-to-head polls in Point 4. (I do believe that I've leaned on a more diverse set of evidence in this amateur blog post than Seth Abramson used to construct the HuffPo article!)

Point 6 criticizes Clinton for not having preemptively offered Bernie a position in her Cabinet. Maybe it's just me, but isn't it a little early for that? According to Wikipedia, Obama didn't offer that position to Clinton until after the general election. In November. It's April. Chill.

(Point 6 also includes some sniping at Clinton for being an extension of her husband, and contradicts itself by claiming both that Clinton "has adopted-cum-stole" Sanders' positions, and also that "neither Sanders’ views nor his supporters will have any place in her Administration should she win the White House". Is Clinton stealing Sanders' positions? Or are Sanders' views unwelcome in a Clinton administration? Protip for future attack-pieces: pick ONE.)

Point 7 states that Democrats (read: Clinton) "Reject Sanders’ call for a fifty-state general-election campaign," and goes on to claim that "Sanders has made clear that the Democrats will need, in 2016, a movement of the sort they had in 2008 when President Obama first ran for national office." This is jaw-droppingly misleading. Clinton has been running a 50-state campaign, even before Sanders was a viable candidate. Clinton has been developing a movement based in the Obama coalition - and it's part of the reason why she's winning.

I also wanted to draw attention to this counterpoint (link for source and context) which suggests that the Sanders campaign may not have necessarily uniformly pursued a 50-state strategy:
“Almost all of Secretary Clinton’s delegate lead come from states where she faced little or no competition,” said Tad Devine, Sanders’ senior campaign strategist. “Her grasp now on the nomination is almost entirely on the basis of victories in states where Bernie Sanders did not compete.”
Point 8 gives up the pretense of being about anything other than trashing Hillary Clinton, going on at length about "outstanding concerns about the character, integrity, and judgment of the Party’s front-runner."

This is the point where I got angry enough to write this blog post.

Abramson rehashes in brief a list of Sanders campaign attacks, mixing them with common attacks used by the right: Wall Street speeches, emails, "her out-of-control husband," the Clinton Foundation, and "sleazy politico-speak". Oh, and "lack of trust" too.

So this is apparently fair game. But it's a "relentlessly negative" "attack" to accuse the Sanders campaign of going negative? Yet you want Democrats / Bernie to go hard on Clinton's "character"?

I have nothing else to say that wouldn't come out in a string of expletives.

Point 9 keeps the attacks coming, with not much of substance to discuss. A sampling:
From the jump, the Clinton campaign should have distanced itself from the whole “super-delegate” component of the presidential election season... Instead, the Clintons reveled in the day-in, day-out media reports...
Clinton used media cover to evade substantial criticism for participating in so few debates...
Clinton waited to see which Sanders’ policy positions were most popular among the media and among voters before adopting these positions herself.
Clinton sat back and let the media focus primarily on Trump...
...Clinton continues to buy the media hype that she’s far more popular than Sanders and beating him handily, even though her campaign has basically been a disaster since March 1st...
Point 10 starts out as a Sanders stump speech about how the youth love Bernie, then morphs into doomsaying about the Democratic party ("their days are numbered") and a scare-tacticy outro that raises the specter of a GOP presidency.

I am not psychic, and I cannot right now predict how the general election will shake out before the primary is even decided. But this article offered insufficient evidence for the propositions it set forth, directly contradicted itself more than once, and focuses more on attacking Clinton than anything else. I deeply suspect that the thesis of this piece is based almost entirely in the author's feelings about the candidates, and I don't buy any claim it makes about the future trajectory of the Democratic Party OR Clinton's likelihood of winning the general election should she win the primary.

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