With apologies to Rachel Maddow, let’s play a game of “Debunktion Junction.”
True or false: there is widespread progressive anger over Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s attempts to attract Republican support.
The New York Times missed the mark by a mile when it promoted the idea that there are legions of liberals who loathe Clinton’s efforts to reach across the aisle. Note the nonsensical nature of this opening:
Liberal Democrats and progressive activists have grown wary of the state of the 2016 presidential race, chafing at Hillary Clinton’s big-tent courtship of Republican leaders they have long opposed and fearing the consequences of shaping the contest as a referendum on Donald J. Trump.
While few have questioned the electoral strategy of bringing Republicans into the fold by casting Mr. Trump as a singular threat to democracy, both skeptics and some admirers of Mrs. Clinton have come to view her decisive advantage in the polls with mixed emotions.
She may win by a mandate-level margin, they say. But what, exactly, would the mandate be for?
A progressive vision, of course. Isn’t that obvious?
The stench of sexism in these “Hillary just can’t wait to sell out the left!” stories is overpowering. Would a male progressive Democratic candidate face these allegations of ideological disloyalty and treachery?
What Clinton is doing is smart politics. She knows that there are millions of “cloth-coat Republicans” (to use progressive radio icon Thom Hartmann’s phrase, which refers to a famous line in Richard Nixon’s 1952 “Checkers” speech) who are only now waking up to just how perverse their party has become. These Republicans were too busy raising their kids and working hard at their jobs to consume excess quantities of reactionary radio and Fox filth; prior to the rise of Captain Claptrap, many of these folks were completely oblivious to the GOP’s descent into dementia, just as many Americans were completely oblivious to the issue of police brutality prior to the age of smartphones.
Clinton would be politically irresponsible not to offer these “cloth-coat Republicans” an opportunity for an oasis from Trump’s obnoxiousness and opprobrium. She is a skilled and savvy enough politician to convince these GOP refugees that a new political home guided by progressive principles will provide nourishment, comfort and hope.
Bernie Sanders would not have endorsed Clinton if he did not sincerely believe that the former Secretary of State would work tirelessly to advance the progressive cause as President. For every Bernie-or-Buster who still thinks Clinton is a cold, calculating “corporatist,” there are two or three or four (or more!) erstwhile Sanders supporters who have come to the conclusion that the Vermont Senator’s words at the Democratic National Convention were accurate.
The “Hillary’s plotting to sell out the left” narrative is hack journalism at its worst, a desperate attempt to promote the idea that Clinton is just as dirty and deceitful as the Donald. It is this sort of reckless reporting that will drive discriminating news consumers to media entities that do not embrace the false-balance ethos, media entities that aren’t willing to proclaim “both sides do it” when only one side does, media entities that can recognize the moral difference between progressive politics and regressive politics.
Nancy LeTourneau noted a few days ago that we could be bearing witness to the rise of “Clinton Republicans.” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) has also noted that, in the battleground Buckeye State, what remains of moderate Republicanism is now gravitating towards Clinton. Clinton can attract these voters without betraying progressive principles; it can be argued that she is uniquely qualified to convince these voters that, as vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine put it in his DNC address, “[I]f any of you are looking for that party of Lincoln, we have got a home for you right here in the Democratic Party.” Ask yourself: how many progressives really believe that Clinton is somehow selling out by asking “cloth-coat Republicans” to buy in?