In my piece last November, How can progressives can influence presidents, I posited that:
How to conduct a progressive persuasion campaign in an election also raises the issue in more general terms. In that respect, I highly recommend the TDS Memo on Democratic dialogue:
As the Democratic coalition and community looks to the future, however, there is a quite different challenge that the coalition must also prepare to confront: Democrats will soon have to begin debating important and deeply divisive issues about the Democratic platform and message for 2016 and beyond. [...] The critical challenge Democrats face is this: How can Democrats energetically debate their differences while at the same time still retaining a sufficient degree of unity to maintain a united front and “hold the line” against the profound Republican threat.
I'm much less concerned about the unity thing than Ed Kilgore and his group. I'm actually more interested in thinking about how progressives can influence and "win" that debate. [...] How does this phenomenon impact how a progressive movement should interact with a presidential frontrunner? I guess it depends on your view of politicians as much as anything. I'm from the pols are pols and do what they do school:
As citizens and activists, our allegiances have to be to the issues we believe in. I am a partisan Democrat, it is true. But the reason I am is because I know who we can pressure to do the right thing some of the time. Republicans aren't them. But that does not mean we accept the failings of our Democrats. There is nothing more important that we can do, as citizens, activists or bloggers than fight to pressure DEMOCRATS to do the right thing on OUR issues.
I don't expect politician saviors. So I think the search is for tactics and strategies that best forward progressive goals (if we can agree on them). [... E]ven if we are dealing with pols who "share" our values and principles, too often they have been wrong on strategy. [...] While Kilgore and Co. are for promoting a productive and unifying debate in the Democratic Party, arguing that maintaining the coalition's unity is critical to everyone's goals (I accept this as true). I am frankly more interested in making sure progressive ideas win out. [...]
And this is true in every context, I think. Be it pressing the Speaker or the Senate majority leader, or the new hope running for president. There is nothing more important we can do. Nothing. It's more important BY FAR than "fighting" for your favorite pol because your favorite pol will ALWAYS, I mean ALWAYS, disappoint you.
In the middle of primary fights, citizens, activists and bloggers like to think their guy or woman is different. They are going to change the way politics works. They are going to not disappoint. In short, they are not going to be pols. That is, in a word, idiotic.
Yes, they are all pols. And they do what they do. Do not fight for pols. Fight for the issues you care about. That often means fighting for a pol, of course. But remember, you are fighting for the issues. Not the pols.
I have what is probably an unpopular view—I think progressive values and goals for 2014 and 2016 are best achieved not by "Stopping Hillary!" but instead by attempting, as best as possible, and presenting her with a Democratic Party that is firm in its progressivism. This would be achieved by "persuading" Congressional Democrats and potential candidates that they need to adopt progressive values and positions. [...] I think we've seen already that "leaders" are often led to the head of the ongoing parade (see gay marriage). I would counsel attempting a similar approach to our presidential frontrunner for 2016, who could, in fact, lead a progressive landslide in 2016, even if she herself is not as progressive as the movement.
I want to add one last, and I think, crucial point—which is in fact the title of my post, "Hillary Clinton and a left flank: How a Clinton presidency could redefine progressive governance"—a Hillary Clinton White House will not, by definition, define the left flank of the Democratic Party. The fact is President Barack Obama, THROUGHOUT HIS TIME ON THE NATIONAL STAGE, was and is perceived as more progressive or liberal than his policies have ever been. But that did not stop the establishment media from presenting President Obama as the left flank of American politics. I still am amazed that so many people chose to perceive deep ideological differences between Obama and Clinton in 2008. I thought and repeatedly said there was not a dime's worth of difference between them on policy. I felt somewhat vindicated by the 60 Minutes interview
with President Obama and then outgoing Secretary of State Clinton in January 2013:
“Despite our hard-fought primary, we had such agreement on what needed to be done for our country,” Mrs. Clinton said.
“Made for tough debates, by the way,” Mr. Obama added, “because we could never figure out what we were different on.”
“Yeah, we worked at that pretty hard,” she said. [Emphasis supplied.]
A President Hillary Clinton will not be, nor be perceived, as the left flank of the Democratic Party. This permits, in my view, real arguments, initiatives and negotiation from strong progressive elements in Congress. There will be more room for independence, initiatives and influence. This was not possible in my view under the Obama presidency. In 2009, Chris Bowers wrote
President [Bill] Clinton told the assembled bloggers that one of the best things they could do for elected Democrats is to function as a "counterveiling" source of progressive pressure. That is, he encouraged us to offer left-wing criticism of Democrats on key policy areas, and that we should urge our leaders and elected officials to favor further reaching, more community-focused public policy. In fact, he indicated that he would have wanted more such progressive media pushing him during his time in office.
I think this is a much more likely approach under a President Hillary Clinton than it was to President Obama. In the longer term, increased independence and, hopefully, influence, from progressive segments in and out of Congress would be a good thing that could be produced by a Hillary Clinton presidency.
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