I went to bed last night thinking about how Hillary Clinton is now the Democratic Party nominee for President. A year ago everyone thought she had it sewn up. Then Bernie Sanders happened. As of yesterday, my Facebook feed had a steady stream of “Bernie Bernie Rah Rah Rah” and today…it’s all quiet on the western front. California voted, and Hillary won by 12 points. 400,000 votes. She won, the end.
A lot of folks that I know are going to talk about how the system is rigged, how the US is a corrupt oligarchy, and so on. I read a piece on the Sanders campaign from Politico last night that really cast Bernie in a negative light – the folks over at Vox basically said the fact that people within the campaign were willing to go on record about this stuff demonstrates an organization in disarray – and it reinforced for me the sense that Sanders is basically a soapbox superstar. He stirred the pot, raised the issues. He gave voice to the discontent, the resentment and frustration, of the American left. And there’s a great deal of it after eight years of Obama.
The long battle between the left and the center over the Democratic party has left me feeling ambivalent over left politics. From my perspective, what the left ought to be focused on is economic expansion and wealth redistribution though tax reform and monetary inflation. But that’s not at all what the left, as led by Bernie Sanders, has focused on. To give a precise example: I wish Bernie Sanders would have said that he wanted to expand Medicare to everyone, and would do so through deficit spending. Or that he would say that we could build infrastructure, through debt financed Federal government spending. I wish he would have said that to bring excess savings back into the economy, it would be necessary for the Federal government to lift the debt ceiling, and to increase deficit spending. But that’s not what he talked about. Mostly he talked about populist resentments. And what that told me was that his supporters aren’t interested so much in the future as resolving past grievances.
And that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of legitimate grievances that deserve attention – the legacy of institutionalized racism and sexism, for example, absolutely should be a focus of reform efforts.But politics should always orient itself towards the future, not the past.
At any rate, in the present I’m expecting a lot of bitterness this summer over politics. Which is too bad. In the meantime, I’m interested in how the rest of the race will shape up. Although I think Clinton will make an appeal to the Sanders camp, I think in a lot of ways her campaign will now take it’s place in the political center. The Left will cry foul, but I don’t really think that matters to the Clinton campaign. Especially because I think the Democrats, this year, will have a huge opportunity to bring in a sizable contingent of the business community. Trump paints himself as a businessman, but he comes across like a snake oil salesman. Which makes him perfect for the ring-wing-radio constituency, but not so much the actual business community. It seems entirely plausible to me that Wall Street will go Democrat this year, after decades of funding the right wing think tanks. Bankers don’t really care about social policy. They care about economic stability, and that’s something Clinton can offer them.