Hillary Clinton changes her principles, values and convictions with the ease of changing her socks, and now she has a new strategy.
She’s banking on hitting the presidential jackpot with Elizabeth Warren’s nickel. Or maybe it’s Bernie Sanders’ nickel. It’s a worn nickel. It’s similar to the nickel George McGovern used in a different time and place. We have the word of The New York Times, the media arm of the Clinton campaign, on that.
Some Democrats concede that moving as far as she can before falling off the edge of the world is risky business, but when even her staunchest friends say they’re for her no matter what because she’s all they’ve got, the risk doesn’t seem so great.
Hillary, according to The New York Times, has trashed the inclusive 50-state strategy that propelled Bill to two terms in the White House on the strength of retrieving large numbers of white working-class voters for their traditional home in the Democratic Party. In this account, Hillary is saying good riddance to those voters, reckoning that they’re irredeemable bigots, nativists, know-nothings, religious zealots, racists and other not very nice people.
“Aides say it is the only way to win in an era of heightened polarization, with a declining pool truly up for grabs,” the newspaper analysis holds. “Her liberal positions, they say, will fire up Democrats, an easier task than trying to win over independents in more hostile territory, even though a broader strategy would help the party with her.”
But Hillary, like Bubba, her tutor in the game of politics whose strategies and tactics are but Greek to her, will rely on the straight and narrow path through the swamps and thickets that Barack Obama forged, abandoning the search for independents, pandering to the true liberal believers to pick up votes in the Great Lakes, West and certain states of the South.
The New York Times frets that this strategy would forego “the spirited conversation that can be a unifying feature of a presidential election,” and if she wins it would saddle her with the same kind of “difficulties” President Obama has had to bear in his attempt to transform America into a nation that would make America a nation that first lady Michelle could at last be proud of. The moral here, from the real world, is that sometimes you can win and still not get it all — you can have the prize but you can’t have the conversation, too. Any politician would take the prize, and leave the conversation to well-meaning weenies.
The conversation is exactly what Hillary doesn’t want. She recognizes her weakness, that she has revealed herself as aloof and greedy with no fixed convictions. She’s Cruella de Vil (Vil as in “villain”), come to life from the Disney cartoon, and nobody much likes her. She wisely chooses the path driven by data. But this time it may not work: Barack Obama, like Bubba before him, seemed likeable before everyone got to know him, and knowledgeable, too.
He correctly figured that what the American public yearned for was a bridge across the racial divide, and if America elected a black president he would not only build that bridge, but make everything smooth and plain as well. Mr. Obama successfully camouflaged what he wanted — a fundamental transformation of American society that no one would any longer recognize, disguised with empty promises of “hope” and “change,” hope and change not clearly defined.
For this campaign, Hillary turned in her seven-year-old convictions, having ordered new ones. She read the signs, as The Wall Street Journal poses them, that “liberals are making a comeback — and not just because a Socialist is running for president, gay marriage is spreading like wildfire and pot legalization is gaining acceptance.” In this account, it’s the season of the Socialist gay pothead. The signs are showing Hillary the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Three public-opinion polls taken this year find that 26 percent of American voters are now willing to say in public that they’re “liberals,” up from 23 percent a year ago, and “only” 33 percent of the voters say they’re conservatives, down by 4 percent.
Gallup suggests that the ideological shift is driven by sudden popularity of gay wedding bells and the aroma of orange blossoms in the air. Rarely has a tail, composed of a relatively miniscule 3.8 percent of the population, wagged a dog of 320 million. This particularly frightens politicians, who covet a place on the landscape where they can be blown about by every wind that blows.
Hillary may think she has successfully armed herself with new convictions, new principles and a new and improved social conscience, eager to move with the flow. But she should remember the first law of life. Nothing recedes like success.
• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.