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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/4/15

Bernie's Movement, Hillary's Challenge

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But even without a victory at the convention, if the Sanders campaign does become a "movement," that in itself will be something with which Hillary will have to contend.

The question will be, when/if Hillary becomes the nominee, how much of the enthusiasm of that movement will transfer to her?

A more extreme version of Hillary's challenge is found in the Democratic presidential politics of 1968. That year, the central issue was Vietnam, and the "movement" that arose to oppose that war lined up first behind Senator Eugene McCarthy and then also behind Bobby Kennedy.

The candidate who got the nomination was Hubert Humphrey, the vice-president to LBJ, the president whose decisions had done the most to give us the disaster that was that war.

For Humphrey, the challenge was to appeal to the part of the party where all the deep enthusiasm lay, while also not betraying the president and the party establishment that were giving him the nomination. His success at meeting that challenge was very limited, and in an extremely close election, he lost to Richard Nixon--and the war ground on for another terrible seven years.

There are important differences between 1968 and today.

1) It is not clear that the passions surrounding inequality and the theft of our democracy are as widespread and intense as those surrounding a war into which America's youth were being drafted to kill and die for what looked like for no good reason.

2) Primaries in 1968 determined only a minority of the delegates to the convention, so it was still possible for the likes of LBJ, John Connally of Texas, and Mayor Daly in Chicago to decide the nominee in the backroom, disregarding the preferences expressed by citizens in the primary process.

3) And Hillary is not so inextricably tied to the problem of inequality as Humphrey was to the war.

Nonetheless, Hillary's politics have hardly been the populism of Bernie Sanders. She has strong ties to Wall Street, and she has bridges that she presumably is not eager to burn. She does face the Humphrey danger: that those whose enthusiasm may be essential to her success in a general election may see her more as part of the problem than as part of the solution.

So, assuming that the Bernie Movement continues to gather strength, it will be interesting to see in the coming months how good Hillary is at adopting -- or co-opting -- those issues that Bernie is using to tap into the political passion that is now becoming visible.

Will she be convincing in representing herself as someone who will fight against inequality in wealth and power--convincing enough so that, if she finally secures the nomination, the followers of Bernie are glad to rally around her to defeat the Republicans?

Will she be convincing in representing herself as someone who will lead strongly on the issue of climate change?

On both scores, her own history is mixed. So making that sale will require conveying real conviction, and not just words.

Far more than just Hillary Clinton's fate may depend on how well she succeeds at meeting that challenge. Today's Republicans make Richard Nixon look responsible, and this nation can ill afford having any of these Republican candidates, leading today's atrocious Republican Party, become president.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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