Reprinted from Counterpunch
Last week, I handicapped the Bernie Sanders campaign. He since pulled off an upset in the Iowa Caucus, where he overcame a 40-point lead by Hillary Clinton (the day before, polls said he'd lose by two or three points) to a virtual tie so even that coin tosses and bureaucratic incompetence may have made a difference.
It's a two-person race, with Hillary still in the lead nationally. But Bernie has momentum and enthusiasm. Can the Independent Senator from Vermont catch up? Democratic primaries are a referendum on the status quo, so Sanders' chances depend at least as much on Secretary Clinton's weaknesses as on his strengths.
Here's what Hillary has going for her -- and not.
As in her (losing) 2008 run against Barack Obama, Hillary's strategists are selling competence and experience. "A progressive who gets things done," she is calling herself.
Scratch a little, however, and there's precious little evidence of substantial things she actually got done. Googling phrases like "Hillary Clinton's biggest accomplishments" yields lists that include "most-traveled Secretary of State" and "gave a speech in Geneva standing up for gay rights."
Hillary's "achievements" are activities, not accomplishments.
Fortunately for her, most voters don't question the Been Everywhere, Done Everything meme. She does have one hell of a resume: First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State. Though, for the life of me, I don't understand why Bernie's Mayor, Congressman and Senator resume (longer in total, more reelections) doesn't count.
When you talk to people who are seriously considering casting their votes for Clinton, many say they like that she's a woman president straight out of central casting -- tough and strong, with the slightly dystopian Corporate Leader wardrobe to boot. Here's to you, Jodie Foster in "Elysium."
Clinton knows everyone in DC. She knows world leaders. She won't need months to settle into the White House.
The trouble for Hillary is, this is an anti-establishment year. Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders are benefitting from an electorate whose simmering disappointment over the replacement of Hope and Change in 2008 with the Too Big To Fail bank bailouts of 2009 is finally being articulated into rage at the ballot box. As Obama's cabinet member, that's on her.
Clinton can't run away from her Beltway insiderdom. To her credit, she isn't trying. To the contrary, she's hugging Obama, incrementalism, head-over-heart rhetoric as hard as she can. She's just the wrong candidate for this year. Which means that, if she wins the nomination, she'll go into the general election campaign as bruised by Bernie Sanders as Jimmy Carter was in 1980 after facing off against Ted Kennedy. Many Bernie Sanders Democrats will sit on their hands in November if she's the nominee.
Hillary isn't stupid. She knows her formidable organizational advantages -- cash, a Super PAC, party backing, endorsements by establishment organizations including trade unions and corporate media, which have enforced a blackout of Bernie coverage -- no longer guarantee her once "inevitable" campaign. So she's co-opting Bernie's positions on healthcare and other issues of interest to progressives.
Problem is, voters usually pick pure steak over mystery meat.