On an audio tape released last Friday, Clinton can be heard telling supporters, "We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn't even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that's what we're dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it's primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don't agree with them. They know I don't agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me."
In contrast to Clinton’s assertion that “they know I don’t agree with them,” many Democratic activists believe that Clinton represents the type of “change” that 81 percent of the country wants to see. Owing to her name recognition and the bitter polemics between Bill Clinton and the Republicans throughout the 90s, many believe Clinton is a polar opposite to George Bush.
Clinton has cultivated that contrast in debates, laying sole responsibility for the Iraq War on George Bush and criticized him for refusing to bring it to a conclusion. “This is George Bush's war,” Clinton said in the New Hampshire debate. “He is responsible for this war. He started the war. He mismanaged the war. He escalated the war. And he refuses to end the war.”
The recently revealed comments, however, indicate she may have more in common with George Bush when it comes to foreign policy than Americans are comfortable with. Insiders have sensed a conservative streak in Clinton all along. She positioned herself hawkishly on Iran and Palestine, telling an audience in Princeton two years ago that, “We cannot and should not – must not – permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons.” The bluster may carry enough innuendo for the policy wonks at the conservative-leaning university to conclude that for Clinton all options are on the table, but she always smoothes over her rhetoric with diplomatic overtures: “we must move as quickly as feasible for sanctions in the United Nations."
As a result, many “activists” in the Democratic Party still see Clinton through rose-colored glasses, refusing to internalize her clear words on this audio tape and recognize that she disagrees with them on national security and foreign policy. Many remember the tumultuous Monica Lewinsky scandal, and take umbrage at the sexist media coverage of Clinton’s campaign. Many believe that if Clinton fails it will be decades before a woman is elected president.
But what comes across clearly in Clinton’s private comments is her ease in referring to the “activist base” in a way that’s at once reductive and dismissive. It is the articulation of an attitude in Washington among Democratic politicians toward the views of their supporters that some have always suspected exists.
The media has largely blacked out news of the audio clip, and her comments have traveled almost nowhere since last Friday. In interviews with four news savvy progressive leaders, none of them had heard the comments.
Dan Jacoby is an organizer with Democracy for New York City, a local coalition group of Democracy for America, the organization Howard Dean founded with a mission to promote greater, eh hem, “activism” in local, state and national politics.
He took issue with her reasoning for why she’s losing the caucuses. “She’s losing the caucuses because she didn’t fight the caucuses,” Jacoby said. “It’s partly because she didn’t try, and she’s out of touch with what the Democrats stand for.” In some measure, Clinton’s comments have raised again the question: What do the Democrats stand for?
There are loyal OpEdNews readers who oppose the Democratic Party and advocate a third party that adheres more closely to progressive values. Others believe that DC corrupts absolutely…Ghandi would end up taking bribes for military contracts, so forget even trying.
Others, like Michael Jay, an elected delegate for the Democratic Party from the 42nd district and member of its progressive caucus, say there is hope for a more progressive Party. Jay is also a special projects coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America nationally and is involved locally in Los Angeles.
“No progressive would have a problem with the Democrats if they would just adhere to the platform,” Jay said. In California, the Democratic Party platform advocates “revoking authorization for the war and opposing any further appropriations except for removing troops,” Jay said. “I can count on one hand the number of Democrats who adhere to the Party’s platform.”
Jay agrees with Clinton’s notion of a divide in the Party, but characterizes it as a split between the leadership and the progressive activists. “The difference is the people who unthinkingly say this is our team and the ultimate goal is to get Democrats elected,” Jay said. “Progressives are even looking to further advance the platform. We are a lot more like real democrats than incumbents and most of the party apparatus.”
Jay also believes that if a Democrat doesn’t win this year it is because the party is still trying to act Republican-lite. “The Democratic Base is disgusted with [elected Democrats]. The People I know are disgusted to hopelessness with the party.”
“Democratic leaders think they look strong when they actually don’t: in standing up to the president. I mean we’re in the greatest constitutional crisis since the Civil war. It seems lost on the Democratic leadership. Based on the quote that you read me, it’s lost on [Clinton], I think.”
Frances Anderson is a former state coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America in New York. Anderson listened to the quote for the first time on Sunday and said, “I would think that every party would want to have an activist base. The very idea that Hillary Clinton is using ‘activist base’ in a disparaging way is a great example of where she’s coming from.”