It is time, once again, to check in on the Democratic contest, which is strange enough that in a normal year, it would stand out as high entertainment. Clinton should be crushing Sanders. She is winning, but narrowly. Why?
I have pointed out before that Sanders has outperformed expectations, particularly those of adherents to The Party Decides. As a reminder, that's the book (which I hate) arguing that party elites control the nomination process by using endorsements to signal the party's official-unofficial choice to voters. Yeah, that didn't work. HRC has been mopping the floor with Sanders in the endorsement contest, but only narrowly winning among voters. Why? I don't have an answer, but it is worth going through some ideas.
1) Policy. The obvious point is that Sanders is to the left of Clinton. Both like the idea of economic redistribution, but Sanders wants a lot more of it. The Democratic base likes that. Maybe this is simply policy. I bashed the failure of "the spatial model" with respect to Republicans here, but the Democrats seem to be cooperating a little more. The hard-core leftie is doing relatively well in the left-wing party. Maybe this is just policy, right?
2) Realism versus purity. This is the big difference between Clinton and Sanders. Sanders is, as I have written before, a particularly deluded goo-goo. He thinks that Ted Cruz secretly agrees with him on policy, and without those evil corporations and their icky, icky money, Cruz would be pushing for single-payer healthcare, massive tax increases, and taking bong hits with Noam Chomsky.
Clinton is... not an idealist. She isn't making grand promises. If she becomes president, mostly she will just veto stuff from a Republican Congress. Maybe some people just don't want to hear that.
Then again, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton... The Democrats have usually nominated the candidates who don't make grand, transformational promises. Then again, they nominated Obama, and here's Clinton on Obama from the good, old days...
3) Clinton fatigue. This is hard to conceptualize or quantify, but Clinton has been on the national political scene for a quarter of a century. Do people get sick of a politician?
Maybe, but I am skeptical here. If Republicans could reanimate the corpse of Ronald Reagan, we would see just how fast the Constitution is amended to allow a third term for ReaganGolem. Are the Democrats different in that respect? Ted Kennedy maintained his stature for decades. Maybe that was the name. Maybe the legend. Then again, he couldn't unseat Carter in 1980...
So is Clinton fatigue real? Uhhh.....
4) Perception of corruption. One of the most fascinating aspects of the Clintons' political lives has been the extent to which allegations of corruption, with minimal evidence, have stuck to the name. Emailgate! Benghazi! Whitewater! Vince Foster! Filegate!
What, you don't remember those last few? I do... Look 'em up, kids.
The funny thing is that the allegations have always been more innuendo-based. Ken Starr was appointed Congress as the independent counsel to investigate the Clintons. With four years, an unconstrained agenda and millions of dollars, he found a stained dress.
I mean, I know Monica was only an intern, but is dry-cleaning really that expensive?
One of two things is the case: either the Clintons make Al Capone look reckless, or they are no dirtier than any normal politician. Is she crooked? Probably. More so than other politicians? If she is, she's the smoothest criminal out there since nobody has come even close to prosecutable actions.
Is she sleazy? Hell, yes. She tried to steal the 2008 nomination. The quick summary: In 2008, the DNC passed a rule saying that only four states could have their contests before February 5: Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Florida and Michigan tried anyway. All of the candidates, Hillary included, agreed that neither would count. In Michigan, Obama and Edwards even took their names off the ballot (it was too late for that in Florida). Hillary left her name on the ballot, claiming that it didn't really matter anyway because the state wouldn't count. Then, when she fell behind in the delegate count, she tried to argue that Michigan's results were valid, and needed to be counted.
Hillary Clinton has nothing even resembling an ethical impulse.
Corrupt, though? If she were, Ken Starr would have found it, and no, the email thing isn't a thing.
If you want reasons to distrust Hillary, there are plenty of good ones. And maybe the accumulation of reasons, real and imagined, have put Clinton in a weaker position.
5) Them wacky college kids. Every election, journalists try to write a story about how this year, the kids will finally turn out, and their chosen candidate will win. Eugene McCarthy! Well, that's another story. Gary Hart! Bill Bradley! Howard Dean!
Of course, a stopped clock is right twice a day, and Obama won in 2008.
Then again, maybe that emboldens the kids. I have no idea how to measure or test that, though, so I'm pretty much bullshitting here.
And then I'm out of prominent ideas. Clinton will win. Sanders was always toast. But this was closer than anyone predicted, and we need to figure out why. Once we stop obsessing about The Donald.
Hey, did you see what Donald Trump just said?! Can you believe it?!
I just typed that. I had no specific statement in mind. Funny how it works anyway.