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For a Presidential candidate to be successful, the candidate must have a message which fits the times, and must have developed an ideological direction that is both palatable to the base and not hostile to the General Election constituency. This year, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had a tougher than expected primary challenge because her message was more compatible with another era than with the present. By contrast, Bill Clinton in 1992 had a message that the base grudgingly accepted, and that also struck a resonant chord with a General Election contingent.

When Bill Clinton announced his candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1991, the party was on the heels of losing in two consecutive landslide Presidential elections. In 1984, the party’s nominee, Walter Mondale, won the Democratic nomination by running as a traditional liberal with the support of most Democratic special interest groups. His strongest opponent, U.S. Senator Gary Hart (D-CO), countered by running as the moderate alternative, critical of the power of labor unions and the “special interest government in Washington.” During the General Election, Mondale injudiciously declared that Republican President Ronald Reagan: “Will raise your taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.” The American electorate did not want a traditional liberal. Mondale lost 49 states.

Four years later, in 1988, two Democratic Presidential candidates, Al Gore and Bruce Babbitt, ran as moderates. Gore presented himself as a Southern centrist and bragged about the tobacco he grew on his family farm. He excoriated one of his Democratic opponents, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, for being soft on crime. In addition, Gore was a hawk on foreign policy. In fact, he was the only Democratic candidate to support the conservative Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir, in his refusal to negotiate a “land for peace” deal with the Palestinians.

Babbitt failed to muster any electoral traction when he tried to convince Democratic voters that fiscal necessity required the nation to means test Social Security and Medicare. Rather than pander to the party’s liberal base, Babbitt called his ideological mindset “radical centrism.”

The party nominated Dukakis. Ironically, Dukakis had enraged many liberals in his home state by cutting the Commonwealth’s budget. When he ran for re-election as Governor in 1978, some liberals supported Dukakis’ liberal primary challenger Barbara Ackerman. Then State Representative Barney Frank was one of Ackerman’s devotees. A reporter asked Frank if he had a problem with Dukakis riding the subway from his Brookline home to his office at the Massachusetts State House. Frank replied: “No, I don’t object that he rides the subway. I merely object that he gets off at the State House.”

Still, Dukakis could not shed the imprimatur Republican Presidential nominee George H.W. Bush stamped on his as: “that liberal Governor from Massachusetts.” In addition, Bush asserted that the Governor’s “foreign policy views born in Harvard Yard’s boutique would cut the muscle of defense.” The electorate feared a Liberal assuming the Presidency, and Dukakis lost 44 states.

By 1992, many Democratic Party voters were sick of nominating candidates who the Republicans could defeat by portraying them as too liberal. They were willing to accept at least a modicum of recreance to liberal orthodoxy in their nominee in return for winning the brass ring. This was the perfect electoral environment for Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. He had flirted with running in 1987, but wisely chose not to run.

Clinton had worked to inoculate himself from the traditional charges that he was just another liberal Democrat. He was Governor of a conservative state where Bush defeated Dukakis by more than 14 points. As Governor, Clinton, with the help of his wife Hillary, implemented an education reform plan which required teacher competency testing. In addition, Clinton was a past chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, which advocated a more moderate approach to governing. Clinton called himself a “New Democrat.” He advocated expanded markets, “ending welfare as we know it,” and said he wanted “to be tough on crime and good on civil rights.”

In addition, Clinton lambasted the “brain-dead politics of both parties” and praised Republican President Bush’s handling of the Persian Gulf War. Just before the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, Clinton left the campaign trail to go home to preside over the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, who had killed two people. Rector had essentially lobotomized himself in an attempted suicide with a handgun.

As President, Clinton emphasized fostering economic growth over redistribution of wealth, deficit reduction over social works programs, and free trade over protecting domestic special interests. Abroad, Clinton exercised an interventionist bicep, sending U.S. troops to Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. In addition, he enforced a no-fly zone over Iraq and supported ongoing economic sanctions against Iraq.

Clinton reformed the image of the Democratic Party, and even Democrats running in liberal states like 1994 Massachusetts Gubernatorial nominee Mark Roosevelt, labeled themselves as “New Democrats.” Even U.S. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO), who became the champion of the populist wing of the party, admitted in 1997: “we are all New Democrats now.”

Though her voting record in the U.S. Senate was to the left of many Democrats, Hillary Clinton carved out an image as a centrist in the vain of her husband. She voted for the 2003 resolution to authorize the use of force in Iraq, and did not apologize for her vote until 2015. In addition, Clinton inflamed liberals, such as then Harvard University Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, by voting in favor of legislation to overhaul the nation’s bankruptcy system. The legislation was supported by the financial services industry, and Warren warned that the bill: “would permit credit card companies to compete with women after bankruptcy for their ex-husbands’ limited income.”

As U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary advocated a troop surge in Afghanistan of 40,000 troops as part of a counterinsurgency mission. In addition, she spearheaded the administration’s effort to remove Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi from the reigns of power, and advocated aiding the insurrectionists in Syria.

Furthermore, while the left forgave her husband for accepting Wall Street contributions, since “The Great Recession” the financial services industry is held in lower esteem. Her chief primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, was able to capitalize on that by asserting: “She has not one, but several super-PACs and has raised tens of millions of dollars from Wall Street and other special interests. You can’t take their money and take them on.”

The donations to Bill Clinton in 1992 from the financial industry were of minor importance to a Democratic Party focused with laser beam intensity on victory. His administration included Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, a Goldman Sachs Alumni who was heralded for his stewardship of the economy. Some Democrats even wanted Rubin to be the Vice Presidential runningmate to the party’s 2000 nominee Al Gore.

However, in 2016 Rubin is seen as a villain on the left, and many chastise Bill Clinton for his leadership in deregulating parts of the banking industry. In addition, many on the left, particularly millennials, are cynical toward Hillary for the large contributions she accrued from the likes of City Group, JP Morgan Chase and Company, and the despised Goldman Sachs.

In 1992, Bill Clinton was able to use his hawkishness as a political advantage, and inoculated himself from traditional charges made against Democrats for being soft of defense. Today, in the wake of the unpopular invasions of Iraq and Libya, and the perpetual troop presence in Afghanistan, the American people are wary of foreign intervention.

Hillary is in a similar predicament as another Democrat who has a message which would have resonated with a prior Democrat electorate, but that has became antiquated. From the end of WWll in 1945, until the Vietnam War became unpopular with “the new left” in the mid 1960’s, the Democratic Party won elections by emphasizing a munificent social services regime coupled with a muscular approach abroad.

By 1968, when the party nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey for President (He won with the support of the party’s high command, having not won a single primary), that message did not resonate with the party. The Democrats wanted an indignant critic of the status quo. Humphrey supported the U.S. role in Vietnam, and trumpeted: “the politics of joy.” His exclamation of being “pleased as punch” was alien to the new Democratic electorate. Subsequently, though he softened his stance on Vietnam, Humphrey could not galvanize enough liberal voters to win the Presidency.

For Bill Clinton, the political stars were aligned perfectly in his favor in 1992. The Democratic Party and the country were ready to gravitate to a centrist who would challenge traditional liberal orthodoxy. Contrariwise, Hillary is swimming against the political tide. Like Humphrey, voters see her as a tribune of the status quo, at a time when the electorate is tired of establishment politicians and hungry for transformational change. Many progressives, especially millennials who supported her primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, are looking for a change agent, and see Hillary as a handmaiden of financial interests and an interventionist on foreign policy. She has a Herculean challenge in convincing progressives not to defect to Republican Donald Trump or to a third party candidate, or to write in Sanders name on the ballot.

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


Media Objectivity Is Illusive: It Cuts Many Ways

by Rich Rubino on June 28, 2016

Conservatives often excoriate the “liberal media.” The Media Research Center, a content analysis organization, brands itself as a vehicle to “expose and neutralize the propaganda arm of the left: the national news media.” After an unflattering political cartoon featuring his two daughters, then Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz bewailed how “desperate the liberal media is to attack and destroy me.”

If the media is so unabashedly liberal, logic would dictate that liberals would praise the institution, yet the left is just as quick to lambaste “the corporate Media” (often referred to as “the conservative media”) as the right is to upbraid the “liberal media.” Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders maintains: “The media is an arm of the ruling class of this country.” He asserts: “I think what you have is a corporate media, which by definition has conflicts of interest.” The liberal organization known as Media Matters dedicates itself “to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.”

It would seem impossible that both sides are correct. However, in its simplest form the media is simply a means of transmitting information. It is not an organism capable of existing on its own. Media is rather an all-encompassing term. Ideologues of all political persuasions cherry pick those parts of the media they don’t like, while ignoring those which are sympathetic to their causes.

Surveys show that the overwhelming number of American journalists are left- leaning. A 2015 poll taken by Indiana University Journalism professors David Weaver and Lars Willnat showed that Democratic journalists outnumber Republicans Journalists by more than four to one and that an overwhelming 90% of Washington correspondents vote Democrat.

This is a natural result of a free market system. Individuals with a liberal mindset tend to gravitate toward careers like Social Services, theater, academia, and journalism. Alternatively, those who gravitate toward industries like construction, oil gas, as well as coal, and agriculture tend to be conservative.

However, this only accounts for the so-called mainstream media. Liberals would be correct to point to a conservative media bias. For example, they can point to the influential talk radio sphere. In 2015, Talkers Magazine ranked four of the top five most influential radio talk show hosts as conservatives. The top two were conservative raconteurs Rush Limbaugh who raked in 13.25 million listeners weekly and Sean Hannity who pocketed about 12.5 million listeners. Fans of these programs eschew mainstream media sources, believing they are accruing the unvarnished truth from these sources. Limbaugh jokes: “There is no need for a truth detector. I am the truth detector.”

Americans no longer receive their news from a single source. The media is now fragmented. Liberals can listen to NPR, read The New York Times, and watch MSNBC. Conservatives can listen to conservative talk radio, read the Wall Street Journal, and watch Fox News. Accordingly, they choose to use the media as an echo chamber rather than a place to garner information. With so many different choices of media, many Americans engage in “confirmation bias.” They search for sources which will fortify their preformulated beliefs, rather than challenge them. A liberal is more likely to watch an interview on Democracy NOW with progressive linguist Noam Chomsky, whereas a conservative is more likely to watch Sean Hannity interview conservative commentator Denish D’Souza.

It has become conventional belief that the media is supposed to be objective. Yet objectivity is unattainable. By choosing which part of a story to emphasize, which sources to use, and the order of the stories, media organizations exhibit bias.

During the early days of the Republic, the media was expected to be biased. In fact, it was blatantly partisan. The nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, an exponent of an expansive Federal Government, founded The Gazette of the United States with friend John Fenno. Hamilton used his office to award printing contracts to Feno. The Publication made no attempt to be neutral. It advocated for Hamilton’s viewpoint.

Hamilton’s rival, U.S. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, who advocated a limited-purpose Federal Government, countered by co-founding The National Gazette with publisher Philip Freneau. Jefferson granted Freaneau authority to print State Department documents.

Throughout much of the Nineteenth Century, newspapers were mostly partisan propaganda machines. Many news reporters actually doubled as aides to politicians. In 1884, the Republican Los Angeles Times did not even report the election of Democrat Grover Cleveland as President for about a week. The newspaper had published an editorial supporting the Republican Presidential nominee James G. Blaine titled: “Six reasons Blaine will be triumphantly elected.”

Republicans can draw uproarious applause by using the media as a boogeyman. This is a tactic used often, sometimes by moderate Republicans to galvanize their more conservative base. At the 1964 Republican National Convention, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who many Republicans viewed with suspicion for his moderate politics, brought down the house by berating: “Sensation-seeking columnists and commentators, who couldn’t care less about the future of our party.” In 1992, President George H.W. Bush would often try to relate to conservative voters by quoting a bumper sticker which read: “Annoy the media. Re-elect the President.”

Democrats have also used the media as a boogeyman. In 1994, Bill Clinton lashed out at the negative media coverage that he halted air transportation at Los Angeles International Airport so he could get his haircut on the runway aboard Air Force One. Clinton told KMOX radio in St. Louis, Missouri: “Did you know there were press people on the aircraft carrier? Did you know that the carrier had been fully reimbursed out of the private pocket of a White House staff member who was so upset about it? No. Why didn’t you know about that? Because the press reporting it didn’t say so.”

In 1990 Massachusetts Democratic Gubernatorial nominee John Silber answered a seemingly innocuous question asked by Natalie Jacobson of WCVB-TV in Boston about his biggest weakness this way: “You find a weakness. I don’t have to go around telling you what’s wrong with me. The media have manufactured about 16,000 nonexistent qualities that are offensive and attributed them all to me. Let them have their field day. You can pick any one of them.”

The term media encompasses everything from newspapers to talk radio to television to any other means of transmitting information. The person who transmits the information will have a bias. That is unavoidable. All sides of the political spectrum can point to some facet of the media as being partial and against them. For liberals, that can include conservative talk radio hosts, FOX NEWS, The Drudge Report, ect. For conservatives, that can include MSNBC, NPR, and The New York Times. Some sources suffer from crosscurrents of indignation from the left for having a corporate bias and from the right for having a liberal bias.

A true consumer of news must employ an analytical prism when trying to find the truth behind any story. It is often better to view contravening sources and research their validity rather than gathering information as the gospel truth from any source. As the essayist E.B. White phrased it: “I have yet to see a piece of writing, political or non-political, that does not have a slant. All writing slants the way a writer leans, and no man is born perpendicular.”

Follow Rich Rubino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichRubinoPOL


Hillary Embarks Upon Operation ‘Democratic Party Unity’

June 14, 2016

Political parties are at a comparative advantage when they unify behind their Presidential nominee. Predictably, supporters of the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will do everything possible to heal the chasm with the progressive left: those who supported her primary opponent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT). Their fear is, assuming Hillary pockets the nomination at […]

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A Johnson/Weld Ticket Could Make the Libertarian Party Viable

May 24, 2016

Former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Republican Party’s Presidential nomination, reluctantly endorsed presumptive GOP Presidential nominee Donald Trump, averring that the race between Trump and likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is a “binary choice.” This is the mentality the Libertarian Party faces in presidential election cycles. Although the party has the […]

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In GOP Vice Presidential Sweepstakes, Donald Trump may want to vet John Duncan, Walter Jones, and Gene Taylor

May 10, 2016

Presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is in the inchoate stages of vetting possible Vice Presidential runningmates. Much media focus is centering on Ohio Governor John Kasich. Electorally, it would make sense to select a popular Governor of a critically important showdown state. No Republican has ever won the Presidency without carrying the Buckeye state. […]

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I’m From Massachusetts: My Vote Doesn’t Count

May 4, 2016

This primary election cycle is showcasing the fundamental unfairness of the way political parties select their nominees. Republicans are aghast that some states choose their nominees at state conventions rather than letting voters choose. Democrats are becoming cognizant that their vote is subservient to the vote of their Governors and members of the U.S. Congress, […]

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Political Parties are Under No Obligation to Operate Democratically

April 16, 2016

Supporters of Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are flocking to local town hall meetings asking why their U.S. Representative or Senator is a Superdelagate for Hillary Clinton when their district or state supported Sanders. They ask, “Shouldn’t they represent the will of the people?” Contrariwise, on the Republican side, supporters of Donald Trump are incensed […]

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Anybody But Trump, Anybody But Carter, Anybody But McGovern

April 1, 2016

The party establishment is aghast. An insurrectionist candidate is close to securing the party’s nomination. Fears arise on the part of the party establishment that this candidate will get clobbered in the General Election. Party chieftains and financial benefactors panic because the insurrectionist candidate is not beholden to them. A cacophony of voices emerges to […]

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Could Democratic Party History Repeat Itself in the Republican Party in 2016?

March 10, 2016

An insurrectionist presidential candidate stuns his party’s establishment by pocketing the party’s nomination. His views do not line up with mainstream figures in his party. He is charismatic and taps into the undercurrent of populist indignation against the corporate and political elite from rank-and-file party members. Many elected members of the party bolt and form […]

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Dirty Political Tricks From American Politics Done Dirt Cheap

March 3, 2016

Republican Presidential candidate Ted Cruz is taking heat for dirty tricks allegedly orchestrated by his campaign. The tricks range from photoshopping an image to make it appear that one of his opponents, Marco Rubio, is gleefully shaking hands with President Barack Obama, to allegedly creating a counterfeit Facebook profile for conservative U.S. Representative Trey Gowdy […]

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