Now the media attacks on Hillary will begin in earnest, if for no other reason than there is nothing much else to say about the campaign to become the 2016 Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Hillary has name recognition, a distinguished record, high scores for likeability and big donors. The current president is on her side. She has no heavyweight competition and a lead in the polls unparalleled for a non-incumbent in the history of American elections. She has pretty much shut down the competition early, just as Bush II did in 2000.
But there are still papers to print, broadcast space to fill, Internet pages to launch. The mainstream media has to pretend that it is covering the Democratic side, even though as in 2010 and 2014—the off-year elections that gave Republicans a gerrymandered dominance in Congressional districts for years—the media will give much wider coverage to the differences between conservative Republicans like Jeb Bush and rightwing loonies like Ted Cruz than they will to the differences between Democratic centrists and progressives. It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the mainstream media favors coverage of Republicans and twists issues rightward. Their owners, after all, tend to be conservative rich folk.
Early returns suggest the following as the main themes the media will use to cover Hillary Clinton’s inevitable march to the Democratic nomination:
· Scrounge up old scandals or fabricate new ones.
· Try to make it appear as if Hillary is a stolid, uninspiring or wonkish speaker, which is a standard accusation that Republicans have made against all of the recent Democratic candidates for president, including Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and even Clinton—everyone but Barack Obama. Him they called a rock star! In retrospect, I wonder if the Republicans were just too racist to admit that an African-American could be smart enough to be boring.
· Exaggerate the differences between Hillary and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
· Focus on the past peccadilloes of Bill Clinton or wonder whether he is being intrusive or a distraction on the campaign trail.
· Isolate poorly worded statements for signals that Hillary really doesn’t care about the poor, but is just another “rich bitch.”
· Speculate on whether America is ready for a woman president, and whether Hillary is putting too much or too little emphasis on her gender.
The mainstream media will leave it to Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the National Rifle Association and the Republican candidates to paint Hillary as an America-hating, male-emasculating atheist socialist who wants to destroy the economy, although the mainstream will cover the Republican candidates smearing Hillary with various crimes and misdemeanors.
Note that none of these story ideas focus on the issues. Focusing on the issues would show the stark differences between Democrats and Republicans and help swing the vote to Hillary Clinton.
Paul Krugman made the case for voting the Democratic party line in The New York Times by listing the various critical issues on which all Democrats and all Republicans seem to disagree: Virtually all Democrats want to maintain and grow Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, preserve the Affordable Care Act (ACA), raise taxes on the wealthy, preserve the 2010 financial reforms and respond to global warming (which Krugman politely calls “climate change”). Virtually all Republicans want to cut social insurance programs, destroy the ACA, lower taxes on the wealthy, deregulate financial markets and block any attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
No progressives in their right mind will make the mistake many made in 2000 and vote for a third-party candidate or stay home from the polls. We see what happened when votes for Ralph Nader allowed Bush II to sneak into office and bring us the botched responses to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, a shameful torture gulag, lower taxes on the wealthy, a booming deficit and a financial crisis. The differences between Hillary Clinton and the least rightwing Republican contender Jeb Bush are far greater than the differences between Gore and what Bush II was mouthing in 2000.
Those who follow the news know the stakes are high—a Republican Senate, House and presidency could bring severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, public education and other important programs for the poor and middle class, all to finance more tax breaks for the wealthy. The similarities of the Democrats on these core domestic issues will moderate the tone of any debate between Hillary and other candidates. And even if there is a spirited campaign battle pitting Hillary against an attractive progressive candidate, most Democrats will fall into line and vote for Hillary in the fall.
If they know what’s at stake, they will have no choice. Despite Hillary’s hawkishness on foreign policy and connections to Wall Street money, she still supports traditional Democratic positions on economic and social issues.
That’s why the key for a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016 is not so much to articulate the centrist Democratic line she espouses but to remind voters of the rightwing economic ideology that drives the current Republican Party.