Hating on Hillary: Common Among Lefties in Chattering Classes, But Not So Much Progressive Rank-and-File

Democratic Presidential Candidates Attend Jefferson-Jackson Dinner In New Hampshire
Could Hillary really finish third in Iowa? Photo: Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Back in 2011, after a fiscal deal with congressional Republicans, there was a notable upsurge of fury at Barack Obama in the progressive chattering classes, to the point where a primary challenge to the president in 2012 seemed a foregone conclusion.  That did not, of course, transpire, and by November of 2012 Democrats were as united behind Obama’s reelection bid as any Obamabot might have hoped. 

You have to wonder if we are seeing a parallel phenomenon today. Even as Hillary Clinton has regained her strong lead in the polls for the Democratic presidential nomination, there are suddenly angry voices denouncing her as a traitor to the progressive cause and even suggesting Bernie Sanders supporters consider taking a dive next November if Clinton is the nominee. 

Perhaps the loudest such voice is from columnist H.A. Goodman, who created a stir last year by endorsing Rand Paul for president on the grounds that the right-wing quasi-libertarian senator would be more progressive on issues of war and civil liberties than Obama or his likely Democratic successor Clinton. Now Goodman’s more plausibly a Sanders supporter, and is making the rather bizarre prediction that HRC’s disqualifying identification as a “moderate” will doom her to a third-place finish in Iowa. Over at Salon, which is becoming to the hard-core Left Opposition within the Democratic Party what The Weekly Standard has long been among neoconservatives, Shane Ryan has a provocative piece up today toying with the take-a-dive strategy for 2016 if Clinton is the Democratic nominee. A Nader Redux strategy, he argues, would not only help purify the Democratic Party from the evil corporatist Clintons, but would scourge Americans with the realities of another Republican regime.  

I don’t know that either of these gentlemen is a significant or representative figures among progressive elites, but in case such talk persists or spreads, it is helpful to understand that like the “primary Obama!” sentiment at this point four years ago (which was endorsed by none other than Bernie Sanders at the time), it does not seem to have any traction among actual voters. 

According to an ABC/Washington Post poll last month, 90 percent of self-identified “liberal Democrats” have a favorable opinion of Hillary Clinton, with over half (51 percent) having a “strongly favorable” opinion. Similarly a Quinnipiac survey released last week asks Democrats if there’s any candidate for president they “would definitely not support.” Only 8 percent of Democrats named HRC, and that number dropped to 2 percent among self-identified “very liberal” Democrats. 

As for Goodman’s prediction that Clinton will finish third behind both Sanders and O’Malley in Iowa, well, that would indeed be a surprise. She is not only leading Sanders by a steady 11 percent in the RealClearPolitics polling average for Iowa; she’s also edging O’Malley by 52/4. The idea that this Iowa Caucus will be a rerun of 2008 is plain ignorant; for one thing, 2008 second-place finisher John Edwards had finished second in 2004 in Iowa and never stopped campaigning there except for the time he spent on the 2004 national ticket. 

Hillary Clinton has some challenges remaining in the nominating process — more in New Hampshire than in Iowa, though her status seems to be gradually improving just about everywhere — but it’s not because progressives think she’s too “moderate.” And if nominated, she could lose the general election, but not because progressives will take a dive and smile upon a Rubio or Cruz or Trump presidency that will “heighten the contradictions” and push the whole country hard left. Next time you hear either of those propositions, make sure the progressive “spokesman” making it speaks for somebody, anybody, else. 

Left-Bent Elites & Rank-and-File Diverge on HRC