Friday, February 12, 2016

The Classic Fox-Hedgehog Matchup

There has been some bedwetting recently over HRC's message. I think this is extrapolating too much in NH a state she was supposed to lose. This was clear since the Summer. It was certainly clear that Bernie would have no chance if he didn't win NH.

I've argued that Bernie's strength is also his weakness. His strength is his simple message. But it risks the chance of being simplitistic and single issue. Last night I think she made that point.

Nate Silver:

"First, while there’s room to argue about whether Clinton’s constituency-building approach or Sanders’s more targeted one is a more effective strategy overall, I think Clinton did a better job of executing her strategy tonight. She was able to present herself as a full-spectrum Democrat, especially in her closing statement. Sanders, conversely, had more trouble focusing on his core issues such as income inequality."

"Second, Clinton appeared more relaxed and confident tonight than she did in the New Hampshire debate. I’m generalizing from small samples, but it was more reminiscent of the first Democratic debate (after which Clinton rebounded in the polls) than some of Clinton’s more recent efforts. Conversely, Sanders dated himself a bit with references to Henry Kissinger and Winston Churchill, something he’s perhaps been smart to avoid given his supporters’ demographics lean younger."

This is her message for better or worse. That she is the progressive who can actually execute through her ability to forge coalitions and her knowledge and willingness to use executive power. Change in 2017 will be incremental at least at first. 

She is running as a Democrat with appeals to Democrat constiuencies while he runs on the overarching theme of money in politics.

Josh Marshall frames the difference well:

"The real crux of this contest at this point is one between Sanders who has a coherent, readily understandable and often inspiring message versus Clinton who commands specifics, addresses a variety of issues at a very complex level and wants to pull the debate to concrete questions, to pros and cons, mundane but immovable realities. I think I said in the last debate that her motto was something like "I'm going to make everything better. Whatever you got, I'll fix it." It has no real magic to it. There's no central critique unifying her message. And Sanders has that in spades."

"I get the resonance and appeal of that. On the specific issue of guns, I made a similar argument last year. Gun control advocates have argued themselves into a corner of such minimal and almost trivial reforms that they are not only meaningless but politically enervating because we can't even get the meaningless reforms we say we support. Gun rights advocates can credibly note that these reforms would accomplish hardly anything. Let's draw back and say what we really think and build from there."

"And yet there's a vague hint of Rubio-ism in Sanders. When pressed on specifics he comes back to this very general if powerful critique about a rigged economy, a corrupt campaign finance system that undergirds that rigged economy and so forth. He keeps coming back to those same talking points. Now, he's no Rubio of course. Rubes really is a callow pretty boy who's had a series of elegantly crafted paragraphs produced for him to fit a certain political moment. What Sanders is saying is what he's been saying for decades. It is rooted in a lifetime of a very specific way about thinking about the political economy, economic policy and the nature of equality itself. In a way the country or rather a decent chunk of it has simply caught up with him."

"I will say that I thought Hillary's close was a key moment in the debate, perhaps in the campaign. It's not that she crushed him or anything. But it was the first time I heard her pull together her essential message in a coherent, memorable way. Here's the key passage ...

"We agree we've got to get unaccountable money out of politics. We agree that Wall Street should never be allowed to wreck main street again. But here's the point I want to make tonight. I am not a single-issue candidate and I do not believe we live in a single-issue country. I think that a lot of what we have to overcome to break down the barriers that are holding people back, whether it's poison in the water of the children of Flint or whether it's the poor miners who are being left out and left behind in coal country, or whether it is any other American today who feels somehow put down and depressed by racism, by sexism, by discrimination against the lgbt community against the kind of efforts that need to be made to root out all of these barriers, that's what I want to take on."

"In a sense, it's just another recitation of her laundry list of to-dos. But here it's a coherent critique of Sanders. It's memorable. Something you can frame a key part of a campaign around. One can buy it or not buy it. But I think Hillary has many potential supporters who've been listening to her and found her just sort of scattered and all over the place. I imagine that when Hillary and Bernie supporters argue over their candidates, you'll have Hillary supporters come back to "She's not a single issue candidate." It sums it all up."

That's exactly the argument she has to make against Bernie. He is the single issue candidate. As President Obama says, you have to walk and chew gum at the same time. 

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