American voters always traditionally hate incumbents and incumbent parties, and 2016 will be no exception. In fact, 2016 will likely be the biggest referendum on the establishment since Barack Obama’s landslide victory in 2008, when the Republican agenda was roundly rejected in favor of something ostensibly completely different. But if Democrats allow the media to turn Hillary Clinton’s campaign into a coronation and eliminate all competition early, they’ll be setting themselves up for Scott Walker to become the next president, which would be a disaster for America.
Why a Hillary Clinton Coronation is So Dangerous
Hillary Clinton has been the presumed frontrunner in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary ever since John Kerry replaced her as Secretary of State in 2013. She is largely unopposed – her only competition so far seems to be former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, a former Republican who has yet to formally declare his candidacy. Despite heavily-funded efforts by groups like MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to convince Elizabeth Warren to run in 2016, she has remained vehemently opposed to a presidential bid. Other candidates may emerge, like Vice President Joe Biden, socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, or former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley. But according to 63 different polls from 12 different pollsters, Hillary Clinton is the far-and-away favorite among likely Democratic voters.
While Clinton has been marketed as a progressive, and while her campaign announcement video has clearly tried to brand her as a woman of the people, she has a long record as a hawkish, Wall Street-friendly, fossil fuel-supporting proponent of the security state who embodies crony capitalism and an out-of-touch establishment. So far, major media outlets have ignored the left’s criticism of Clinton’s record in favor of pushing a narrative of a popular candidate catering to middle-class voters (with a decidedly milquetoasteconomic populist agenda).
In one of two paid speeches to Goldman Sachs that brought HRC a cool $400,000, she was introduced by one of the bankers emceeing the event as “someone who could bring us out of the wilderness.” During the speech, which has not yet been made available to the public, she is purported to have made remarks criticizing politicians who bash Wall Street as “unproductive” and “foolish.” As Zaid Jilani reported in Alternet, Clinton also gave a paid speech to the Biotechnology Industry Organization in which she simultaneously praised genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in food and advocated cutting corporate taxes, which already make up a record-low percentage of overall U.S. tax revenue. In case voters are still unclear on HRC’s position on GMOs, the Ready for Hillary PAC picked a Monsanto lobbyist as one of the leaders of her Iowa campaign team.
Hillary Clinton is also vilified among environmentalists around the country and the world for her support of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which jets of water are injected with hundreds of chemicals into the ground to break up natural gas deposits, and often lead to natural gas contaminating local water supplies. In the U.S., fracking is one of the industries chiefly responsible for California’s water crisis by burning through 70 million gallons of water last year alone. This Mother Jones report explores how, as President Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton aggressively introduced fracking to Eastern European countries. Many of these fracking projects were handled by companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron, which made millions of dollars in donations to the Clinton Foundation.
As Glenn Greenwald pointed out last summer, Hillary Clinton’s defense of the Israeli attack on Gaza, which was condemned by the United Nations multiple times, is indistinguishable from Benjamin Netanyahu’s. Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” campaign of 2014 ended with approximately 2,100 Palestinians dead and thousands more injured. The UN claimed seven of 10 Palestinian lives lost were civilians, including 495 children and 253 women. Israeli fighter jets targeted multiple civilian targets for airstrikes, like the power plant that supplied Gaza City with the bulk of its electricity, and a UN school. Despite those statistics, HRC still vociferously took Israel’s side throughout the campaign, making remarks like:
““Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command-and-control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult.”
“Israel did what it had to do to respond to the rockets.”
“It’s impossible to know what happens in the fog of war. Some reports say, maybe it wasn’t the exact UN school that was bombed, but it was the annex to the school next door where they were firing the rockets. And I do think oftentimes that the anguish you are privy to because of the coverage, and the women and the children and all the rest of that, makes it very difficult to sort through to get to the truth.”
When it comes to unconstitutional programs like the NSA’s warrantless spying on the phone calls, texts and emails of ordinary American citizens, HRC has remained dubiously quiet. As The Atlantic reported, Clinton refused to say whether or not she would discontinue the NSA’s domestic spying programs if elected president. As a U.S. Senator, Clinton voted for the controversial Patriot Act in 2001, which radically expanded the government’s authority to spy on citizens, and voted to reauthorize it in 2006. She also famously supported George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, which experts say was one of the major catalysts for the creation of ISIS.
Hillary Clinton is obviously not a progressive candidate, and she is the epitome of the Washington establishment that most Republicans are running against and that most Americans have grown to distrust. But regardless of who else runs in the Democratic primary, party bosses have made it clear that delegates will be expected to fall in line and support HRC’s campaign.
New Hampshire Voters Will Choose Clinton and Walker
While Iowa has the first presidential caucus, and while other states like South Carolina and Florida have early primaries, New Hampshire’s famous First in the Nation primary is largely seen as the primary that decides the nominees of each party in the general election. New Hampshire may have just four electoral votes of the 270 needed to secure a presidential election, but the Granite State is seen as a microcosm of white, working-class America in which voters of all political leanings reside. A candidate that wins the blessing of New Hampshire primary voters has, in effect, won the blessing of white, working-class America. And New Hampshire’s Democratic Party machine has been squarely in the camp of the Clintons since 1992.
At the New Hampshire Democratic Party (NHDP) headquarters in Concord, the main conference room features a giant framed poster of Hillary Clinton, in the same theme as Barack Obama’s famous “HOPE” poster from 2008. But instead of “HOPE,” the single word “HILLARY” is emblazoned on the bottom of the image of Clinton looking heroically into the distance. The state party’s deference to Clinton was made apparent to the entire nation when NHDP chair Ray Buckley told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that there would only be Democratic debates in New Hampshire “if there are legitimate candidates.”
While Republicans like Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie have each made appearances in New Hampshire, presumed Democratic presidential candidates have been mostly scarce in the Granite State so far. At the end of January, Bernie Sanders spoke at the home of Arnie Arnesen in Concord, to a standing room-only crowd of over 100. Sanders talked about the need for a president who focused on ending Washington’s subservience to “the billionaire class,” but ended the day on a melancholy note, saying he wouldn’t run unless he was sure he could win, and that winning in this political system unfortunately depended on being able to raise large amounts of money.
“The Koch Brothers are spending close to a billion dollars in 2016,” Sanders said. “Even if I got two million Americans to donate $100, that would only be a quarter of what one family is spending on the election.”
As a volunteer for multiple political campaigns in New Hampshire, I have frequent contact with town Democratic Party chairs, some of whom will be party delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention tasked with officially choosing a nominee for the general election. One of the petition drives I volunteered for asked signatories to endorse progressive values like addressing student debt and economic inequality, with a stipulation that they would refuse to endorse any candidate before Labor Day of 2015. While making calls for this petition, a town chair in Rockingham County and an ardent supporter of HRC refused to sign the petition, saying he didn’t want to do anything that would “disrupt Hillary’s coronation.”
Former New Hampshire governor and senior U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who recently won re-election last November, recently said in an email that now was the time for New Hampshire Democrats to rally behind Clinton to give her an “unshakable advantage” ahead of the primary next January. Current governor Maggie Hassan, who is expected to run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte in 2016, has also endorsed Clinton’s presidential campaign. Both Shaheen and Hassan were re-elected to their posts last November with the help of an in-person endorsement from Hillary Clinton. It’s unlikely that any candidate running against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination will be successful in New Hampshire, which will make it that much harder for any of HRC's opponents to be the nominee.
Scott Walker Will Be the Candidate to Beat
Out of all the prospective Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential race, the clearest frontrunner is two-time Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. When comparing declared candidates like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz with presumed candidates like Scott Walker, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee and Donald Trump, Walker is tied with Bush in the latest polls. And according to a Monmouth College poll from last week, Walker is growing in popularity, with a +35 net favorability ratingamong likely Republican voters. A poll conducted by the New Hampshire-based NH1 network found Walker led Jeb Bush by six points, with Rand Paul in third. And based on the reception Walker got from a recent appearance in New Hampshire, that number will likely grow.
During a March speech to a packed audience at Concord High School’s Christa McAuliffe Auditorium, Walker drew wild applause when talking about how he deftly used coupons to pay just $1 for a sweater at Kohl’s, how he flipped burgers at McDonalds as a teenager, and how his sons go to public schools, clearly playing up his populist angle and burnishing his blue-collar credentials. He also noted several times that some of America’s wealthiest cities and counties are the ones surrounding Washington, D.C., and the audience ate up Walker’s pointed critique of corrupt establishment politicians only in office to serve themselves. During the Q&A session, one audience member handed Walker a pro-gun hat, and Walker jokingly mimicked shooting a gun when accepting the gift. He wore the hat for the remainder of the event.
Walker is a political genius in that he knows exactly how to frame his arguments to a specific audience. In New Hampshire, where the state motto is “Live Free or Die” and there’s no state income tax or sales tax, irrational fear and hatred of government programs and services is pervasive among the state’s Republican voters, many of whom live in rural areas and have to plow their own roads and generate their own power. Scott Walker’s Concord speech was abundant with dog-whistle language suggesting that government programs enabled laziness, and that social safety net programs could be abolished to save money. Because Walker proposes such extreme measures with such a placid demeanor, he has the benefit of being labeled as a thoughtful pragmatist rather than as an extremist.
Gov. Walker represents the next generation of Republican leaders. These leaders will be less concerned with socially conservative issues like preventing gay marriage and establishing forced Christian prayer in schools, and will be fully focused on class warfare. Scott Walker is an expert at class warfare, having redistributed tax dollars meant for social safety net programs to unaccountable agencies that lavish subsidies and tax breaks onto wealthy corporations, while lying to the press about his state having a budget surplus.
As a class warrior, Walker also has a unique gift of being able to drive a wedge between different groups of equally-disadvantaged working people – he won his recall election by pointing out that public sector workers enjoyed benefits like paid vacation and sick days, while private sector workers did not. He was even caught on video ominously telling a billionaire donor he would win election by using “divide-and-conquer” tactics. Now, Wisconsin’s workers are individually fighting over crumbs rather than standing together in solidarity and demanding to know who ran off with the cake.
There’s still lots of time left, but libertarian-leaning New Hampshire Republicans will choose a two-term governor over Washington politicians like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and especially over political dynasty candidates like Jeb Bush. And these Republicans will prefer a two-term governor with a calm demeanor like Walker over a hot-tempered, brash bully notorious for corruption like Chris Christie. The 2016 New Hampshire primary is Walker’s to lose.
President Scott Walker would be a disaster for America
Voters in New Hampshire, like voters from outside of Wisconsin, are largely ignorant of Scott Walker’s horrendous record as governor. And if national political reporters prove to be as lazy as the Wisconsin press in failing to demand thorough answers from Walker on his controversial record, voters will likely buy into Walker’s populist façade. Though as the Wisconsin Citizens’ Media Co-op’s excellent expose of Walker’s tenure shows, his record reveals him to be a compulsive liar who is corrupt to the core, and over-the-top in how he simultaneously rewards his donors and uses state resources to bully his opposition into silence.
While I lived in Wisconsin, I participated in the daily Solidarity Sing-Along (SSA) – an event that’s taken place during the lunch hour in the state capitol rotunda ever since March 11, 2011. After Walker appointed David Erwin as chief of the state capitol police in 2012, Erwin attempted to crack down on the SSA by forcefully arresting singers in the rotunda. That crackdown was short-lived, but after Walker’s appointees in the Wisconsin Department of Administration passed an emergency ruling in the summer of 2013 restricting public gatherings at the capitol without a permit, Erwin once again arrested singers and charged them with “unlawful assembly.” As a reward for Erwin's performance, the Walker appointee in charge of hiring capitol employees created a phantom job for Erwin within the DOA, before firing him and re-hiring him as the capitol police chief with an 11 percent increase in his prior salary.
Almost 200 were arrested in the months that followed, including local elected officials, firefighters, grandmothers, high school students and journalists. Two young black men, C.J. and Damon Terrell, were violently arrested during one sing-along – Damon Terrell was even charged with felony assault on a police officer and incarcerated in Dane County Jail for three days while awaiting his arraignment. District Attorney Ismael Ozane declined to press charges, and Terrell is filing a civil lawsuit against the capitol police for the arrest.
But Walker’s abuse of state resources to punish opponents doesn’t stop with protesters. Gov. Walker proposed eliminating the office of the Secretary of State in his budget proposal – the current secretary being Doug LaFollette, an ardent Walker opponent. Walker’s apparatchiks in the state legislature got a constitutional amendment onto the April 7 ballot that would effectively oust the current chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court – another Walker opponent – from her position and allow the conservative-dominated court to elect their own chief justice (the amendment passed). The conservative bloc of judges, one of whom actually choked a liberal colleague while in the chamber, is expected to greenlight all of Walker’s controversial proposals, regardless of their constitutionality.
The corruption of the Walker regime has barely been revealed to a national audience, like how his economic development agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, lost track of $12 million in loans and subsidies (handouts) to private businesses funded by taxpayer dollars – a violation of state law.
Walker also allowed Chris Cline, a billionaire supporter from Florida, to build an open-pit mine in Wisconsin’s Penokee Hills region. Walker’s legislature changed state mining laws specifically to allow Cline’s mine to be built. In another violation of state law, Cline hired mercenaries armed with military-grade weaponry to guard the mining site, alleging without evidence that the guards were needed to prevent “eco-terrorism.” The firm Cline hired, Bulletproof Security, was found to have been operating without a license, yet no charges were ever filed.
Aside from Scott Walker’s bullying of dissidents and outright corruption, his administration has consistently made it more difficult for working families to move up the economic ladder, and is unusually cruel to the impoverished. Walker’s crushing of Wisconsin’s public sector unions in Act 10 has been well documented, along with his successful push to make Wisconsin a “right-to-work” state, depriving unions of the funding they depend on to be able to collectively bargain on behalf of their members. But what is lesser-known is Walker’s new law stating that all recipients of food stamps who don’t have any dependents in the home be required to work to receive benefits. This ignores the simple fact that there are more unemployed workers than there are available jobs, and that some people will needlessly go hungry as a result. It also unfairly stigmatizes the victims of job scarcity and the recession as leeches on the system.
The only good thing about Walker’s regime is that it’s currently limited to the state of Wisconsin. Should he become president, his trend of vengeful policymaking, corrupt deal-making, and expertise at driving a wedge between working people will be amplified to all 50 states.
Can Democrats stop a Walker presidency?
In 2012, when President Obama ran unopposed in his party’s primary, that meant there were no Democratic debates that allowed the party to get its message out and find out what resonates and what doesn’t. Adversely, the Republican debates were endless, and Americans were inundated with right-wing messaging on all the networks leading up to the primaries. Democrats have a chance in 2016 to have a slew of debates with a large selection of candidates to show that Hillary is not the only option.
To win, Democrats need to deviate from their strategy of forcing Hillary Clinton down our throats, and instead engage the voters who would stay home in November if they had to choose between HRC and a Republican. These voters are the same ones that stayed home last November, when their choices in the Congressional midterms were mostly between extremist Republicans and Democrats too afraid to embrace economic populism. These voters are young, unemployed and underemployed, and call themselves independents because there’s no party that’s talking about the issues they care most about.
Issues that Democrats could win on would be marijuana legalization, making public universities tuition-free and student debt dischargeable through bankruptcy, de-militarizing the police, and abolishing NSA surveillance programs. If a Democrat is to beat out Hillary Clinton for the nomination and prevail over Scott Walker, it will only be done by actively campaigning on these specific issues and reaching out directly to young, underemployed, indebted voters. It’s up to the DNC whether or not they want to try and win the vote of an anti-establishment public with an establishment candidate, or actually try and listen to what American voters want for a change.