Hillary Rebuffs Bernie’s Policy Demands

Eager to hold the political “center,” Hillary Clinton has budged little on Bernie Sanders’s policy proposals beyond nice-sounding platitudes, a strategy that could lead to clashes at the Democratic convention, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

There has been close coordination between the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and those representing her on the committee shaping the party’s platform. It is here that a battle was waged with reformers representing Bernie Sanders over party positions on a large number of important issues. The positions and behavior of those acting as Clinton proxies can therefore provide a window into her attitude toward the movement Sanders has launched.

The platform committee sessions quickly became confrontations with the supporters of Bernie Sanders, and resulted in a successful effort to stymie his reform agenda for the Democratic Party. This was done despite the political danger such a tactic of frustration represents – dangerous because Sanders has some 12 million supporters, many of whom are not yet convinced that Hillary Clinton deserves their vote. Thus, what may turn out to be a politically self-destructive game plan on her part requires some explanation. Here is one possible way of understanding her actions.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (NBC photo)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (NBC photo)

Hillary Clinton has pursued the presidency for almost a decade with a tenacious determination. She almost achieved the nomination in 2008 only to lose to Barack Obama. That led to an eight-year stifling of this ambition.

Finally, in the long run-up to the 2016 election, she was convinced the nomination was hers. She had lined up her own party’s leadership, the Chuck Schumers and Nancy Pelosis, and found it relatively easy to match her own policy preferences with theirs. Ahead of her, she believed, was a relatively easy road to the White House through the defeat of a fractionalized Republican Party led by an opposition candidate who, it would seem, had limited appeal.

Then along came Bernie Sanders, whose energetic and timely social democratic approach to long-standing U.S. problems threatened to steal the Democratic Party show. His positions were not hers, nor did they conform to the tastes of the party leadership. This latest complication must have exasperated Clinton. Even after she won enough delegates to assure her nomination, she still could not get rid of Sanders. And, his persistence, combined with just enough popularity to demand her and the party leadership’s attention, threatens even now to compromise her upcoming contest with the Republicans.

Clinton’s response to all of this is in part shaped by her bedrock alliance with party leaders. They certainly oppose Sanders’s reformist aims. However, more than any of these intra-party considerations, her response is shaped by her own personality, which causes her to be determined to make the presidential run, and play out the subsequent White House tenure, on her own terms.

So, what is to be said about Hillary Clinton’s personality? In an essay by Audrey Immelman, published in 2001 by the Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics of St. Johns University in Minnesota, a discussion of Clinton’s dominant traits is taken up. Here are some of the conclusions: Hillary Clinton is an aggressive and controlling personality; when she makes up her mind about something, she loses interest in other people’s points of view; she is often impatient; she lacks empathy and can act harshly to those seen as standing in her way; she has boundary problems due to her excessive level of self-confidence – that is, when she “knows” she is right, she doesn’t like the idea that there are limits that she has to abide by.

Given these traits, one can imagine what she thinks of Bernie Sanders and his challenge to her ambitions. She is, of course, forced to deal with him, but she will seek the cheapest price necessary to buy him and his supporters off. Her Democratic Party allies seem to agree with this strategy, and this means that Sanders will get little more than words from both Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party leaders.

Thinking That Words Will Suffice

And indeed, that is what is happening. To see a run-down on how Clinton’s strategy plays out, plank by plank of the proposed party platform, go to William Boardman’s June 28 essay “Platform for Deception – Democrats at Work.” Boardman clearly shows that Clinton and her allies are playing a smoke-and-mirrors game with the party platform. They pay lip service to almost all of Sanders demands, but in almost every case refuse to commit to any policy programs for change.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida.

It is as if Clinton and her allies are saying to Sanders and his supporters, “You can make us pronounce platitudes, but when it comes to practice, you cannot make us do anything. Policy formulation is not your business.” Having drawn this line in the sand, the Democratic spin doctors have started calling the resulting vacuous platform a progressive triumph. For instance, according to the Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the result is “a platform draft that advances our party’s progressive ideals and is worthy of our great country.”

The probability that this will satisfy either Bernie Sanders or his roughly 12 million supporters is close to zero. Sanders himself has pledged to take the fight for a progressive and reformist platform on to the floor of the Democratic convention. “Whether they like it or not, we’re going to open the doors of the Democratic Party,” he announced. This pledge may lead to the most raucous Democratic Party convention since 1968.

Playing “Hard Ball”

So how are Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party allies, people like Schumer and Pelosi, likely to react to a convention floor challenge? Keep in mind that these are not people who are used to being confronted or defied. And they certainly aren’t fellow reformers.

All of them, including Hillary Clinton, who sold her soul to the Democratic Party when she became a senator from New York in 2001, are “systems people.” That is, they are creatures of the very system that Sanders wants radically overhauled. You don’t usually get leaders bred to a particular organizational environment ready and willing to cooperate in its deconstruction. Rather, they will fight, sometimes ruthlessly, to maintain the status quo from whence they draw their power and influence.

Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Billionaire businessman and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Here is how this confrontation may play out: Sanders will indeed make a stand at the Democratic Convention at the end of July 2016. Here there is likely to be a replay, this time in public, of the frustrating sessions of the platform committee. Issues will be briefly debated (Clinton’s people will control the gavel), this time in front of a national audience. There may be some further concessions on wording coming from Clinton, but no commitments to specific policies. In other words, the Sanders delegates will be defeated and yet another notable effort at reform will probably pass into history.

Throughout this process, Clinton and her allies will repeatedly insist that the real concern is not progressive reforms (they will claim that their smoke-and-mirrors platform already has addressed those concerns) but rather the danger of party disunity in the face of the challenge offered by Donald Trump.

This will paint the Sanders people as possible spoilers and, ultimately, force Sanders to choose between pushing his progressive program and defending the country against the Republican right wing. Since Sanders is already publicly committed to the latter objective, all Clinton and the Democratic leaders believe they have to do is go through the convention practicing damage control. Then they turn to Sanders and say, “Are you going to back us or do you want to help Trump win?”

Sanders’s Tough Spot

Bernie Sanders is indeed in a tough spot. In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post appearing on June 23, he spelled out his penultimate aim this way:  “What do we want? We want to end the rapid movement that we are currently experiencing toward oligarchic control of our economic and political life.”

What the Clinton and the Democratic leadership are forcing Sanders to do is chose between oligarchies – the Democratic Party one or the Republican Party one – which is exactly the unsatisfactory choice voters have had all along. For Sanders, this is going to be a very bitter pill to swallow. He is 74 years old and this is likely his final battle for meaningful change.

Why all this to-do over a non-binding platform document? Perhaps because, for a short but critical time, you have 12 million voters taking it seriously – seriously in a way that may cause damage to Clinton’s presidential ambitions. Yet her blinding self-confidence won’t let her consider this possibility, and that myopia is why she refuses to make substantive compromises to Sanders.

She is sure she can co-opt his followers with promises and high-sounding declarations. She also probably sees her Republican opponent as such a loud-mouthed fool that she “knows” that, if she holds Sanders at bay, moderate Republicans will turn to her rather than simply staying home on voting day. Maybe. However, though she fails to see the point, her ultimate victory is not at all a sure thing.

Clinton’s weakness is just that which she considers her great strength – her self-assured conviction, her certainty that she “knows” what she is doing. She “knows” that her opportunity for success is at hand and she “knows” how to grasp it. There is a word for this sort of over-confidence, this overweening sense of power that prevents meaningful compromise – it is hubris – the pride that goes before a fall.

So we have a fair idea of what Hillary and her political allies will do. We know that Sanders has pledged to help “badly” defeat Trump. The only unknown is what the 12 million supporters of the Sanders movement for reform will do.

In theory, if a sufficient number of these people can find new leaders and hold themselves together, hitting the streets in a coordinated and continuous way right through the November election, they have a chance of scaring at least some of the Democratic leaders into a progressive path. But that is theory, and practice is always a more difficult endeavor.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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14 comments for “Hillary Rebuffs Bernie’s Policy Demands

  1. Sandra Rivers
    July 16, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    The article and comments reflect not a single THOUGHT or COMMITMENT to the long hard arduous S-L-O-W work of BUILDING the necessary constituencies, movements. etc. to staunch the clinton / trump war-mongering. NOT a single THOUGHT or COMMITMENT to the long hard arduous S-L-O-W work of acknowledging that supreme court nominations will impact – not these commenters, most of whom, along w/ their dear-ones, are comfortably distant from the horrors of 30 years of right-wing SCOTUS fascism.

  2. Peter Loeb
    July 8, 2016 at 7:05 am

    THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (BERNIE SANDERS)

    An old cynic and political skeptic never saw anything beyond “show”
    in the Bernie Sanders campaign.

    There was never any “movement”.

    The US is not now in a reform frame of mind. It hasn’t
    been for decades.Even the grand old days of FDR’s
    New Deal are considered by some to be shallow at
    best (Gabriel Kolko: MAIN CURRENTS IN MODERN
    AMERICAN HISTORY). After 1932 unemployment
    continued to rise. Organizing the New Deal was given
    more and more to the wealthy and other elites.

    The solution to the Great Depression, maintains
    Kolko (op cit), was World War II and the Federal
    Budget of 1941, There was work for all.
    Killing became the American goal of every
    “patriotic” American. To a great extent, it
    still is.

    Bernie Sanders built castles in the sand that were
    never ever possible.

    “Patform Committees” have always been places
    to express minority opinions for no purpose whatsoever.

    Many of us must decide if we want to become
    part of the tribalism of Israel on any level
    whatsoever. We are admonished to join and
    subsidize the extermination of the indigenous
    residents of Palestine claiming that it is ..G-d’s
    Will perhaps??

    Of note is that the so-called “traditional” supporters
    of the Democratic Party did not gush forth their
    support of Bernie Sanders.

    I have failed to find courageous opposition to Israel/
    support of Palestinian rights in material put out by
    Jill Stein. Perhaps I missed something(?).

    As I have pointed out previously in these spaces,
    the agreement with Iran was never made in good
    faith by the west and by the US in particular.
    Iran decided to try it as opposed to withdrawing
    from NPT etc. In this they clearly erred.
    Instead they should have tightened their relationship
    with the Shanghai Cooperative Organization (SCO).

    Unless, as I recently wrote here, the State of Israel is
    subjected to the same inspections and elimination of
    ALL capacity in all nuclear and WMD sites (drones
    for the world market are produced 60% in Israel).
    Israel considering itself superior by divine
    mandate would never consent.

    The agreement with Iran was a sham from the beginning.
    It is time for Iran to end the sham. Until Israel, the US
    and the west demonstrate what John Kerry has
    called “acceptable behavior”.

    —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  3. Mike Lange
    July 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm

    I agree with Cindy. At 72 I have always voted democrat but I try cannot vote for HRC. Jill or Bernie it is. The foreign policy of HRC has been such a disaster; it is not an exaggeration to say that Hillary is guilty for the death and displacement of millions of people and for a greatly destabilized world. She appears to be proud of these accomplishments and promises more of the same at an accelerated rate including potential war on Russia. She is clearly unbalanced, a liar and more of a megalomaniac than Trump if you look closely. Beware all voters: voting for her may be the last time you vote

  4. Cindy
    July 6, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    Take head Democrat leaders! As a long standing democrat my whole life and one who has never missed voting in the general and the primaries since I was in my early 20’s (am 55 now) – I will not cast a vote for Hillary no matter what!!!
    I will write Bernie in or vote Jill. Which one I vote for all depends on the collective thinking of other Bernie supporters closer to November (yes, we are like a bee hive or an ant farm with collective thinking)
    We will vote to get the most votes to a person other than Hillary to make sure she is not the president.
    The first goal to transform the United States away from corruption and to adopt policies that are good for the American people and not just the top money earners is to get rid of the Clinton’s! That is the first and most important goal that needs to be achieved. The Clinton’s need to be put out of power and sent out to pasture forever!
    Once we get rid of the corrupt Clinton’s (even if that means a Trump president) we all will be in a better position to bring on more progressive candidates in the future.

  5. Joe Tedesky
    July 6, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    We Americans would be wise to stop the carousel, and ask ourselves, ‘just what in the god’s creation are we all doing’, when it comes to us backing a known cheat, and lair, to elect her to our highest office of government? Okay, I get it, we must do everything to avoid a Donald Trump presidency, I know all about those Supreme Court picks. Is the price we pay for that a Hillary Clinton, who will drop the party platform jazz the minute she sits down behind her desk in the Oval Office. Oh come on now, do you honestly thing that Hillary will change her strips and do what is good for the people, or will she continue with her and Bill’s elaborate public relations game, of looking outwardly liberal on social issues, but then establish more of the same when it comes to the passing of more international trade agreements through the system, or will they be any less eager to drop bombs on people who they consider collateral damage in far off places, and tell us how we are spreading democracy for the good of mankind? If your answer to these questions is Yes, then stop reading this now, because you are hopelessly in love with our wonderful Queen of Chaos, and I will pray for you due to your blinded devotion for this Wall St. witch. Okay, this is a free country still, and you may vote for who ever you like, but if you seriously dig into what Hillary is all about, then how could you still be in favor of voting for her come this November 2016? I constantly read, and hear (rather close to home), liberal minded people who when they end up thinking about it for a little while, will finally get so disgusted by saying how they will vote for Trump before they will ever vote for our beloved Madam Hillary. Yet, although your vote won’t be counted into the win column, at least by voting for Jill Stein or maybe even Gary Johnson, well then you at least picked from a roster of candidates who you may feel aligns with your political philosophy much better, and for that you may have piece of mind.

    What Bernie is doing, could have some meaning. If Bernie’s promises of reform and change should get the boot, will this give Bernie supporters something to aim at as future goals to be set for the progressive values into the future? Possibly I guess. What I would like to see is a rejected Bernie turn around and endorse a Jill Stein presidential candidacy. His endorsement could give Jill Stein the well needed publicity she so very much needs. I know lots of people who would vote for Jill, but they haven’t ever heard of her.

    As outrageous as Donald Trump can be, and along with his going up against such a rival as Hillary who has run 20,000 commercials since June 8th, and with his bombastic rants going from reasonable to bazaar, to borderline nut-so fascism waterboarding them all comments, he is remarkably close to Hillary in the polls yet. What’s this tell us America? It tells us how much this country doesn’t want another Clinton in the White House. Woman, or man Clinton, people just don’t want another one. if you decide to stay home on election day, I would forgive you (I may do this as well…still processing this stuff), because I have come to believe that the fix is in, and it probably doesn’t matter. So why make a foolish gesture on top of it all?

    Bill Bodden made a good comment one day, awhile ago, when he said how we should possibly help to make the voter turnout low, and thus not give Hillary any of our political capital, that she does not deserve. Bill, might have the only remedy which we the people could then throw up in Hillary’s face when she decides it’s time for more people to die. No, Hillary no!

    Watch the TransCanda’s law suit for being denied to build the Keystone Pipeline win a hefty cash reward over on the American people’s government, and then have their renewed pipeline come right back around under a different name….& then watch as Hillary signs it into law. This would be so ‘Clintonesque’ it would hurt. Get ready, because if Hillary takes the office of president, along with these midnight signings, and more scandals to come, the MSM will have an abundance of great Clinton news to tell us…stay tuned!

    • Amy
      July 18, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      Joe Tedesky perfectly said, thank you.As obviously appear that the Democrat establishment greed,lies,hypocrisy,and corruption has been accumulating full speed and beyond irreparable.I cannot fathom why Bernie is wasting not only of his time and effort but also with the people who supports him with Hope and Change that the country desperately needed when in fact it would be very much feasible and beneficial to collaborate and reorganize with a 3rd party like the Green Party of Dr. Jill Stein who is truly Progressive and not corrupted at all, that is why DEMEXIT NOW! make it sense.As long as you’re not one of Bernie’s 1900 delegates actually going to Philly on his behalf, AND, as long as your state doesn’t have any primaries or elections of some kind coming up that you need to vote in, people exiting the democratic party now is sending a message to the DNC that their candidate (Hillary) is extremely weak, that Bernie can’t just command them to follow Hillary and they’ll follow Hillary. The positive thing about “running to jill” before the convention, is that the Dems will see before the coronation

  6. delia ruhe
    July 6, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    It will be interesting to see how many of Bernie’s 12 million write in his name on their ballots. If too many do and Hillary loses, Democrats will blame Bernie, just as they did Nader when Gore lost.

    Democrats just cannot face the fact that as a party they can no longer produce presidential material. (What kind of person would actually want to run on the present Democrat policy platform? Only the Hillary kind.) The best they can do is Obama, who campaigns Left and governs Right — without even a hint of shame.

  7. Ol' Hippy
    July 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    One of the brightest lights in US politics is slowly being extinguished before the upcoming convention. Bernie was a breath of fresh air in a stagnating economy encumbered by an endless war, increasing tensions, of our own making, and the top rulers wanting the world. I knew from the start ‘they’ wouldn’t let him in, but he did wake the youth up to growing concerns of how to live in the 21st century. In the best case scenario it won’t be easy and I fear it will even be worse than projected than pessimists such as myself; I hope, for everyone’s sake that I’m wrong. Global warming still needs a comprehensive long term plan to assure future survivability which, sadly, doesn’t even get hardly a mention in the current bluster of upcoming elections. Also, global poisoning doesn’t even get mentioned, another inconvenient truth that threatens an even quicker demise than warming does. So we’re left with the old standby, global war. it worked for a while after WW II, but probably won’t work again. So, vote wisely, your lives DO depend on it this time around.

  8. Bart
    July 6, 2016 at 12:02 pm

    Republican Comey has set HRC up and the upcoming testimony before Miss Piggy’s House Committee will give him the opportunity to stick the knife in further.

    If the polls show her dropping against Trump, will pressure on delegates mount for the nomination to go to Bernie? There is not much time to switch horses.

    • Bart Gruzalski
      July 7, 2016 at 3:27 am

      Lawrence Davidson, a well written piece, put together tightly. My complaint is that you give up about half way through: “So how are Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party allies, people like Schumer and Pelosi, likely to react to a convention floor challenge… All of them, including Hillary Clinton, who sold her soul to the Democratic Party when she became a senator from New York in 2001, are “systems people.” That is, they are creatures of the very system that Sanders wants radically overhauled…. they will fight, sometimes ruthlessly, to maintain the status quo from whence they draw their power and influence.
      You seem to suggest that because they will fight, Bernie’s had it.
      “Here is how this confrontation may play out: Sanders will indeed make a stand at the Democratic Convention at the end of July 2016. Here there is likely to be a replay, this time in public, of the frustrating sessions of the platform committee. Issues will be briefly debated (Clinton’s people will control the gavel), this time in front of a national audience. There may be some further concessions on wording coming from Clinton, but no commitments to specific policies. In other words, the Sanders delegates will be defeated and yet another notable effort at reform will probably pass into history.
      “Throughout this process, Clinton and her allies will repeatedly insist that the real concern is not progressive reforms (they will claim that their smoke-and-mirrors platform already has addressed those concerns) but rather the danger of party disunity in the face of the challenge offered by Donald Trump.
      “This will paint the Sanders people as possible spoilers and, ultimately, force Sanders to choose between pushing his progressive program and defending the country against the Republican right wing. Since Sanders is already publicly committed to the latter objective, all Clinton and the Democratic leaders believe they have to do is go through the convention practicing damage control. Then they turn to Sanders and say, “Are you going to back us or do you want to help Trump win?”

      I think you jumped with no rational or evidence to a Clinton victory.
      I’m sure you’ve heard it before but let me say clearly: AFTER THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION ENDS AND THE FAT LADY SINGS, CLINTON WILL NOT—SHE WILL NOT BE A CANDIDATE FOR ANY OFFICE.

  9. Drew Hunkins
    July 6, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Killary’s one of the more craven and unprincipled politicians ever to slink across Washington’s political stage. It’s impossible to even hold one’s nose and vote for her. Jill Stein’s the one to go with. If by voting for Stein it brings on a Trump presidency, so be it. At least Trump’s less bellicose toward Russia and seems to be less of a warmonger than Clinton. Killary genuflects to Tel Aviv to the point where it almost makes one physically ill.

    • Gregory Herr
      July 6, 2016 at 5:06 pm

      Drew–
      That’s what I’m thinking…then so be it. The best thing that could happen (apart from the miraculous) is for enough of Sanders supporters to switch to Stein so that she can get her national poll numbers up over 15%. Then we can at least get another voice in the televised Presdential debates. The arrogance of the establishment Democrats may yet get the best of them.

      • Drew Hunkins
        July 7, 2016 at 11:02 am

        I’m with you Mr. Herr. That’s for sure.

    • Eddie
      July 10, 2016 at 10:06 am

      I too am going to be voting for Jill Stein. While Hillary is supposedly better on ‘domestic’ issues than Trump (whatever the hell it is he believes in), the Clintons are the ones who brought us NAFTA and are now supporting TPP, which reduce the standard of living of the lower & middle class in this country, which in turn leads to the downward economic spiral we’re in (phony, cherry-picked ‘official’ stats notwithstanding). That in-turn hurts our society by contributing to more stress and it’s accompanying problems. Others here & elsewhere have listed her Neo-con credentials as regards international relations, so there’s no need to go into her war-mongering attitudes.

      I’m not going to engage in the ‘Keynesian beauty contest’ and try to figure-out all the permutations and combinations of what MIGHT or MIGHT-NOT happen by voting for one candidate over another (especially when the ‘serious’ pundits got it SO wrong this year with their dismissiveness of Trump and Sanders) — Stein is the best progressive candidate running who’s on the ballot and that’s the long and the short of it.

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