Project LinX 01/23/2019: Run Democrats Run

+ “The 2020 marathon has started with a sprint” | CNN | Chris Cillizza & Harry Enten | 1/21/2019

“[A]side from Harris and Warren (potentially), the candidates who comprise the top tier — at least at this early stage of the race — are still on the sidelines. Former Vice President Joe Biden seems to be moving toward a candidacy, but has given no indication of when he might make a decision. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke is in soul-searching mode at the moment.

Those decisions — we’d be surprised if either Biden or O’Rourke didn’t run — have the potential to shake up the race in a meaningful way. At the moment, however, the movement in the 2020 field is all in the second tier.”

Project LinX is about making the kind of connections that reveal more than what’s said on the surface of a news story. Twenty, perhaps more Democrats running for President will offer ripe opportunities for hot takes and cool analysis. Let’s start with the most obvious:

1) “Neoliberal.” This is Cillizza and Enten’s characterization of how Sanders supporters refer to Corey Booker, as if neoliberalism isn’t much more than a slur. (Personally, I prefer “corporate hooker” because it rhymes with “Booker.”) For seemingly “down the middle” media types who’ll focus relentlessly on identity politics without going deep on how much economic systems need overhauling “neoliberal” is a problem:

“If we just treat neoliberalism as a set of policies, or as a mystification of certain imperatives of capital, we will miss the extent to which it has brought new kinds of subjects, new forms of subjectivity, and new social relations into being. Under neoliberalism, we understand ourselves through and orient our actions around certain values. These values not only inform who we are and what we are worth—what we pursue or value in ourselves and others—they also determine what we can expect from political orders, and indeed what we think politics and democracy are and are for. The concept of political rationality identifies these ways of being governed normatively, which are as important as specific policies that favor capital, undermine organized labor, /impede states from provisioning the basic needs of populations, or erode national sovereignty.”

“Who is not a neoliberal today?” | Tocqueville21 | Wendy Brown | 01/18/2018

It’s not about Left vs. Right, black hats vs. white hats, and it certainly isn’t the opposite of neoconservative. And yet, the deepest narrative of the coming Democratic presidential primary race will be where each candidate falls on the neoliberal spectrum. All of us are somewhere on that spectrum.

2) Beto O’Rourke at #2. For now it’s OK that O’Rourke is more a cipher than a known quantity. But at some point the biggest unknown for him—despite his late Gen-Xer cool— are the chances that he’s the latest incarnation of Bill Clinton. Remember when Clinton campaigned like a real liberal then morphed into a liberal Republican after Allan Greenspan and Robert Rubin sat him down and told him the country couldn’t afford his expensive programs?

“In 1992, Bill Clinton campaigned on the promise of a short-term stimulus package. But soon after being elected, he met privately with Alan Greenspan, chair of the Federal Reserve Board, and soon accepted what became known as “the financial markets strategy.” It was a strategy of placating financial markets. The stimulus package was sacrificed, taxes were raised, spending was cut—all in a futile effort to keep long-term interest rates from rising, and all of which helped the Democrats lose their majority in the House. In fact, the defeat of the stimulus package set off a sharp decline in Clinton’s public approval ratings from which his presidency would never recover.

It is easy to forget that Clinton had other alternatives. In 1993, Democrats in Congress were attempting to rein in the Federal Reserve by making it more accountable and transparent. Those efforts were led by the chair of the House Banking Committee, the late Henry B. Gonzalez, who warned that the Fed was creating a giant casino economy, a house of cards, a “monstrous bubble.” But such calls for regulation and transparency fell on deaf ears in the Clinton White House and Treasury.”

“The Legacy of the Clinton Bubble” | Dissent Magazine | Timothy Canova | 2008

Given his record of voting more conservatively than his coolness would portray, there’s a chance O’Rourke could eventually Clinton-up should he win the nomination or win it all. It’s a familiar move. Carter did it before Clinton. Still, perhaps more interesting is the way that Barack Obama met with O’Rourke at about the same time that Deval Patrick took a shot at his buddy, then announced he was not running. Lastly, didn’t Stacey Abrams do just as good a job of not winning than O’Rourke? Didn’t she come close to winning in a voter suppressed state where the Secretary of State held office while running for governor? So why does O’Rourke have more juice than Abrams?

3) Kamala Harris at #1. I’ve been wondering: will the next black person to run for president have a more or less difficult time than Obama? For Harris the answer will be “LIkely harder.” First, Barack Obama was a generational political talent and a rock star. He ran a campaign that was as magical as it was state-of-the-art. Lastly, questions about Obama’s blackness (by black people) typically defaulted towards the affirmative at least because of Dreams From My Father and an oratorical brilliance that tapped into the black prophetic tradition. Much more to the point, Barack’s secret weapon was Michelle. Consequently, people like me really weren’t voting for a black man in the White House so much as we were actually voting for a black family in the White House. The deep emotions and values it takes for this kind of voting turned out more black voters than ever before. Kamala Harris doesn’t have that. Projecting forward, in a scenario in which Harris wins the nomination, in the general election she’d turn out about as many black voters as Hillary Clinton, maybe a little more. But not as many as Obama. That would be disastrous for black politics on a national level.

@ProjectDeX

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IMAGE SOURCE: Elephant-2798628_1920 (CC0 Creative Commons)

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