Timothy Stanley: DNC protesters highlight the hypocrisy of Democratic leadership
Hillary Clinton cannot match Bernie Sanders on issues of class or economic policy, he says
Editor’s Note: Timothy Stanley, a conservative, is a historian and columnist for Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He is the author of “Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
The real stars of the first night of the Democratic convention were the delegates, not the speakers. Be it the girl who stood with tape across her mouth that read “silenced by the DNC” or the people who drowned out Elijah Cummings with cries of “Stop TPP!,” they deserve credit for puncturing the moral hypocrisy of this event.
You might imagine the Democratic gathering would be more harmonious than the Republican bust-up in Cleveland last week. The threat of Donald Trump winning the presidency – a threat that grows every day – shouldn’t it surely matter more to delegates than the ideological purity of the Democratic ticket?
But you would be wrong, as the left has a history of being more fractious than the right, as those with memories of Chicago in 1968 will attest. It’s about demographics: Trump’s convention was far older, richer and used to striking deals on the golf course. It’s also about the different values placed on ideas: Trump-ism is partly about charisma, whereas Sanders-ism is largely about policy.
But there’s also just far more to be gained from protesting the DNC than the RNC. Unlike many Republicans, Democrats view protests integral to historical progress. When Cory Booker delivered his rousing “we will rise” speech he inadvertently validated the troublemakers in the hall. They want their chance to rise, too. The DNC isn’t going to stop them.
Why is that? Because one of the big problems with the Democratic leadership is their shamelessness. They insist that they are the party of love and fairness, that they always play nice. Michelle Obama – in a beautifully delivered and heartfelt speech – took on the role of the nation’s mom and scolded her husband’s opponents for being so terribly mean. “When they go low,” she said, “we go high.”
But that’s just not true of Mrs. Obama’s party. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know that the DNC was partial toward Hillary Clinton – it even considered using rumors of atheism against Bernie Sanders. WikiLeaks has confirmed Sanders’ accusation that the establishment was stacked against him – whether through the low number of debates or the supersized role played by super delegates.
Of course, Hillary Clinton can reply that she won the most votes, which she did indeed do. But the fact that her supporters felt it necessary to use underhanded tactics speaks to a lack of confidence in her candidacy. Ultimately, she is where she is because of a lack of an attractive centrist alternative. And with Benghazi, the email scandal and a lifetime of obfuscation hanging over her, she has to be the most tarnished nominee since Richard M. Nixon announced that he’d give it one last shot in 1968.
Mrs. Clinton has one last thing on her side: her gender. And my goodness, we’re going to hear a lot about that this week. When liberalism runs out of ideas, it always falls back onto the politics of identity – begging its constituents to remain faithful out of loyalty to race, gender or sexuality. The Democrats are thus keen to stress their diversity because, yes, it contrasts well with Donald Trump. But also because the constant sermonizing about how we can all grow up to be who we want to be – the rhetoric of Democratic conventions and Sesame Street are often indistinguishable – makes up for the lack of unity over economics.
At the end of the night, Sanders said: “This election is about ending the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality that we currently experience, the worst it has been since 1928.” Shorter: my movement is about class. And it’s a message that’s far more potent than Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that it would be quite nice to have a lady in the Oval Office for once. Mrs. Clinton can’t embrace Bernie’s class warfare because she’s never really understood it; her ties to Wall Street are too strong, it contradicts her 1990s background as a New Democrat, and she would prefer to provide a boring centrist antidote to Trump’s extremism. As a strategy, none of this rises to the political or moral challenges of this election season.
“Because of Hillary Clinton,” said Mrs. Obama, “my daughters, and all our sons and daughters, now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States.” But this, too, is untrue. Mrs. Clinton’s flaws as a candidate have actually made the election of a woman this season less likely. And the Sanders people – again, always much more about the message than the medium – cannot, hopefully, be bought with promise of seeing one very rich woman succeed where others have failed.