Winning in Losing: How Sanders pushed Clinton to the Left

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Bernie Sanders’ path to the nomination as the Democratic Party standard bearer in 2016 was all but closed off by Clinton’s four big wins on Tuesday. His only hope had been to get close enough to her in pledged delegates to have a substantial number of super-delegates switch to him. (This kind of switch actually took place in summer of 2008 when super-delegates deserted Clinton for Obama). Sanders could not turn a string of primary wins into a victory because he went on splitting the state’s delegates with Clinton. His loss in New York was probably already fatal to his campaign, but the delegate count turned radically against him yesterday. If she can keep her super-delegates, which she now can, Clinton is only a couple hundred away from clinching the nomination (she has on the order of 2,168 with super-delegates, and just needs 2383). Even if she only gets half of California’s 475 Democratic pledged delegates, that would put her over (and she did defeat Barack Obama in California in 2008).

Nevertheless, Sen. Sanders will fight on till the last state and will come to Philadelphia with a substantial number of hard-won delegates. They will lose on the first ballot, but their energy and their presence in the party will shape the party’s platform.

Sanders has already justified his run by having pushed Clinton substantially to the left on key issues. Here are just a few:

1. Fracking: Clinton’s support for the controversial method of drilling for oil and gas has turned lukewarm. She puts so many restrictions on fracking that it is hard to see it making a profit under her. Clinton almost certainly adopted this position because Sen. Sanders campaigned on the environment and pushed her to the left.

2. TTP: She now opposes the mammoth trade bill, which would certainly have strengthened elits and further weakened individual rights.

3. Clinton may not have flip-flopped on the Keystone XL pipeline, but she came to a clear and strong position against it after she began competing with Sen. Sanders.

4. She called for Michigan governor Rick Snyder to resign, after Sanders campaigned on the issue. This stance could make her more appealing to environmentalists.

5. In February, Clinton abruptly announced that she was for breaking up the big banks. Sanders on hearing her speech joked that he was looking into copyright issues.

6. She has also started coming out against the high drug prices charged by US pharmaceuticals, after Sanders campaigned on the issue.

Clinton will continue to need the left wing of the Democratic Party as she campaigns through Nov. 4. The trick for the left will be to find ways of tying her down and making sure she can’t swing back to the center-right of the party after the July convention.


Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News from last winter: “Bernie Sanders Influences Hilary Clinton’s Campaign”

59 Responses

  1. The only change I perceive is in her rhetoric. I can’t imagine her in any substantive way biting the hands that have fed her and Bill for all these years. Great corruption comes from rubbing shoulders with those folks, taking their money, and not seeing a problem.

  2. Yes, he pushed her to the left, for a minute. When she runs against Trump, he will pull her back to the right. Bernie needs to get the Green party nomination for President.

    • You really do want the Republicans to win, don’t you?! If Sanders bolts the Democrats for the Green Party, he will split the Democratic vote, taking his followers with him, just as Nader did in 2000. A recipe for a likely Republican win.

  3. Of course Hillary will offer hopey-changey on all of these points after the election. Realism, you know. Just can’t fight those oligarchs who pay the bills.

    Sanders supporters themselves could have done a lot better than Sanders. Better people are out there all over. But they don’t get the critical oligarch support to get visibility.

    Sanders people don’t need hope. If they don’t have the courage to take direct action, they will do better to vote for one of the Repub loonies who will bring down the oligarchy much faster.

  4. No one has been pushed to the Left – especially hrc; on every single point mentioned above, hrc will bounce back/return to the corporate lockstep in true psychopathique hypocritical nature.
    As isræl sidles up to ECR.
    Oligarchy all around.

  5. It indeed looks like the left will have to try to find tricks to tie her down and to overcome the usual response (“what are they going to do – vote Republican?”). These tricks would have to include either persistent mass mobilization or running progressive candidates locally that put the fear of God into Democratic reps (who have taken massive contributions from the corporate class).

    However, US presidents have historically not not been beholden to either the masses or even to “their” party, i.e. Bill Clinton passed NAFTA with Republican votes. So we would have to directly disrupt business as did the civil rights movement.

    The optimism of the article seems premature, as the corporate class already has their tricks in place to tie HRC down to her center-right promises using a wide array of non-illegal instruments such as direct and indirect money contributions, speaking fees, favors to family members, money-for-access, money-for-positions, advisors, lobbyists, lobbyists who have been advisors, advisors who used to be lobbyists, prepared policy papers, focus grouped talking points, preferential access for groomed journalists, and so on.

    Rather than to touch the “center”-right economic and “foreign” (i.e. military) policies which enable the very business models of the corporations who have funded HRC, they will try to buy us off with mere words, token identity politics, and symbolic environmental decisions. Unfortunately they will not be able to address inequality with polite conversation nor global warming with hot air.

    Still, it may be true that HRC will not have to (openly) belie her feint to the left already during the campaign season, by sticking to her singular advantage (“I am not Donald Trump”).

    • Even today on trade deals Obama is relying on Republican votes in Congress.

      Sanders should threaten to bolt for the Greens unless HRC signs on the dotted line that her action will match her newfound rhetoric.

  6. President Hillary will be Dick Cheney in a pant suit. She is certainly a career politician who would reject the populist approach for one designed to cater to powerful lobbies. When Hillary is president I’m sure the price of sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom will rise significantly from the days when Bill was in the oval office.

  7. Bernie may be forcing her to campaign to the left, however, I think that if elected she will govern to the right.

  8. Andy Valeri

    You’re kidding, right? She’ll put the left turn signal on, but only the naïve don’t see her steering into neoliberalism all the way

  9. Mike Kraft

    I think you’re overly optimistic here. She’ll turn hard right as soon as she doesn’t have to worry about her left flank

  10. Does anyone really believe that Hilary Clinton won’t switch back to the centre right as soon as she is elected? The Clintons were hard-line warmongering, ‘War on Drugs’ neo-liberals last time they were in office, and I don’t see anything from Hilary’s time as Secretary of State to make me think that has changed. Bill Clinton trashed welfare, pushed NAFTA and let loose the orgy of mergers in the financial sector that caused the 2008 crash. I shudder at the thought of him and his wife back in the W/H again.

    That being said if I were an American (which I am not) I would still vote for her, as she is better than Trump. The crook before the fascist as the French said in 2002. Oddly enough I was in the same mindset in 2004 back when McCain the Insane was running for President and I reluctantly thought Obama was the better man. He’s grown on me since 2013, but though he was always better than ‘W’ it was a slow start. La Clinton otoh looks likely to be worse when she gets in (barring a catastrophe). I continue to believe that you could mount a corpse on a wooden post and it would have more chance than Trump of getting elected President.

      • The Iraq liberation act was passed under his watch. And to those who bring up Nader 2000 again and again, I will say how do you know Al Gore would have reacted if 9/11 happened under his watch? HRC is a hawk and neoconservative. I would worry if I were an Iranian – you could be annihilated.

        • Please. Al Gore would not have invaded Iraq to protect his father’s reputation. The Nader-ites keep repeating their litany of defenses. I understand their shame and bad conscience but they must take responsibility for helping to elect the worst president in history.

        • link to
          I’m speaking today in an effort to recommend a specific course of action for our country which I believe would be preferable to the course recommended by President Bush. Specifically, I am deeply concerned that the policy we are presently following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.


          To begin with, I believe we should focus our efforts first and foremost against those who attacked us on September 11th and have thus far gotten away with it. The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized. I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than predicted. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another.

          We are perfectly capable of staying the course in our war against Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist network, while simultaneously taking those steps necessary to build an international coalition to join us in taking on Saddam Hussein in a timely fashion.

      • Quarter of a million dead Iraqi children because of the Clintons (I read it here). If that is not war, I don’t know what is.

      • That depends on one’s perspective.

        From an American perspective, elements of the Republican party indeed considered his presidency as a “lost decade” where the U.S. didn’t throw their weight around enough and had the nerve to not increase the war budget.

        Still, from the perspective of the rest of the world, invading Somalia, the protracted air war against Yugoslavia, and the bombings against Sudan and Afghanistan, and regularly against Iraq… may we be forgiven to consider this a little bit as war mongering? No matter how golden the tongue was that sold us these policies (especially in contrast to what followed)?

      • He may not have been a warmonger, but the US back then gloated in it ‘victory’ in the Cold War and proceeded to contain Russia by moving the forces of NATO eastward, contrary to promises at the time. That led to the current resurgence of Russia and will pose real problems for the next presidency. I fear Clinton’s reaction here even more so than Trump.

      • Re: Juan Cole Apr 27 @ 01:38

        “Bill Clinton was many things but not by any means a war monger.”

        Prof. Cole, despite my genuine appreciation of your informed and cogent opinions, especially on matters concerning U.S. policy towards the middle east, this broad-brush declaration that Bill Clinton was “..not by any means a war monger.” seems to seriously ignore his historical advocacy and actions in support of the use of military power to implement covert NeoLiberal colonialism in concert with the more overt NeoConservative practitioners of empire building and the resulting loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. How does one not consider such behavior “any means” of war mongering?
        “Work is love made visible.” KG
        As Usual,

        • I consider warmongering to be, like, actually launching a war, sending troops in, armored convoys, etc. etc. Can’t see that he did any of that; his two military actions were to save the Kosovars from murderous ultra-nationalist Serbs and to try to kill Bin Laden. Both were very worthwhile.

        • his two military actions were to save the Kosovars

          I too believed that at the time.

          Like Palestine, all one has to do is look at a map. Locate Kosovo and Belgrade. Then tell me why they had to bomb Belgrade intensively, taking out Danube bridges, power plants, factories, and such.

          The right wing has a clear answer to that in terms of punishment and coercion. I have searched in vain for an answer in terms of “protection” from liberal supporters of the war.

          Bulletins from Serbia offers a personal account how the air war felt like on the ground, in the form of e-mail reports by a political cartoonist well networked into the U.S. and Western Europe with no love for Milosevich. What to do when your elderly aunt does not have power and so the contents of her freezer are rotting but she lives across the river you can’t cross anymore, that sort of thing.

        • Re: Juan Cole Apr 27 @ 11:36 AM
          Your response,

          “Juan Cole 2016.04.27 11:36
          I consider warmongering to be, like, actually launching a war, sending troops in, armored convoys, etc. etc. Can’t see that he did any of that; his two military actions were to save the Kosovars from murderous ultra-nationalist Serbs and to try to kill Bin Laden. Both were very worthwhile.”

          despite its posting not providing the courtesy of a “reply” function and its snarky elocution (“…like, actually launching a war…”), seems to present a rather skewed and selective recollection of the Clinton administration’s deployment of modern war-making. While the joining of NATO’s belated efforts to end the genocidal “ethnic cleansing” in Serbia under the leadership of Gen. Wesley Clark certainly is deserving of praise, the notion that the Clinton administration was a wholly humanitarian enterprise not driven by NeoLiberal economic warmongering is revisionist fiction; and no amount of snarky obfuscation or dissembling serves any honest discussion well.
          The stage that is being set for our 2016 election is not one that represents the interests and concerns of an informed electorate, rather it is a pseudo-political circus being orchestrated by competing brands of political snake-oil with identical ingredients; the only distinction being the coloring additive. The only thing unique this time around is that there is no “lessor evil” to choose from.
          As Usual,

      • I always say that Bill Clinton was a great Republican president (positively moderate by the standards of that party today), and he did have an aversion to US body bags. But I don’t know why he joined a left wing party, mostly antiwar (since the 1970s anyway), because his record speaks for itself – Plan Colombia, the precedent-setting air attack on Serbia without a UN resolution which led to Europe’s first change of borders by force since WWII, the bombing of Iraq in 1998 (to distract attention from the Lewinsky scandal IMO) and the plan to move NATO into Eastern Europe while Russia was weak. I’ll give him a pass over Somalia, and in Bosnia he genuinely hesitated as long as he could. But we shouldn’t give him a thumbs up just because Bush was more gung-ho and worse at PR.

        • You don’t have a sense of proportion if you think any of that adds up to anywhere near invading a country of 26 million with 160,000 troops, occupying it for 8.5 years, killing tens of thousands, wounding millions and displacing 4 million. Bill Clinton has his flaws, but making war was not one of them

          The bombing of Iraq in 1998 was because Iraqi anti-aircraft batteries locked on to US planes with hostile intent, which violated the no-fly zone. Republicans got up the phony impeachment and then accused him of wagging the dog; sorry to see you repeat their tactics.

      • The left wing ideologues here show that they are as immune to facts and porpotionality as right wing ideologues. Anyone who lumps Clinton together with Republican neo-cons is politically blind. Keep at it Professor Cole. Some of us are able to make distinctions.

  11. Even if Hillary makes major concessions in the official Democratic Party platform, she will not honor them – just as she will not honor her current fingers-crossed opposition to the TPP. Even if Queen HIllary chooses a strong progressive for Vice President, he or she will spend 4 or 8 years cutting ribbons and doing ceremonial duties and have no real impact on policy, foreign or domestic.

    • Not even Bernie could accomplish much if the House remains in Republican control. This is the reality. A reality most Bernie supporters don’t want to acknowledge.

  12. I don’t believe a word she says. Nothing about her smacks of authenticity. From her shrill tones to her u-turns on apologies issues. With her we’re likely to get into a HOT war with Russia as well as more nightmares in the ME. I’m going GREEN!

  13. Boy, can’t believe these comments here. Bernie supporters hate Clinton as much as the right wing. Like most Bernie supporters, they seem to be extremely naive about politics and the political system. Politics is the art of the possible. Compromise is necessary. In case you haven’t noticed, right wing Republicans control both houses of Congress and about two thirds of state government. The population is not mostly progressive; it is still a little to the right of center and slowly changing to a little left of center. Of course Clinton will move to the center after the nomination because she will want to attract the many moderate Republicans and independents who are turned off by Trump. By doing that she will win by about 10 to 12 percentage points and win about 350 electoral voters. How she governs will be almost totally determined by the makeup of Congress. Clinton was a strong liberal before most of Bernie’s supporters were even born. The health care plan she developed in 1993 is more to the left than the adopted Affordable Care Act. The right wing can’t stand her because they know she is a real liberal and they fear she will be successful. The right wing, for example, hate the ACA, not because they think it is a bad bill (it is mostly a Republican plan), but because they fear it will be successful and will promote the idea that government can make your lives better. Let’s not forget what it will mean if Clinton loses. Trump is a racist, xenophobic, misogynist who thinks we should ban Muslims, is as pro-Israel as Clinton, wants to encourage nuclear proliferation, admires Putin, favors torture and the killing of the families of terrorists, encourages his supporters to beat up protesters, thinks Americans already make too much in wages, wants to lower taxes on the rich, wouldn’t hesitate about using nuclear weapons in Europe, is incredibly ignorant about many issues and revels in insults. You want to take a chance at this man becoming president? What is wrong with you people?

    • These arguments for realism are always worth considering. But Hillary has advocated war at every single opportunity, and gives everything to Israel and the oligarchy without so much as a fuss. She is a Judas-goat leading progressives to the slaughter, and nothing more.

      Intelligent people want to show those who control the Democratic party that they will not be led to the slaughter. If the Dems had wanted a liberal platform they would have backed Sanders or Warren: they don’t want it. They don’t want it. They are the problem, not a solution.

      Let’s have a little realism in favor of telling the oligarchy controlling the Dems that their lies and hopey-changey scams don’t sell any more, even if it means that they lose this one because they betrayed their people. Let’s let them learn their lesson the hard way, because they don’t learn any other way.

      • I find it hard to argue against opinions stated without any supporting evidence. That is what you think, but it doesn’t make it so. Your prescription is basically burn down the village in order to save it. I suggest you read an article in today’s Vox which gives a nuanced analysis of her foreign policy. Left wing ideologues seem to be as incapable of nuance as right wing ideologues. I’m curious, are there any Bernie supporters out there who have actually worked in government and/or studied political science? They all seem idealistic to the point of delusional. They don’t live in the real world. There is a reason almost all Democratic office holders have supported Clinton and not Sanders. They realize what can and can’t be done. Was Bill Clinton a disaster in foreign policy? No. Hillary Clinton won’t be either. Trump would be a disaster. He knows almost nothing and understands even less.

  14. No. She is not by nature progressive and has proven she will change her verbal course dependent on what is expedient for her election.

    I will not vote for her, but I will vote as progressive a downvote I can and hope my vote will be accurately counted — which is actually the big news in this election: the overt suppression of votes and the many “inaccuracies”.

  15. As Mario Cuomo said: You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose. Clinton will contribute nothing ‘positive’ to the US, its allies or the world at large. Within the US, however, the classic ingredients for a move towards fascism have begun to form and I suspect most of Trump’s populist appeal is a reflection of that. It won’t happen shortly, perhaps it never will, but it has some life in it which is stirring.

      • Antonio Gramsci did not say, “Liberalism paves the way for fascism.” What you may be referring to is his 1924 manifesto entitled, “Neither fascism nor liberalism: Sovietism!”

        In 1924 Italy was already fascist under Mussolini, and Gramsci was stating that liberal attempts to replace fascism, if successful, would result in a system no better than fascism.

        In his clarion call for “Sovietism,” Gramsci was calling for a Soviet style regime, run by committees of workers and peasants, “Soviets,” which would, of course, be led by a “Vanguard of the Proletariat.”

        We see the horrors that led to when the Soviet Union, with its Leninist totalitarianism, was inflicted on the Russian people. Surely you are not suggesting that as an appropriate form of “government” for the U.S. or any other nation.

      • Liberalism used in this context is not the same as current US liberalism. Liberalism in early 20th Century Europe meant what we consider today to be conservative economics. If you actually studied history and the history of Europe in the 20’s and 30’s and studied the rise of fascism in both Germany and Italy, you would realize that fascism was a right wing phenomenon. People who supported fascism in other countries were conservatives. People who supported it in the US were conservatives like Henry Ford. Sigh, so little understanding. Right wingers like to say Obama is a fascist because the Nazi Party’s actual title was National Socialist and since Obama is a socialist, that makes him a fascist. Doesn’t anybody study history and political theory anymore?

        • Fascism is a far right political model. What he meant that well meaning but weak liberal governments, as in pre-Nazi Germany, that can’t solve the problems of society can drive a population to embrace fascist tactics of politics.

        • I have studied the history of Europe in the 20s and 30s in depth. I am very much aware that fascism was a right-wing phenomenon, and that liberalism as used in Gramsci’s manifesto was not the U.S. “liberalism” of today.

          In the European context, “liberalism” basically adhered to the tenets of John Locke, Adam Smith, and others who valued political freedom (such as it was defined at the time), free markets, and the individual.

          That Italy and Germany became fascist was not due to “liberalism.” It was primarily due to weak institutional structures within each country; and in the case of Germany, the crushing reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles and rampant inflation in the 20s. Liberalism as such had nothing to do with it.

          Gramsci, of course was a communist and viewed liberalism and fascism both as obstacles to attaining his vision of a “Sovietized” Italy. Thus his manifesto, “Neither Fascism Nor Liberalism: Sovietism!”

  16. puh-leeze

    hillary is more of a republican than any of the republican candidates.

    she will zoom rightward as soon as she is in the oval office.

    get real.

  17. Not a chance she will keep any of these policy positions after the coronation.

  18. Trump will not be the gentleman that Bernie was. Clinton offers many areas for hard attacks, not the least of which are the Wall Street speech transcripts. Trump will hammer her on that without letup. Though he would probably agree with everything she said to the Banksters, he will nail her for being two-faced. It will come down to her trust deficit. In the best of all possible worlds, Trump will get “brokered” out at the Republican convention, thereby allowing both he and Bernie to run as independents. That would give us some real choices in a four-way race without the “Nader” problem.

  19. To me it is a great mystery why anyone would have voted for HRC over Bernie in the primaries. Bernie’s platform may be limited — it is a great disappointment to me that he didn’t include scaling American militarism way back and using the enormous savings that would result to build American infrastructure — but at least he comes across as a real and decent human being. In contrast, HRC comes across as a totally inauthentic power-hungry person. She had the rug
    pulled out from under her by Obama and is determined not to let it happen again. Little wonder she refuses to publish the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs. It would
    cost her the election if people really knew what she said. The only principles she apparently really has other than a dermination to be elected have to do with her wholehearted embrace of the principles of American
    exceptionalism and the dreadful militarism that goes along with it. A vote for HRC is a vote for four more years of war
    anywhere the possibility exists. I totally agree with all the comments expressing conviction that any seeming turn of her positions to the left because of Sanders will go out the window as soon as she no longer has to contend with him.

  20. The campaign isn’t over until California votes.

    Bernie still has about a 50-50 shot of winning. It all depends on the California vote. Remember what a huge percentage of the vote he got in Washington and Oregon? This is possible in California, though it wasn’t possible in the east-coast closed-primary states.

    The important thing to realize is that Clintonism is dead. She will probably govern as a right-winger just like Obama did, but she will have no support for it. She’s probably so damn stupid she’ll run for re-election in 2020, in which case she’ll lose to the Republican Fascist candidate. 2024, if the fascists haven’t abolished elections by then, the liberal candidate wins by a huge landslide.

    • Bernie Sanders would have to win about 80% of the California vote and sweep the other states in order to win. Do you even know how delegates are apportioned in California? Do you know that there is a large pro-Hillary block of minority voters in California? Do you know that Hillary beat Obama by 10 percentage points in California in 2008? Do you know anything?

  21. And what do you bet she will reverse all of those positions as soon as her hands slips of the inaugural bible?

  22. Jimmy Jim James

    At the New Hampshire debate, Clinton spoke of counting family care work towards Social Security benefits, work of the greatest importance but it does not generate a capitalist profit.

  23. You do realize what will be lost if the Republicans take the WH? If you don’t, you really don’t get it. Bernie has NO power to actually make any of the changes he advocated without control of both Houses of Congress and those people ARE NOT there and WILL NOT be elected. The whole Bernie thing is backwards.

  24. Too bad Sanders is losing.
    I do have to dispute the premise of this article however. Watching Clinton do a Bush/Cruz neocon run at AIPAC was sickening.

    And oh TPP has to be stopped.

  25. Clinton’s gestures are in the, “Throw them a bone,” category. She will not be a reputable candidate unless she forswears military adventurism, but she’s apparently in too deep to the Israel Lobby to do that.

  26. The Democratic Party has rigged the election for Neo Con (Artist) Clinton. Trump is against NAFTA, and the Trans Pacific Patnership. Hillary and her female brethren Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, and Victoria Nuland have made war on Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. Enough said, Trump is much more progressive than Clinton will ever be in her four year term. I have my doubts about American democracy if Clinton is elected in November.

  27. Did Nader cost Al Gore the election or did Lieberman???
    Least we forget Al Gore lost HIS home state of Tennessee (in which he was a very long term senator) which he had won twice with Bill Clinton. Had he won his home state Tennessee, the drama of Florida would have been a side show. Al Gore would have been president PEROID!!!
    Oppps!!! Let’s not talk about, or explore that interesting aspect. Anti Jewish reflex anyone???
    Al Gore politics seemed to have been in line with the people of Tennessee for years.

  28. No surprise here, as this blog has consistently and vociferously supported the Clintons’ brand of interventionism, all the while pretending to be of the Left.

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