Government & Politics

Hillary Clinton's Inevitable Left Turn?

Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley may push Hillary from the center.

Michael Swartz · Jul. 20, 2015

It’s been conventional wisdom pretty much ever since Barack Obama took his second oath of office that Hillary Clinton was the odds-on favorite for the 2016 Democrat nomination. That reveals a pathetic lack of depth on their “bench,” and not all leftists are happy about it.

Those on the farthest-left outposts of the Democrat Party —some of which met this past weekend at the Netroots Nation conference in Phoenix — have never warmed to the center-Left, poll-driven tendencies of Hillary and Bill Clinton. These true believers made the difference in pushing Obama over the top in the 2008 campaign and this time around they’re embracing the 73-year-old white socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Along with fellow Democrat hopeful Martin O'Malley, Sanders spoke at Netroots Saturday while Clinton passed on the event.

Sanders, who’s not even officially a Democrat yet is seeking the party’s nomination, is at one with the Netroots denizens because he’s not just a garden-variety liberal. As Sanders boasted to Nate Cohn of The New York Times, “I’m not a liberal. Never have been. I’m a progressive who mostly focuses on the working and middle class.” Translation: He’s a socialist who admits it.

Sanders’ candidness has won over thousands within a key Democrat constituency group: Big Labor. When the American Federation of Teachers violated a tacit pact among AFL-CIO unions to hold off on endorsements until after a labor conference at the end of this month to publicly back Hillary, many of its members howled in protest because they believe Sanders is more in step with their progressive values. Labor leaders reportedly considered this premature endorsement a sign of weakness for Clinton, who needs a momentum boost in the face of Sanders’ rising poll numbers and tide of small donations. And her campaign has to know this, as she’s closing in on the $1 million mark in expenditures just for polling.

So the seeds are sown for Hillary to move left for the nomination. It might be a pandering flavor-of-the-day message for the Democrat frontrunner, but we suspect it’s not all that far from her natural inclinations. Furthermore, she really has nothing to lose as people are already losing trust in her as a serial liar and flip-flopper. The GOP helpfully points this out at every opportunity.

Back in 2008, Hillary failed to appeal seriously enough to the radical base of the party because she was the “inevitable nominee,” and there’s a chance someone like Sanders may take advantage of her weaknesses and political ineptitude this time as well. Her only advantage right now is that the radical vote is still a polling minority and is split to some extent between Sanders, O'Malley and those still pining for Elizabeth Warren to reconsider her refusal to enter the race. Keeping the air of inevitability will likely push some Democrats to hold their noses and back Clinton as the lesser of two evils (try to contain your laughter), especially if another Bush or the unions’ sworn enemy Scott Walker gets the Republican nod.

Perhaps this potential Hillary implosion was the reason Joe Biden has been noncommittal with his 2016 plans. (If so, for once Biden could be stumbling into looking like a genius.) Otherwise, while Hillary is the odds-on favorite to secure the nomination early next spring, Democrats may have a serious case of buyer’s remorse by next summer.

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