What do Democratic insiders think of Hillary's scandals and the drive by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to tackle her from the left? The Quinnipiac Poll shows Sanders gaining on Clinton having risen from 4% to 8% to 15% in successive mostly surveys in March, April, and May.
But what do Democratic opinion leaders and political honchos think of Sanders?
A straw poll of delegates to the Wisconsin State Democratic Convention showed Hillary only narrowly edging our Sanders by 49-41, a margin much too close for comfort. Sanders got 208 of the 511 delegate votes tallied in the straw poll -- a spectacular success!
Wisconsin is, of course, one of America's most liberal states. It was, after all, Wisconsin that drove President Johnson out of office by going for Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy in 1968. And, if Wisconsin is left, the Democratic Party there is "lefter" than left. It is dominated by public employee unions that led a sit-in against Governor Scott Walker's proposals for curbing collective bargaining for Wisconsin public employees. When the bill was pending, the Democrats walked out of the legislative chamber to try to deny a quorum to the Republicans as they tried to pass Walker's bills. When the GOP leaders threatened to arrest them and drag them back to the chamber, the Democratic minority hid out in Indiana, just across the state line. And, when Walker's bills passed, the Democrats tried to defeat the chief judge of the Supreme Court to give the left a majority so as to rule the bill unconstitutional. When that failed, they tried to recall the swing votes that gave the Republicans a majority in the State House. And when that failed, they tried to recall Walker. When he beat that back, they tried to defeat him for re-election. Walker won massively. That's what Wisconsin Democrats are like.
So while the Wisconsin Democratic Party's inner circle does not represent a valid sample of the Party's national leadership, it does provide a glimpse of the leftist appeal of Bernie Sanders. One can assume that states that tend to follow Wisconsin's liberal bias -- Massachusetts, Vermont, Colorado, Oregon, Texas (Democrats), Washington State, and even California might be thinking the same thing about Bernie.
He is a liberal's liberal. A self-described "socialist", he:
- Favors a 90% top income tax bracket.
- Has opposed all free trade deals that have come before him -- NAFTA, Central America, Peru, Chile, Colombia, and now the Pacific Rim.
- Opposes renewal of the Patriot Act and wants a ban on NSA interception of domestic phone calls unless there is probably cause of terrorism.
- Supports a $15 minimum wage.
- Favors a single payer system for health care, essentially opening Medicare to everyone.
- Wants to break up America's too-big-to-fail banks.
There is no position too liberal for Bernie.
Hillary has a certain immunity to attacks on her financial avarice and her penchant for secrecy. She can delete emails, hide Benghazi documents, and dodge disclosure of the Clinton Foundation speeches without paying a high price among Democratic Primary voters. But her refusal to oppose the Keystone Pipeline, her likely support for free trade deal which she helped to negotiate, and her opposition to single payer for health care all cost her dearly on the left. There are many in the Democratic primary for whom electing the first woman president is paramount. But for the left of the party, gender is not nearly as important as ideology and integrity counts for little. They would support a kangaroo if it toed the line on their favored liberal positions.
And Hillary, with one eye on the general election, cannot follow Bernie Sanders down the left wing rabbit hole. If she tries to match him, issue for issue, she will find herself hopelessly isolated from the mainstream of American voters. Hillary, is, of course, a master at changing her positions, but even she will face limits as she runs for president in the general election.
How can anyone take Hillary seriously when she announces a position on an issue? What in the mouths of other politicians is a commitment, in Hillary's speeches such statements are really only starting points, points of departure, from which to stray when the winds of the moment change. The inconsistency of her record is baffling and any attempt to track her flips and flops makes one dizzy.
While many are coming to doubt her integrity, we have long learned not to expect any consistency or intellectual honesty from Hillary Clinton.
But she will not stray too far to the left because she may not be able to climb back in time for the November elections. For example, she was caught earlier this week telling a labor audience that she supported the battle for the $15 minimum wage. But she soon "clarified" her remarks to say that she did not support a $15 minimum wage, but only supported the battle to achieve it. Huh?
But Hillary knows that matching Sanders on the left leaves her dangerously exposed in the center where the bulk of the voters are. So she is stuck with positions that fall short of Bernie's on the eyes of liberals. And the Wisconsin straw poll shows that she is suffering real damage as a result.