Republicans are eager to portray Hillary Clinton to Democratic voters as a Republican. That is not the language they use, of course, but the intent is clear: to discredit her with progressives and liberals alike.
In 2015 it became apparent that Republicans were pursuing just this strategy, as left wing environmental hero Bill MicKibben dutifully retweeted Republican propaganda aimed at Clinton.
The actual culprit is a group called America Rising, which aims its posts on social media not at conservatives but at liberals, as The New York Times pointed out last spring, “designed to be spotted, and shared, by liberals.”
Because all Democrats know that friends of Wall Street are Republicans. Right? So Republicans are quick to point out to Democratic voters that Hillary Clinton has close ties to Wall Street. Except if true this ought to make her a great choice for Republicans.
They are not alone. The Times pointed also to American Crossroads, run by none other than Karl Rove, who, if prone to the errors of Republican math, seems to understand liberal math quite well.
Ken Goldstein of the University of San Francisco says, “Politics is usually basic math, and this is a little bit of calculus, thinking a couple steps ahead.”
Insidious might be another term for it. Republican attacks on Clinton are far less likely to be successful than attacks from the left, and the advent of Bernie Sanders’ population has already highlighted Clinton’s vulnerability among the more progressive, young white male demographic.
Needless to say, Republicans have no limited their attacks to Clinton from one direction only. During the debates, they accused her of being a socialist, and Fox Nation implied the same in January – which is impossible if she is what they are telling liberals and progressives on social media – if what Bill McKibben is retweeting – is true.
This only goes to prove that Republicans will do and say anything they can to put roadblocks in Clinton’s way. The smart play for the Clinton camp is to refuse to let Republicans have it both ways.
In February, Eric Bolling said on Fox News that Clinton is “an undeclared socialist as opposed to the unabashed socialist, Sanders.”
Republicans have grown used to controlling the political discourse in this country, thanks to Fox News and a right-leaning mainstream media. Their attacks on Clinton, Sanders, and Trump, have been all over the place, a catch-as-catch-can collection of insults.
What Republicans have perhaps not thought through is that this tactic can rebound on them. If she is, as Bolling says, a socialist, Republican opposition makes sense. But if Hillary is such a Republican, why should Republican voters hesitate to vote for her?
After all, from the sounds of it, if you want a reasonable “establishment” candidate to put against Trump, why not Clinton, who is far more qualified than either Rubio or Cruz? She may lack the religious bona fides, but those voters have already mostly gone to Trump’s camp.
The facts are really irrelevant here. Perception is. And it is perception that Republicans are pushing on liberal social media while pushing another, diametrically opposed perception, on the mainstream media.
Some Democrats might say, “So what? It’s true.” But which is true? Are you going to let Republicans have it both ways? Shouldn’t you insist they decide which facts are actual facts?
Even Bernie Sanders has said Hillary “sounds like a Republican” when it comes to healthcare reform, but take into consideration that Republicans accuse Obama of being a socialist or communist over the president’s signature healthcare reform that unofficially bears his name.
To add to the confusion, Obamacare is essentially a Republican idea – as Obama himself has pointed out – but one Republicans have disavowed. So is Obamacare no longer to be spoken of as Republican? If support of Obamacare makes you a Republican, is Obama a Republican?
Clinton has described herself as a moderate. Obama is so moderate that some analysts have described him as more of an old school Republican than a Democrat, while today’s Republicans assail him as a socialist or communist. Whatever he is, however he is to be described, Clinton sounds a lot like him.
The Times cites Colin Reed, America Rising’s executive director, who says, “The idea is to make her life difficult in the primary and challenge her from the left.” And here is the give-away:
“[S]o if we have opportunities – creative ways, especially online – to push her from the left, we’ll do it just to show those folks who she needs to turn out that she’s not in line with them.”
Except that what you’re telling America publicly, through Fox News and the mainstream media, is that she’s a socialist – and is in line with them.
For example, compare those words with what Jeff Bechdel, spokesperson for the conservative America Rising PAC said in a statement as recently as January:
“It is obvious Secretary Clinton didn’t want to get into the differences between a Democrat and a socialist, and the reason is simple: there aren’t any.”
This is a statement clearly aimed at Republican voters: Hillary is a socialist. Yet to Democrats they are saying Hillary is a Republican.
Republicans want it both ways, to claim Clinton is one thing to Democrats and another to Republicans, but if she is the socialist they decry, she certainly is not the Republican they claim.
It is up to Democrats, so far less prone to tests of ideological purity, to make Republicans choose their argument, to expose their duplicity to their own voters. It is up to Democrats, when Republicans try their math on left-leaning voters, to ensure that at least one of their arguments rebounds on them.
So they talk out of both sides of their mouth. The question is, which is it, Republicans? Is Hillary Clinton a socialist, or is she a Republican?
This is a question Democrats must answer. It is bad enough Republicans get away with defining their reality; they cannot be allowed to define ours as well.