Is Hillary Clinton Running the Most Cynical Campaign in Recent History?

After Clinton’s stunning loss in New Hampshire tonight, the campaign is getting a facelift:

Now, after a drubbing so serious as to call into question every aspect of her campaign from her data operation to her message, the wounded front-runner and her allies are actively preparing to retool their campaign, according to Clinton allies.

Staffing and strategy will be reassessed. The message, which so spectacularly failed in New Hampshire where she was trailing by 21 points when she appeared before her supporters to concede to Sanders, is also going to be reworked – with race at the center of it.

Clinton is set to campaign with the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, unarmed African-Americans who died in incidents involving law enforcement officers and a neighborhood watch representative, respectively. And the campaign, sources said, is expected to push a new focus on systematic racism, criminal justice reform, voting rights and gun violence that will mitigate concerns about her lack of an inspirational message.

In 1992, the Clintons also ran a campaign with race at the center of it. Only then, the point was to get as far away from African American voters as possible. They did it by talking tough on crime—and then acting tough on crime. And, yes, Hillary Clinton was at the center of it all. As Donna Murch reported in that New Republic article I mentioned in my earlier post:

Hillary strongly supported this legislation [Clinton’s crime bill] and stood resolutely behind her husband’s punishment campaign. “We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders,” Hillary declared in 1994. “The ‘three strikes and you’re out’ for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets,” she added. Elsewhere, she remarked, “We will finally be able to say, loudly and clearly, that for repeat, violent, criminal offenders: three strikes and you’re out.”

It’s one thing to walk back your policies on race and crime because the electoral winds are blowing in the other direction. But to pivot so shamelessly from one campaign in which you made war on African America your signature issue to another in which you make fighting racism your campaign brand—simply because you’re losing in the primaries (anyone who thinks Clinton would be retooling her campaign like this needs to read the Politico piece I linked to above)—is, well, a little breathtaking.



  1. Nathan Leveille February 10, 2016 at 1:08 am | #

    Gives me a bit of an end-times feeling – unpleasant. I almost want to just sit on it because it’s so depressing.

  2. Wayne Collins February 10, 2016 at 1:35 am | #

    Yes. Good campaign for an electorate that doesn’t know her record or history. Her one day foray on behalf of a law class project now becomes “undercover work” against racism. But Sanders has so far failed to elaborate his past membership in Core or other civil rights activities. Is the straight jacket of his commitment run a “non-negative” campaign that stringent? Is that what he had to promise to run in the Democratic primary? Does Hillary get a free pass on everything? Telling the truth about Hillary is not a “negative” campaign. Facts are facts and often unpleasant things. Sanders should stop walking on eggs. The Democratic Party is the left face of Wall Street and by their actions have declared war on Sanders. Why no public denunciation of Clinton for her attempts at “push polling in Nevada?” Her use of surrogates such as Senator Gillibrand to initiate a red scare/red baiting fear of a Sanders nomination among Democrats. So she has “moved left,” has “coopted Sanders platform?” Remember Anderson’s question of her at the first debate: “Isn’t it true that you will say anything to become president?” Her answer, no, “my principles have never changed.” How true. They never have changed. She declares she has greater experience. Not as a legislator. Not with congress, its mechanisms, its social relationships and temporary alliances. Who has been in the senate double the years she has? Who served multiple terms in the House of Representatives? Who has won the respect of his fellow senators for his preparation and knowledge of all legislation he addresses, his work on committees? Who has served as chief administrator of a city (mayor)? Just who has “gotten a lot of things done?” Hillary served eight years as U.S. Senator. How many bills did shed introduce in the senate (not “work for” or “co-sponsor”). Her Wikipedia “senate biography” sounds as though it was written by her campaign staff, heralding only the good things she has done, ignoring the rest.

  3. Ra February 10, 2016 at 2:12 am | #

    My God, are you running the most cynical blog in recent history? If you would only look at her ads going all the way to the start of her campaign (e.g., you would see how consistently she’s been making the argument that you can’t just focus on economic inequality to the virtual exclusion of all else (e.g.; and that racial and other forms of inequality need to be addressed in their own right. Why do you think she’s been leading nationwide among minorities — like me, who is gay, Asian, immigrant, and Muslim — for the longest time?

    • aab February 10, 2016 at 4:12 pm | #

      Yes, her ads are designed to appeal to minorities. Her policies have not, her personal views have not, and her policies going forward will not. Did you not actually read Corey’s piece? She and her husband rose to power and wealth on the corpses and starving bodies of people of color here and overseas. She has opposed gay rights until the very last second that she has to switch her position to gain an advantage politically. And even if she privately held awesomely rainbow-colored beliefs, those beliefs could not be manifest as policy without a Progressive congress — which she and her husband have been actively blocking and continue to actively block, because those same progressive elected officials would seek to redistribute wealth and power more equally, instead only to the top. The Democratic establishment has been running a three card monte game on its base for decades: look at our progessive social positions over here! Oops, I’m sorry, all those conservative, banker-supporting candidates we elected via the DNC/DCCC/DSCC are siding with the socially conservative Republicans. *shrug* Nothin’ we can do about it!

      • Ra February 10, 2016 at 10:26 pm | #

        Wow, “corpses and starving bodies”? Really? Robert F. Kennedy was right: “What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant. The evil is not what they say about their cause, but what they say about their opponents.” Yes, Bernie Sanders has the better record, but to claim, for instance, that Hillary Clinton “has opposed gay rights until the very last second that she has to switch her position to gain an advantage politically” is symptomatic of an ideologue’s mind ( I personally think it is a colossal error on her part to try to pass herself as an outsider ( She is, after all, an emblem of “the establishment” and should have run as such and made the case for pragmatism ( A difficult task, to be sure, in this particular political climate where populist anger is de rigueur and outsider candidates are all the rage, but an essential one all the same. Because America is not just New Hampshire and California. Louisiana is America, too. South Carolina is America, too. And independent voters are America, too, not just card-carrying socialists and cynical theorists in the academy. But thank you, anyway, for enlightening this benighted immigrant on the electoral politics of America. I am so informed.

  4. stevelaudig February 10, 2016 at 4:23 am | #

    The Clintons will now play precisely the same race card in precisely the same way the Republican candidates do.

  5. Nqabutho February 10, 2016 at 5:40 am | #

    Although I favour Bernie Sanders at this point, I will vote for Hillary in the general election if she is the Dem. candidate, in order to keep out the right wingers, which is the absolutely necessary primary reason for political participation, and ought to be so for all citizens, yes I said all citizens, including Dick Cheney, who should request that he be put on trial for crimes against humanity and war crimes (which btw Hillary would be more likely to pursue, although I won’t hold my breath). With that said, I don’t think Hillary’s loss can be described as “stunning” or “crushing”, since it was expected, and expected to be double digits. As for the focus on racial justice issues, the Clintons are practical professional politicians, and it would be expected that they would find a key issue to fight on this time without regard for ideological consistency with the past. It doesn’t surprise me. Beyond these first two or four states that get intense media focus, Hillary Clinton is no doubt a well- known name: who does not know “Hillary Clinton” by now; but probably Bernie Sanders is still unknown to a lot of ordinary people who don’t follow politics, but who tend for one reason or other to vote for one particular party when they vote. Bernie is well-known to the youth vanguard and he has an effective movement, but is there time to cover the whole country? The difference in the use of race issues is that the Republicans appeal to racial fear, resentment and hatred, and aim to divide the community and cynically exploit the numbers in order to push through their unpopular agenda, but Clinton is (ostensively) signalling a commitment to solve certain ongoing neglected problems of racial justice, etc., which would actually benefit black communities and presumably promote unity in the wider community. The approach the Clintons took in the past was the reprehensible and cynical one, since it represented a callous step in the face of suffering of real people, so if they have changed, it at least seems to be a bit for the better. And as I said at the outset, I support Bernie’s movement and campaign and would vote for him in a primary.

    • Chatham February 10, 2016 at 11:51 am | #

      Clinton was polling almost 40% above Sanders when he entered the race. He only surpassed her at the end of August, but even then the two were fighting for the lead until the beginning of January (polling averages having Clinton polling better than Sanders at the beginning of December, and having her close to him at the beginning of January).

      He only decisively pulled ahead in the past month, which is pretty impressive, particularly considering how much he pulled ahead by.

  6. Larry February 10, 2016 at 6:27 am | #

    I believe that Mr. Sanders voted for the same anti-Black “tough criminal laws” as did Clinton. On race, why does that make Sanders better?

  7. Mushin February 10, 2016 at 6:50 am | #

    There are millions of objections to Bernie’s passionate statesmanship that has leveled the rhetoric in Congress for the past 30-years. Wall Street “Big Short” in 2008 is now being rearticulated into the “HUGE SOCIAL PARTICIPATIVE DEMOCRACY” founded in interdependently owning the pain point experienced. Bernie is leveraging voter’s willing to put real skin in the financial gaming process. I am one of the $25 monthly donations to Sander’s team since his announcement and today I am increasing that small donation to a $100 a month. The American Spring has finally arrived in my assessment as a mass movement confronting paid enlightened entertainment elite media. This little Red Engine has steam in the making of future social relations.

    I predict by the end of February the self-organizing political coffers will be historical grass-root power as a global movement. Bernie’s authenticity has been screaming for a spirit-sense entrepreneurial vision railing against both parties while caring for the social consequences in political elitism in the plutocracy regulatory capture rent controlled system forever. As a baby boomer I am in shock and awe regarding the millennial generation stepping up in participation binding together intergenerational permanent human concerns in political action based in justice.

    Questioning political elite established presumptions, expectations and patterns in the swept along historic drift of institutional discourses is an appreciative inquiry and dialog, not an intellectual philosophical ego contest of bullies anymore. Bernie is walking the talk of caring as the Democratic machinery throws the kitchen sink at him that will only cause further injury to the Clinton Camp notions of control. Embrace the chaos and antifragility is the way out of the anonmaly. I suggest that the millennials metanoia do not have the same prejudicial historic representational assumptions of previous generations. The NINJA Generation (no income, no job, assets) are founders of a qualitative attention economy based in human fairness sharing the pain in this moment of truth. In addition, any rational citizen understands this 3rd rail political discourse of debt and entitlements has reached the end of the road in January 2017. Intergeneration Finance is the next big idea where “Biology Trumps Politics” in an emergent ecological age of activity. These basic social developments of healthcare, education and full employment are being framed inside Climate Change and the simplicity of the message is profound requiring reflective conversations.

    Cory keep trucking enjoying your observations. Thanks

    • Dene Karaus February 10, 2016 at 7:34 am | #

      The high crime rates which were engulfing the country in the early 1990’s after 12 years of Reagan-Bush were a legitimate target of Democrats in the 1992 Presidential race. I don’t see anything overtly “racist” about running on an anti-crime platform. The 1994 Republican Congressional win was based on several overtly racist components (cutting welfare) contained in the Gingrich “Contract ON America.” I’m mystified by the anti-Clinton bias shown here when he was the savior of the country and the Democratic Party after 12 years of Reagan “Fantasyland” government.

    • LFC February 12, 2016 at 10:45 am | #

      Mushin writes:
      Cory keep trucking enjoying your observations.

      If you enjoy his observations so much, why the **** don’t you spell his first name correctly? It’s Corey, not Cory.

  8. Sarah February 10, 2016 at 9:25 am | #

    so much for “hardworking voters, white voters.”

  9. Roquentin February 10, 2016 at 9:27 am | #

    Hopefully these attempts at pandering will be as crass, transparent, and sleazy as the previous ones. Those endorsements from Madeline Albright (“there’s a place in hell for you if you don’t vote Hillary”) and Gloria Steinem (“Girls only vote Sanders for the boys”) pissed off every single voting female I know, from friends, to coworkers, to my own mother who wrote me specifically to complain about it. Those endorsements were so tone deaf and bad I almost wonder if they were secretly campaigning for Sanders by saying them. Maybe they’re sick of Hillary and are working as double agents or something.

    If the HRC campaign doesn’t have enough sense to see the problem with the above, I’d be skeptical of her racial pandering going any better.

  10. Herri February 10, 2016 at 12:11 pm | #

    Sanders voted NO on the “1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act” cited in the New Republic article. He did vote YES on the “1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act”, but it is important, I think, to note the context:

    “….speaking about the Clinton crime bill on the floor of the House of Representatives in April of 1994, he pushed back against the idea that harsher penalties would decrease the crime rate.

    “Mr. Speaker, all the jails in the world — and we already imprison more people per capita than any other country — and all of the executions in the world, will not make that situation right,” he said. “We can either educate or electrocute. We can create meaningful jobs, rebuilding our society, or we can build more jails. Mr. Speaker, let us create a society of hope and compassion, not one of hate and vengeance.”

    He did, however, eventually vote for the sweeping bill because of one component. “I have a number of serious problems with the crime bill,” he said that June, “but one part of it that I vigorously support is the Violence Against Women Act — we urgently need the 1.8 billion dollars in this bill to combat the epidemic of violence against women on the streets and in the homes of America.” (from

  11. Rakesh Bhandari February 10, 2016 at 3:43 pm | #

    You do know that in April of last year–which was long before Sanders was a force and could have forced Clinton left–Clinton had already made Maya Harris her chief senior adviser. Do look up Harris’ track record (we can be sure that she was against the Crime Bill that Bill Clinton and Bernie Sanders both supported). Clinton had also appointed Jake Sullivan who was key in the negotiations with Iran and Ann O’Leary who has done a lot of progressive work on family issues. Clinton swung left a long time ago. She actually has a foreign policy adviser. It’s not clear that Sanders does or even knows what the authority structure in North Korea is. Sanders is generally not making sense to me. Sanders can’t break up the banks and even if he could it would not solve the real problems. He may put a few more fraudsters in jail, but Clinton’s reform program is at least as solid as Sanders’–according to Konczal and Noah Smith (we’ll love Krugman out of this). His transaction tax won’t generate the revenue to make tuition free. And he has no chance of getting single payer with Congress. Clinton’s net positive rating only went negative after PACS spent millions against her in regards to Benghazi (where she did not send it troops) and the emails. Sanders will tank if the right wing PACS have to take him seriously. Clinton is still electable after the onslaught. I would be careful about generating so much anger about Clinton unless you don’t care if the Republican nominee wins.

    • aab February 10, 2016 at 6:32 pm | #

      She “swung left”? How? When? She pronounced herself a proud moderate and centrist a couple of months ago. She pronounced herself against single payer health care a couple of weeks ago. She aligned herself with Henry Kissinger a couple of days ago.

      Putting people who might otherwise criticize you on your payroll is certainly a kind of strategy. But please — who do you think you’re convincing here? There is literally no evidence she would push for meaningful reform. Even if she wanted to, she wouldn’t be able to. The DNC is RIGHT NOW recruiting finance industry aligned Republicans to run for Democratic seats. What part of this don’t you get? She says she’s for x, y and z. But she makes sure that those things can’t pass, because she makes sure the kinds of people who would vote for them in Congress never get there. They’ve been playing this game for a while.

      Sanders is already helping progressives get the money and exposure they need to get elected. His path to change is straightforward, albeit difficult — because people like you and Hillary Clinton want to make it so. Corey Robin is not generating anger at Clinton — Clinton’s own past policies, current statements, and the horribly broken system and economy she helped build are doing that.

      If you think desperate, alienated citizens can be hounded and shamed into voting against their interests for a candidate they have correctly recognized will do nothing meaningful to help them, please review the Democratic turnout in 2010 and 2014.

      • RNB February 12, 2016 at 4:44 pm | #

        Really intrigued by the radical academic criticism of Hillary Clinton for saying that she would take advantage of Henry Kissinger’s contacts in China (and we’ll put aside Sanders’ praise of Winston Churchill last night). The radical argument seems to be that we hate her name-dropping Kissinger so we better make sure Sanders is nominated…

        even though with a health plan that would increase costs for 71% of the American population and raise fears to a fever pitch that people will be caught between systems in his epochal transformation of the health care system, Sanders will likely get slaughtered in the general election, given the PACS money that will be spent against him…

        and we’ll end up with John Bolton running foreign policy and some climate change skeptic doing everything to expand the US oil industry all over all the world. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Oh yes these are the people who know so much about and care so deeply about the victims of US foreign policy.

        Well, why don’t they ask themselves: what would Noam Chomsky do? After all, today’s radical critics of Kissinger have not added a word to what Chomsky wrote decades ago. Yet Chomsky clearly says that he does not think Sanders has a chance and that he would absolutely vote for Clinton over her Republican rival.

        Of course the opposition to Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy begins the day after she is elected.

        • RNB February 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm | #

          Again you may think Obamacare is not meaningful reform; and you may not think it would be meaningful to change the composition of the Court. You may not find the negotiations with Iran meaningful. But I’ll say this–it is very meaningful to keep the Republicans out of the Presidency, and Sanders has no chance if nominated; though if nominated, I would fight for him like Democrats fought for McGovern. Just please think about the consequences of a Trump or Cruz or Bush presidency.

  12. David Domke February 10, 2016 at 4:39 pm | #

    I encourage you to take a look at Michelle Alexander’s essay today in The Nation on HIllary Clinton. It’s the most important thing I’ve read on race and the 2016 campaign. It’s worth a post and dialogue.

  13. Joel in Oakland February 10, 2016 at 5:50 pm | #

    The issue was *violent* crime, and guess who’s most at risk to be victimized? Yeah, us folks in the poorer neighborhoods. You’re implying that it’s racist to want to protect ourselves and keep *violent* – that’s *violent* – criminals in jail and out of our neighborhoods?

    I’m surprised at those of you who find this racist. We’re willing to talk about non-violent property theft (even though the same holds true, and it’s a royal pain in the ass for us. Here we emptied out some spaces in our overcrowded, underfunded prisons and jails by letting out many non-violent offenders. Naturally our burglary rate has gone up as these kids – mostly kids – settle back in. But that may be a useful trade-off. Or not. We’ll see), also small time drug offenses, and the like.

    But don’t dare call us racists for wanting our neighborhoods safer.

    FWIW last night we had a helicopter circling around, warning us to stay inside, pets also, lock door, etc. The Oakland PD blocked off part of the neighborhood as they tried to track down 3 armed robbers who were hopping backyard fences to get away. Cops caught 2 of jerks, and we all cheered.

    Yes, I get a bit testy about this. If *you* live in a neighborhood with regularly occurring violent (and non-violent) crime, then, fine, let’s talk more about it. If you don’t, then educate yourselves before you sound off.

    • JD February 10, 2016 at 7:47 pm | #

      Please do read the Michelle Alexander essay referenced above. You may not agree, but it does address this point with some care and attention.

  14. Nqabutho February 11, 2016 at 5:25 am | #

    When it comes to the problem of estimating the degree of support for Bernie Sanders among those who might vote Democratic in the general election, w/ reg to voter turnout or “swing-voter” preference, or of evaluating the significance of primary election results, don’t forget to take into account the possibility that there will be a high level, perhaps organized, of strategic cross-over voting by Republican supporters, in primaries where this is possible, due to their, perhaps mistaken, belief that Bernie would be an easier candidate to defeat than Hillary. A more detailed analysis of primary results should be done in order to distinguish these effects. Comments that seem to express a crude trashing of Hillary with an air of cynicism and that seem designed to discourage voter turnout in the event that the Dem candidate is Hillary should be regarded as trolling. In fact we seem to be in a situation of delicate balance between the possibility for a restructuring of the political economy on a more thoroughly ethical basis, as opposed to capitalistic power- play, with Bernie, and on the other hand, with Hillary, business more or less as usual with possible practical successes in continued attempts at piece-meal problem- solving and battles with the right wing Koch monster that is the Republican Party. People should ensure that those enthusiastic new voters inspired by the Bernie revolution still turn out to vote in case Hillary is the candidate, and that there is an effective counter to the special negative onslaught from the right evoked by a Bernie candidacy. First, keep out the right wingers. Then do what we can.

    • aab February 11, 2016 at 9:21 pm | #

      As a Sanders support who will finally, after decades, leave the Democratic Party and vote third party if Clinton is the nominee, I believe your fear is essentially a straw man. There isn’t any evidence of Republicans voting in the Democratic Party to put Sanders in as the nominee, and the conditions in the Republican race make that unlikely. Not impossible, but unlikely. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, former Goldwater Girl who helped her husband pass horribly racist legislation, has gotten John Lewis to slur Bernie Sanders, of whom there is actual photographic evidence of his marching with Dr. King. That’s beyond cynical. It is things like that which turn people away from the party. Chatter on niche web sites — even social media postings — are nothing compared to that.

      So please, your concern trolling on this issue, in this discussion, is deeply misguided. The people who are angry and mistrustful cannot be scolded into silence and prodded into voting against their interest to the degree the establishment wants and needs.

      • LFC February 12, 2016 at 10:57 am | #

        Anyone who knows anything about John Lewis knows that nobody can get him to say anything he doesn’t believe and want to say. He initially supported HRC for the nomination in ’08, as I recall, and their ties obviously go back well before that. Btw the clip I heard of Lewis was not really a “slur” of Sanders, it was just saying he didn’t recall seeing Sanders in the c.r. movement. Which does not mean Sanders was not involved, since not even J. Lewis cd have seen everybody who was involved in one way or another.

        • Wayne Collins February 12, 2016 at 1:17 pm | #

          John Lewis may believe it and intended to say it. That is beside the point. In the political context in which it was issued as the endorsement of the Black Caucus was announced it had one particular political direction. As an experienced politician John Lewis must know this. Then you couple it with the rhetoric that there are “new friends” and “true friends” and the effect is obvious. Bernie being a “new friend” and Hillary a “true friend,” regardless of what the record shows. This was a de facto slur. It will be used as such by the Clinton campaign.

  15. KJE February 12, 2016 at 10:04 am | #

    “Pivot” is the wrong word when two events are separated by 22 years. Also, it was Bill Clinton’s campaign, not hers. I’m all for thoughtful critique of Hillary’s campaign, but this isn’t it.

    • LFC February 12, 2016 at 6:24 pm | #

      @Corey R.:
      I agree that that ‘open letter to Rep. Lewis’ is a powerful statement. As I implied in my comment above, Lewis could not possibly have been acquainted personally w/ all the thousands of people who were involved in the movement.

      I continue to have doubts that Sanders could win the general election (and doubts that his presidency, if he did win, would unfold in quite the way some apparently think it will). Would be happy if it turns out I’m wrong on both counts.
      [FTR, some months ago I sent Sanders a very small contribution, about enough to buy a cheap lunch for two, or at most three, volunteers. I think that is probably the only contribution I will make, in the primary part of this election cycle at any rate.]

  16. jonnybutter February 12, 2016 at 9:15 pm | #

    This is a very powerful response to Lewis by the blogger Douglas Williams.

    So powerful b/c so true. And so moving. Social movements are mostly made of the plain courage of anonymous people.

    BTW, just to spread the word, in case there are people reading who don’t know, the Congressional Black Caucus itself didn’t endorse anyone. It was the CBC ‘branded’ PAC which endorsed Clinton. It’s made up of congressional grandees like Lewis, and lobbyist-types.

  17. Theo February 13, 2016 at 8:25 am | #

    Someone on my FB feed dug up this gem from her last White House bid.

    Which rather undercuts her claim to be the protector of Obama’s legacy. Is Hillary running a cynical campaign? I think that’s a yes.

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