EDITOR’S PICK--Chris Matthews had an interview with Hillary Rodham Clinton on the MSNBC channel of the electric teevee machine Tuesday afternoon that was flatly astounding. This is especially true if you remember Matthews' sorry history with the Clinton family, especially concerning HRC, against whom he was so hostile in 2008 that kindly Doc Maddow called him out on it on the air. Now, though, apparently, Matthews sees HRC as the only thing keeping the Battleship Potemkin from sailing up his driveway.
“I'm going to say this bluntly,” he said. “The only person standing between a confirmed socialist who is calling for political revolution in this country winning the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party, which has always been more moderate than that, is you. So, when you saw that rally last night, the young people all around Senator Sanders, when he yelled "revolution" out there, and they all applauded like mad, do you think that's going to help in the general election or is it what we used to call in the Sixties an NDC candidacy—"November Doesn't Count"—we just want to win the party, we don't care about the general. You seem to be focused on the general. How do you beat a person who comes along in the primaries who says, ‘I'm going to give you everything you want: free tuition, more Social Security benefits, no increase in your taxes, free health-care from birth, all of it government-paid.’ How do you compete with a revolution? A revolution of promises, really.”
Say what you will about HRC, but she knows a cue when she hears one. She threw out some compliments to her own youthful adherents, which is a decent thing to do, and then she got down to serious business.
“I do think we have an obligation to keep people focused on what's at stake,” said Clinton. “We can't let the Republicans rip away the progress we have made. We can't let them go back to trickle-down economics, repeal the Affordable Care Act. We can't let them stack the Supreme Court for another generation. We've got to get back to the middle. We've got to get back to the big center and solving problems. That's how we make progress in America. I'm proud to be in a line of Democratic presidents who just got in there and fought it out…I know how hard it is, and I totally appreciate how exciting it can be to be involved in a campaign that really just puts out these great big ideas. But I want folks to just stop and think, no matter what age you are, OK, we agree on getting the economy going. We agree on raising income. We agree on combatting climate change. We agree on universal health-care. Who has the track record? Who's got things done? Who can actually produce the results you want for you and your family, and for our country?”
But Matthews wasn't finished. Condescension, it appears, is not just a river in Egypt.
“Look, the history of the Democratic party -- your party, not Bernie Sanders,” said Matthews. “He's not a Democrat—your party has produced the New Deal, the progressive income tax came from the Democrats, Social Security, the greatest anti-poverty program, came from Roosevelt, health-care and civil rights, and all these good things, and in every case, you had to battle Republicans against it to the last person. It's always been a tough fight. You need 60 votes in the Senate, and you need 218 in the House. And if you don't have them nothing gets done. Can the Bernie people be taught—not him, he can't be taught—can the kids behind him be told that this is how it works in our system? You can call for a revolution but it ain't gonna happen. There isn't going to be a revolution. There's gonna be an election and an inauguration and then there's going to be a Congress sitting next to you that you have to deal with. Revolution sounds like a pass. You don't have to have logic any more. We're going to have a revolution and pay for anything.”
Non sequitur. Your facts are uncoordinated.
First of all, what Sanders is calling for is a democratically determined change in how we govern ourselves. He's not f-cking Robespierre. The tumbrels are all in your head, dude. Among other things, Sanders is advocating for the restoration of a financial-reform system that was a pure product of the New Deal and that prevailed for 60-odd years. That's his "revolution." Just chill. Once again, though, HRC hit all her marks.
“Our system is set up to make it difficult,” she continued. “Checks and balances. Separation of powers. Our Founders knew, if we were going to survive as the great democracy that they were creating, we had to have a system that kept the passions at bay. (ED. NOTE: And then most of them divided up into political parties and spent the early 1800's slandering the hell out of each other. We continue.) We had to have people who were willing to roll up their sleeves and compromise. We couldn't have ideologues who were just hurling their rhetoric back and forth. We had to actually produce results….
“That hasn't changed since George Washington,” said Clinton. “We have to produce results now because a democracy is a fragile organism. People have to believe they have a stake in it, that their voices count, but then they gotta see results from their investment in our democracy. Our democracy has to work better. Our politics have to work better. That's what I know how to do, and that's what I want to get done.”
This doesn't have to be the way it goes. HRC is perfectly within her rights to campaign against Sanders on the ground that he is not electable or that his proposals are fanciful. But this is edging dangerously close to marginalizing him and his campaign as somehow extremist and/or vaguely un-American. For example, Matthews really went to town after the interview was over, talking pragmatism and evincing a curious view of 20th century history. He lumped the New Deal and, most spectacularly, the Civil Rights Movement as examples of the kind of incremental centrist change that characterizes American political history.
This is something of my bollocks. Good god, the New Deal was so centrist that the plutocrats of the time tried to organize a goddamn military coup against it. And the reason that the Democrats became the party of the Civil Rights Movement is that thousands of people in the streets, and more than a few martyrs, forced a series of presidents to move, however deliberately, and forced the party to change an identity to which it had clung since Stephen A. Douglas was the party's nominee. This is not the way the Democratic campaign should be conducted. Bernie Sanders is running a campaign completely within what can reasonably be called the mainstream of his party and of our politics.
Discreet red-baiting and disingenuous scaremongering helps nobody.
(Charles P. Pierce is a writer-at-large for Esquire and his work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the LA Times Magazine, the Nation, the Atlantic, Sports Illustrated and The Chicago Tribune, among others. This piece was posted at Esquire.com and CommonDreams.org. Screenshot: MSNBC. Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.