July 22, 2015

BLUE CIVIL WAR: Hillary Clinton’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ Triangulations.

Last month, Clinton herself said “all lives matter” in a speech at a black church, arousing the ire of some progressives—though not enough to make her apologize for using the phrase, as O’Malley did after his roasting at Netroots. Clinton’s statement Tuesday indicates that she likely won’t make the mistake of saying “all lives matter” again, at least during primary season.

It might be tempting to dismiss Hillary’s triangulation on “black lives matter” as petty primary posturing with little political significance. In fact, it points to a very real division within the American left, with important implications for the future of the Democratic Party—namely, the division between economic populists who rally around the politics of class and social progressives who rally around the politics of identity.

Sanders, Hillary’s chief rival, is clearly a social liberal, but the unifying theme of his platform—which includes single payer healthcare, a Wall Street crackdown, and a 90 percent top tax rate—is economic populism. Clinton has attempted to adopt a left-wing populist tone during the primary campaign, but as a private jet-setting multimillionaire whose top donors are Wall Street banks, she cannot credibly position herself to Sanders’ left on class or economic issues. Her Facebook statement rebuking Sanders and O’Malley on race—along with other policy moves like her celebration of the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision and her leftward pivot on immigration—can be seen as an effort to compensate for her populist deficiencies by emphasizing her identity politics bona fides.

Oh, goody.

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