Democratic party unity remains a challenge for Hillary

Democratic party unity remains a challenge for Hillary
Comment: Despite domestic deals over policy and platforms, Clinton must broaden her appeal to win over both left-leaning Democrats and independents, writes Joe Macaron.
4 min read
28 Jul, 2016
Some elements of the left-wing in the Democratic party are likely to ditch Clinton [Getty]

The Democratic Party has confirmed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, making her the first female presidential nominee of either of the two major parties in American politics.

However, despite the show of unity with her former opponent Senate Bernie Sanders during the roll call in the nomination process in Philadelphia, questions are looming large over Clinton's ability to galvanise the party's left-wing in the run-up to the national elections.

Two challenges during the four-day Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week will define Hillary's national campaign: whether the Democratic establishment will put to rest the scepticism and anger of the party's left wing; and how Hillary reintroduces herself to the American people in her acceptance speech.

Unlike eight years ago, when candidate Barack Obama challenged the powerful Clinton machine, this time around a united Democratic establishment was perceived as conspiring to silent the voice of dissent inside the party.

On day two of the convention in Philadelphia, it was important for Sanders to watch the votes of his delegates cast, and he was the last person in the roll call to ask the chair to nominate Clinton to lead the Democratic party.

Beneath this show of unity, distrust and scepticism linger

Yet, beneath this show of unity, distrust and scepticism linger. The doubts that the Democratic establishment was providing implicit support for the Clinton campaign during the primaries were confirmed, with Wikileaks revealing nearly 20,000 internal emails from Democratic National Committee officials apparently conspiring to undermine the Sanders campaign.

This development on the eve of the convention led to the resignation of the DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz and an official apology from the DNC to the Sanders camp.

Unlike candidate Obama, who won the 2008 primaries and immediately made a compromise with the establishment, the leftist senator in recent weeks aggressively sought to re-shape both the platform and processes of the party. Wary of the unity of the party behind her in the national elections, Clinton compromised with Sanders on the economic portion of the Democratic party's platform, in particular raising the minimum wage.

Another milestone was a deal between Clinton and Sanders to reduce the number of super-delegates by two-thirds, a step that will ultimately change the dynamic of the Democrats' primaries and reduce the influence of the party establishment.

In his July 25 convention speech, Sanders promised that his "political revolution" would continue - and affirmed that Clinton "must become the next president of the United States". His efforts throughout the convention have been instrumental for the Clinton campaign to quell an angry base. However, there are elements on the left of the party that will likely not support Clinton - nor will they be drawn to her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.

Unlike former President Bill Clinton's moderate stances, Hillary's record shows she has held liberal views since her tenure at the US Senate representing the state of New York. However, three positions have marked her political career, leaving progressives sceptical about her political beliefs: voting for the Iraq war in the US Congress in 2003, supporting free trade agreements until recently, and shifting her views on gay marriage late in 2013.

It is also worth noting that Sanders did not include any foreign policy segments in his convention speech, exclusively focusing on a domestic-heavy agenda, which likely reflects the lack of any deal or agreement with the Clinton camp on that front.

Even Trump pointed out that Democrats' weakness on national security was reflected in the fact that the DNC convention did not name or address either on day one or two the threat of the Islamic State group.

While Democratic presidential candidates typically shift from left to centre once national elections begin, Clinton is taking the opposite trajectory

While Democratic presidential candidates typically shift from left to centre once national elections begin, Clinton is taking the opposite trajectory, in light of the growing influence of the progressive base. Her acceptance speech will be a defining moment, as she balances appealing to progressives and reaching out to moderate Republicans and independent voters.

Hillary has often been described in her decades-long political career as "the most famous woman nobody knows". The convention speech is her best chance to reintroduce herself to the American people - and to the rest of the world closely watching the US presidential elections.


Joe Macaron is a Policy Analyst at Arab Center Washington DC.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.