by Brent Budowsky
Charles Dickens could have been writing about the American economy, national politics or the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign when he began A Tale of Two Cities with this:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …”
In our economy, there are two Americas. In one America, statistics suggest a great recovery and markets soar to record highs; in the other America, RealClearPolitics finds more than 60 percent of Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track, a CNN/ORC poll finds that 59 percent believe the economy is performing poorly and a powerful new movement reminds us that black lives matter, too.
In one America, there is a widespread revolt by citizens who do not earn their living from politics against the tiny class of insiders in the other America who do.
Similarly, the story of the contest for the Democratic nomination for president is a tale of two Hillary Clintons.
One Hillary is the most qualified candidate in memory, while the other Hillary gives no evidence of having a higher purpose other than being elected.
One Hillary has the knowledge, experience and brilliance to be a great and historic president; the other Hillary sometimes does stupid things, such as using her private server for all of her State Department emails and giving highly paid speeches to big banks she later calls robber barons, claiming she did so only because she was “dirt poor,” when voters knew she was a millionaire many times over.
In our tale of two cities, two Americas and two Hillary Clintons, I confess that while my support for Clinton is rock solid, I support her with less enthusiasm, excitement and hope than I have ever felt supporting a presidential candidate.
In a talk I gave to the Women’s National Democratic Club several months ago, I borrowed the title of Norman Mailer’s brilliant essay “Superman Comes to the Supermarket” about JFK in 1960 and said my highest hopes for a Hillary Clinton presidency can be described by the phrase “Superwoman comes to the supermarket.”
What I meant was that this truly gifted woman of world-class intellect talent, skill, experience, contacts and knowledge can cross the divide of the two Americas to become a “superwoman” who gives an authentic, powerful voice to the poor and middle class in the vast “supermarket” of Americans who are not powerful or privileged.
So far, instead of crossing this great divide, the Hillary Clinton candidacy has been an exercise in straddling it. She speaks to the great aspirations of one America while courting the support and money of the other, resulting — predictably — in a deficit of trust.
One Hillary fights for working people while the other takes no position on the trade bill. One Hillary would save the world from climate change while the other will not make up her mind on the Keystone pipeline until President Obama makes up his. One Hillary champions Wall Street reform while the other opposes bringing back any form of the Glass-Steagall Act.
We can now envision a 1968-like scenario in which Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wins the Iowa caucuses and pulls a Eugene McCarthy in New Hampshire, bringing new Democrats into the race. Or Clinton’s negatives could become so high that a Republican is elected in 2016, as happened in 1968.
Clinton has the right stuff to win a landslide victory and become a historically great president, but only if she truly crosses the great divide of the two Americas and provides a decisive, appealing end to the tale of two Hillarys.