VAL 2016 | Den som tror att det bara är Donald Trump som spelar ”hardball” i årets valrörelse borde titta närmare på striden mellan Sanders och Hillary Clinton.
I början såg det ut som om demokraterna skulle kunna genomföra sin valkampanj i en civiliserad ton och utan smutskastning. Men det var innan Clinton blev trängd av Sanders överraskande framgångar.
Idag är det ingen som tror att deras kampanjer skiljer sig nämnvärt från hur det brukar se ut i amerikanska valrörelser. Clinton och Sanders har båda visat att de kan ge och ta som riktiga politiska sluggers.
Philip Elliott och Sam Frizell har i en artikel för tidskriften Time tittat tillbaka på hur relationen mellan de två presidentkandidaterna har utvecklats under valrörelsen.
Sanders didn’t expect to win; he wanted to make some points and push a progressive agenda. If he were planning on running a traditional campaign, he would have rented bigger headquarters. Longtime Sanders aides assured reporters and donors that their boss would never run a negative ad against Clinton.
If Sanders had promised never to go negative, no Clinton had ever done so. The hammer fell during the first debate in October. When a moderator asked Clinton if Sanders had a tough enough record on guns, she pounced. “No, not at all,” Clinton said of her rival, who represents a mostly rural state. Months later, Sanders still smarts over the constant attacks about guns.“The idea that I am being called a tool of the NRA, a supporter of the NRA, is really quite outrageous,” he says.
Soon the hits from Clinton’s boosters were relentless. Sanders’ aides expected them, but the candidate’s shock at the Clintons’ hard-nosed politics was unmistakable. The tactics went against his hopes for a high-minded campaign fought on issues, not on microfiche or her email practices. And as Sanders’ crowds grew, so did his poll numbers and contributions from small donors. And so did the Clinton attacks.
In fact, the Clinton machine was just warming up. Clinton researchers had spent months digging into Sanders’ vulnerabilities—standard operating procedure for any modern campaign—and countless outside allies offered their binders of research too. There was plenty to go around: he was once ambivalent about South American socialist dictatorships, he honeymooned in the Soviet Union, he voted against the Wall Street bailout that ultimately helped U.S. autoworkers and he had been critical of Barack Obama’s first term. Clinton tagged Sanders for being AWOL during the fight for health care in 1993 and ’94, despite plenty of TV footage and photography to the contrary. Fair or not, the onslaught left Sanders upset; he had never faced this kind of scrutiny. “We know a lot of stuff has been leaked into the papers which are lies and distortions,” Sanders says. “Their response is, ‘Look, that’s the world we live in, that’s what you gotta do.’ I understand that. I don’t think that’s what you gotta do.”
Goaded by his insular, mostly male circle of advisers, Sanders lashed back, questioning Clinton’s integrity and railing against her speaking fees from big corporations and Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs. “He got into a space where he felt comfortable pushing back,” says an adviser. “People get into a corner and they strike back very hard.” The cordial chitchat between their aides in the post-debate spin rooms stopped or turned confrontational, with Clinton adviser Karen Finney and former NAACP president Benjamin Jealous, a Sanders ally, clashing in open view of reporters after one forum in Flint, Mich.
By spring, the candidates had stopped calling each other to offer congratulations on victories. Backstage at a campaign event in early April, an aide showed Sanders a headline in the Washington Post: “Clinton questions whether Sanders is qualified to be president.” Without reading the story, Sanders scribbled on his legal pad and angrily charged onto the stage at a Philadelphia event, saying “the American people might want to wonder about your qualifications, Madame Secretary!” Of all the arguments to make against Clinton, unqualified was perhaps not the strongest.
None of this was happening in a vacuum. Voters were paying attention, and in a year that favored outsiders over insiders, many cheered on Sanders, who chops his own wood for his stove and has never worn a tuxedo, even after 25 years in Washington. By West Virginia’s May 10 primary, exit polls showed as many as a third of Sanders supporters were saying that, to deliver the revolution their man was demanding, they would rather vote for Trump than Clinton.
She and her advisers know they must give Sanders something he can count as a win, lest they lose to Trump. Clinton’s closest advisers have promised him an open ear and a seat at the table in Philadelphia.
And if Sanders comes away empty-handed, more than the White House is at stake. A left-center split in the Democratic Party will unfold, and where that leads no one knows.
Tidskriftsomslag: Den amerikanska utgåvan av Time den 6 juni 2016.