Hillary Clinton suffered a crushing defeat on Tuesday in the New Hampshire primaries—she lost to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by a colossal 22 percent. Sanders handily outperformed the polls, which had him at a comfortable 15 point lead, a similar feat to what he accomplished in Iowa.
Although the win for Sanders infused momentum to his campaign (he raised over $5.2 million after Tuesday night alone), it was ultimately an affirmation of polling expectations. New Hampshire neighbors his home state of Vermont and is a primarily white state with many independent voters, both of which play to Sanders’s strengths. His victory speech reflected the same, consistent ideology he has been disseminating since announcing his candidacy.
Clinton, on the other hand, gave a concession speech that was much more noteworthy. She has always been a political chameleon, shifting her views to whatever is most favorable in the current political climate, and her speech thoroughly highlighted this.
We’ve witnessed stages of this shift since Sanders announced his candidacy in May 2015. While Clinton once touted her label of a “moderate,” this has since changed to being a “progressive who gets things done.” This is entirely due to Sanders, who has inexorably veered Democratic discourse further left.
Now, with issues of campaign finance at the center of Democratic discussion and debates, Clinton has recognized she, too, must condemn money in politics and claim that campaign finance reform and policing Wall Street will be at the forefront of her campaign.
In a reversal so quick it’ll give you whiplash, according to Clinton, she has suddenly become the number one politician invested in campaign finance reform. As she boldly declared in her speech to New Hampshire, “You're not going to find anybody more committed to aggressive campaign finance reform than me.”
It certainly sounds convincing.
But let’s harken back to last week’s Democratic debate, in which Clinton was faced with the truth that she has accepted over $21 million in donations to her campaign from Wall Street, and has taken $675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in just one year.
In this instance, when it was suggested that these millions of dollars from corporate and special interests may have corrupted her vote, Clinton feigned complete outrage that her vote could have ever been influenced: “There is this attack that he is putting forth…anybody who ever took donations or speaking fees from any interest group has to be bought. And I just absolutely reject that, Senator…But you will not find that I ever changed a view or a vote because of any donation that I ever received.”
She offered the notion that President Obama and numerous other politicians have all received donations from Wall Street, essentially claiming corporate money in politics is not as big of a deal as Sanders is making it out to be.
In her concession speech, she has completely changed her tune. Within just one week, she has suddenly evolved into the person most committed to “aggressive” campaign finance reform, which may be true if she weren’t receiving $21 million from the very groups she claims she will reform. It was the very first policy idea she brought up in the speech—she has realized how much voters care about the issue and now seeks to emulate the strong, anti-establishment persona Sanders embodies.
Clinton’s gradual adoption of these tenets of Sanders’s economic and campaign finance ideals is ultimately a good thing. Even if she is disingenuous, it demonstrates the pull these issues have with voters, and encourages her (if she does win the nomination), to actually address the problem.
Strangely enough, the primary concerns of this election now seem to be on Sanders’s turf, and Clinton is just running to catch up.
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