About Riley Sweeney

Riley Sweeney, raised in the Pacific Northwest, moved to Bellingham during the Bush years, worked on a cross-section of political campaigns during the Obama years, and then fled to the comfort of public service during the Trump years. Before joining the City of Ferndale as their Communication Officer, he wrote a column with Northwest Citizen and then his own blog, the Political Junkie where he brought humor, insight and a suspicious amount of pop culture references to Whatcom County political reporting. Currently, he lives with his wife Bryna and their handsome son, in the rolling fields of Lynden.

By: Riley Sweeney (129)

How the Party Treats Jeb and Hillary Tells You Everything

By On

I try to shy away from national politics but with the presidential campaigns beginning to heat up, I wanted to share these thoughts about Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush.

First, let’s start with the assumption that Hillary and Jeb are running parallel campaigns. Both are well-funded insiders with close connections to previous presidents and are viewed suspiciously by their own base for their moderate positions (Bush on Common Core and immigration, Clinton on siding with Wall Street). Both have a close inner circle of advisors and are planning elaborate campaign roll-outs with the best that staff money can buy.

On the surface, they seem to be very similar candidates. However, they will be received completely differently because of how the parties interact with their base.

In politics, the “base” is the group of people who form your most ardent supporters. They are the die-hard volunteers, the passionate doorbellers, small donors and that one guy who shares EVERY SINGLE environmental petition on his facebook page (thanks, Jerry).

A presidential candidate needs support from their base to win – without it, they can only limp along, struggling to generate enthusiasm. John Kerry was not beloved by the Democratic base. John McCain was not popular with the base until he brought on Sarah Palin, then he was able to pack arenas with cheering supporters.

However, while the people at the top need the base, they do not necessarily love them – and this is where the political parties differ. It also explains why Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee and Jeb Bush will not be nominated by the Republicans.

The Democratic leadership disdains their most passionate supporters, the Republicans are actually afraid of their base.

I’m not talking about local parties, I’m talking about the upper echelons of power. The Democrats view their base as dirty, loud hippies that make unreasonable demands: “$15/hr minimum wage? Are you kidding me?” At their cocktail parties they say, “What’s next, legalizing marijuana and free housing for the homeless?” The Democratic party leadership knows that even if they ignore, insult or marginalize their supporters, they will still show up to vote for the centrist Democrat because the Republican is scarier.

On the other side of fence, the Republicans fear their base. After several prominent incumbents were defeated in the primary by Tea Party upstarts, the GOP leadership has been in a defensive crouch (see: Boehner, John), constantly afraid that the rabid hordes will storm their gates and throw them out.

This is why Hillary can remain comfortable in her centrist positions while Jeb will go through Romney-esque contortions trying to persuade his base that he is the second coming of Ted Cruz. As a result, Hillary will be seen from a position of strength because the national media always likes it when politicians stand up to their friends. Meanwhile, Jeb will be seen as caving to the Tea Party right, a position of weakness.

Does this mean that progressives are doomed to irrelevance? Absolutely not. One of the other key differences between the two parties is that the Democrats are actually interested in legislating, while the Republicans haven’t brought any serious legislative proposals to the national stage since President Bush tried to privatize Social Security in 2005.

As a result, the Democrats have passed some strong legislation in the last decade. While they are unable to push a truly progressive candidate to forefront, they have passed a strong financial consumer protection agency and a stimulus package which included the largest single investment in education and green energy in a generation. On the state level, they have legalized marijuana in a handful of states and passed marriage equality in all but thirteen.

There is still plenty to be done. For instance, progressives lost ground on women’s health issues nationwide, and I strongly doubt we will ever see a true progressive from the Democratic base as the presidential nominee. However, the Republicans will be able to bend their eventual nominee to their will. Will that give them electoral success in 2016? I don’t think so, but it will be revealing about the continual evolution of our political parties.

About Riley Sweeney

Citizen Journalist • Member since Aug 10, 2009

Riley Sweeney, raised in the Pacific Northwest, moved to Bellingham during the Bush years, worked on a cross-section of political campaigns during the Obama years, and then fled to the [...]

John Servais

Feb 27, 2015

Nice original thinking, Riley.  And it certainly reflects what we are seeing and reading these days as the campaigns kick in.  Appreciate your objective attitude towards the two parties, without going soft on the Democrats, even though you are one. 

No need for you to shy away from national politics.  This writing is another example of why you deserve the recognition of the Paul deArmond award.  And thanks for sharing this article on NWCitizen.

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Scott Wicklund

Feb 27, 2015

Neither the Jackass or the Elephant offer anything but bipartisan support for the 1%.  That explains why recent elections have had the lowest turnout since post Civil War reconstruction.  Let’s start a poll here to see how many support Riley’s thesis of optimism amid Obama’s push for more war, secret trade and arbitration pacts/scams, extensive offshoring of all types of work/jobs, throwing Single Payer affordable health care for all under the bus….  Etc…
Step up here and show us what you got!
From Mexico.

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Dick Conoboy

Feb 27, 2015

Riley,

The sad truth is that this discussion only has validity insofar as it demonstrates the bankrupt system.  Who does what to whom within or between parties is theater and the American public responds to theater be it MSNBC, Fox, Limbaugh, Colmes, Maddow,  NY Times, Washington Post, etc.  This can only be understood by grasping the fact that our government at all levels now marches to the beat of the oligarchic drum.  We even see that played out here on the local level when the developers get the pass and the tax breaks and play off one jurisdiction against another for favors.  And the money wins.

Chris Hedges writes, “Corporations have captured every major institution, including the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government, and deformed them to exclusively serve the demands of the market. They have, in the process, demolished civil society. Karl Polanyi in “The Great Transformation” warned that without heavy government regulation and oversight, unfettered and unregulated capitalism degenerates into a Mafia capitalism and a Mafia political system. A self-regulating market, Polanyi writes, turns human beings and the natural environment into commodities. This ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment. The ecosystem and human beings become objects whose worth is determined solely by the market. They are exploited until exhaustion or collapse occurs. A society that no longer recognizes that the natural world and life have a sacred dimension, an intrinsic value beyond monetary value, commits collective suicide. Such societies cannibalize themselves. This is what we are undergoing. Literally.”  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/a_society_of_captives_20141207

Therefore, these analyses of inter or intra party workings divert our attention from the reality of our situation and prevent us from focusing on the massive problem that confronts us.  I would direct readers here to your blog version of this article where in the comments Rick LaFave speaks to some of the reality.  http://sweeneypolitics.com/2015/02/26/how-the-party-treats-jeb-and-hillary-tells-you-everything/

We drift along thinking that some miracle, be it by prayer or audacious hope (how is that working for you?) or technology or some political savior, will wrest us from doom.  Not bloody likely.

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Barbara Perry

Mar 09, 2015

I am scared as hell of Hillary and her starting and continuing more wars if she gets in, but am now feeling hopeful about a democratic turn starting and coming out of Detroit in their upcoming election.  Let’s all hope the 1% guy doesn’t win.

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Dick Conoboy

Mar 09, 2015

Barbara,

Can you articulate for us the basis for your “hopeful feeling”?

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How the Party Treats Jeb and Hillary Tells You Everything

By Riley SweeneyOn Feb 26, 2015

I try to shy away from national politics but with the presidential campaigns beginning to heat up, I wanted to share these thoughts about Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush. First, [...]

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