Hillary Clinton’s Campaign is Running Leftward. Why?

Hillary Clinton’s campaign advisors must know something that we don’t. At a time when Republican representation in Congress, governor’s mansions, and state legislatures is at a high water mark—a sign of the enduring attractiveness of conservative thought—Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to leave behind any sense of moderation or centrism and dash leftward. Anne Gearan reports for the Washington Post:

Hillary Rodham Clinton is running as the most liberal Democratic presidential front-runner in decades, with positions on issues from gay marriage to immigration that would, in past elections, have put her at her party’s precarious left edge.

The moves are part of a strategic conclusion by Clinton’s emerging campaign: that it can harness the same kind of young and diverse coalition as Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012, bolstered by even stronger appeal among women. . .

The game plan also hinges on a conclusion by Clinton strategists that the broad appeal of issues such as paid family leave, a higher minimum wage and more affordable college will help outweigh any concerns about costs. And while the early liberal tilt focuses on domestic issues more likely to drive voters this cycle, Clinton will also have to win over liberal voters still skeptical of her hawkish reputation on foreign policy.

Clinton’s major problem is that she is being challenged on her left flank by deeply progressive potential candidates: Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Warren, who is about as far left as one can get without being labeled a socialist, and Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, have staked out an incredibly liberal position.

Warren, for instance, recently proposed raising the minimum wage to $22 per hour, $7 higher than even the fast food workers are asking for. This is absurd, not just because it’s an absolutely arbitrary number (why not go bold and move to a $50 minimum wage), but because it completely misunderstands basic economics. As Kevin Williamson writes for the National Review:

Right now, we are embroiled in a deeply, deeply stupid debate over whether to raise the statutory minimum wage to $15 an hour. (I write “statutory minimum wage” because the real minimum wage is always and everywhere $0.00 an hour, as any unemployed person can confirm for you.) Because everything in the economy is in reality priced relative to everything else, using the machinery of government to monkey around with the number of little green pieces of paper that attaches to an hour’s labor manning the register at 7-Eleven or taking orders at Burger King is, necessarily, an exercise in futility.

Or, take Sanders, who recently said that we don’t “need a choice of 23 underarm spray deodorants or of 18 different pairs of sneakers when children are hungry in this country.” The economic theory underlying that sentence (to the extent there is one) is so far off the reservation that it’s difficult to ascertain, but what I think he’s arguing is that free markets are irrational and do a poor job of allocating resources towards their “best” use. The problem with that thought is that there is nothing better than the free market at guiding resources to the proper place, at least according to the value that consumers give the good or service at the time, and there is probably nothing worse than a cadre of government bureaucrats attempting to assign some “rational” value or “best” use for resources.

Given that these economic flat-earthers are Clinton’s best known and most formidable challengers it makes sense that she has to shift to leftward if she wants to escape the primary unscathed. But at what cost? Peter Wehner hazards a guess for the New York Times:

In some respects, like gay rights, the nation is more liberal than it was two decades ago. On the other hand, it is more conservative today than it was in the mid-1990s. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Republicans have opened substantial leads over Democrats on dealing with terrorism, foreign policy and taxes. They’re competitive on the economy, and a good deal more competitive than in the past on traditional liberal issues like immigration and health care. Self-identified conservatives significantly outnumber self-identified liberals. . .

For demographic reasons, many Democrats believe that they are riding a tide of presidential inevitability. They may want to rethink that. They are placing a very risky bet that there are virtually no limits to how far left they can go.

Not only are there limits, but in many ways Democrats have already crossed them. That’s why Republicans have made such dramatic gains over the past six years. And if Democrats have any hope of rolling back those advances, they don’t need to run leftwards, they need to move towards the middle.