I could stand up here and say, 'Let's just get everybody together, Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing. And everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.' Maybe I've just lived a little long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and have the special interests disappear.And recently, talking to Black Lives Matter activists, she said:
I don’t believe you change hearts. I believe you change laws, you change allocation of resources, you change the way systems operate. You’re not going to change every heart. You’re not.This creates a real problem for her as a candidate, because she won't tell voters what they want to hear.
Personally I paid very little attention to Obama's "hope and change" rhetoric back in 2008; I supported him because he opposed the Iraq War and because I admire his calm, persistent, hyper-rational approach to governing. I discovered only later that millions of apparently sane Democrats really thought he could deliver some kind of radical change and were severely disappointed when he didn't. Hillary must have laughed bitterly over that.
Now Hillary faces the same dynamic in her race against Bernie Sanders. Sanders is telling liberals what they want to hear: we can have single-payer health insurance, we can banish big money from politics, we can make the country work for the little guy. We can have a peaceful revolution. Hillary doesn't believe any of that and refuses to lie about it. She believes that in the current American political climate even small progressive victories will come only after intense effort and bitter conflict.
The difference this time is, first, that the Iraq War has lost its salience among Democratic voters; second, Sanders is in some ways just a much less appealing candidate than Obama was; and third, many Democratic activists are not falling for the revolutionary hype this time:
In mid-2014, Noam Scheiber tracked down 10 former Iowa precinct captains for Barack Obama and asked whom they were supporting in 2016. The answer? Overwhelmingly, they were backing Hillary Clinton — the very candidate they had worked so hard to beat in 2008. Seven of the 10 ex-Obama organizers told him they'd become "enthusiastic" Clinton supporters, and an eighth said she was "slowly coming around."Which is part of why I still expect Hillary to win.
The reassessment of Hillary Clinton was driven in part by the disillusionments of the Obama years. "Watching the system not change really made an impact on these people," Scheiber told me. "I don't think they want to get burned again."