Reflections on a Recent Report

Photo by Commons Dune | CC BY 2.0

“She Doesn’t Have Any Policy Positions”

On the Friday after the Chicago Cubs won the World Series and prior to the Tuesday on which the vicious racist and sexist Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, Bernie Sanders spoke to a surprisingly small crowd in Iowa City on behalf of Hillary Clinton.  As I learned months later, Sanders told one of his Iowa City friends that day that Mrs. Clinton was in trouble. The reason, Sanders reported, was that Hillary wasn’t discussing issues or advancing real solutions. “She doesn’t have any policy positions,” Sanders said.

The first time I heard this, I found it hard to believe.  How, I wondered, could anyone run seriously for the presidency without putting issues and policy front and center? Wouldn’t any serious campaign want a strong set of issue and policy positions to attract voters and fall back on in case and times of adversity?

Sanders wasn’t lying. As the esteemed political scientist and money-politics expert Thomas Ferguson and his colleagues Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen note in an important study released by the Institute for New Economic Thinking two months ago, the Clinton campaign “emphasized candidate and personal issues and avoided policy discussions to a degree without precedent in any previous election for which measurements exist….it stressed candidate qualifications…[and] deliberately deemphasized issues in favor of concentrating on what the…

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