Populism for Plutocrats

Feature: Hagan and Hillary decry negative tone of campaign while smearing GOP

October 27, 2014

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Shortly before Kay Hagan took the stage at the Charlotte Convention Center on Saturday, the loudspeakers blared Bruce Springsteen’s aptly titled Democratic Party theme song "We Take Care of Our Own."

In recent weeks, Hagan’s campaign has stumbled amid revelations that companies owned by her husband, son, and future son-in-law, benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funding as part of the 2009 stimulus package, which Hagan supported. She took care of her own.

The appearance of cronyism was so embarrassing for Hagan that she opted to skip her final debate with Republican Thom Tillis rather than confront the charges in public.

In an effort to punch back against this unfavorable narrative, Hagan called in the most populist, anti-cronyist figure she could find: Hillary Clinton.

Hagan opened by invoking a line from the official North Carolina toast, imagining a world "Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great." It would be hard to find two politicians who better embody the second part of that statement than Kay Hagan and Hillary Clinton, the latter of whom has parlayed her political power into millions of dollars on the corporate public speaking circuit. Meanwhile, the Hagan-Clinton security team showed its strength by denying access to filmmakers and manhandling protesters.

Hillary nodded along with animatronic precision before taking up where Hagan left off, decrying the "onslaught of outside spending and negativity" on the Republican side. It is a charge Democrats continue to make with a straight face, despite the fact that the Center for Responsive Politics reports outside groups have spent almost $30 million in North Carolina attacking Republicans, compared to just $17 million spent attacking Democrats.

The argument on display during Saturday's rally was twofold. First, the Democrats argued Tillis, the Republican Party, and all those nasty outside spenders are running a campaign based on fear. Secondly, they claimed that if Tillis wins, American women will be stripped of basic human rights and confined to forced-labor camps for the rest of their lives, echoing the message of a recent Democratic ad claiming that Tillis’s "horrifying" record proves "he doesn’t care about women."

Hillary, who spoke for several minutes about why having a granddaughter makes her think long and hard about the future, sounded the alarm by suggesting that the United States might be on the verge of become a third-world autocracy. "Women's rights are the canary in the mine," she said. "If you don't protect women's rights here at home and around the world, everybody's rights are lost."

The crowd, which was pretty underwhelming given Hillary’s superstar status, ate it up. Attendees booed lustily at every mention of Thom Tillis and the GOP, and answered calls to bring their friends to the polls on Election Day. "Tell them to vote their hopes, not their fears," Clinton said. "Tell them to votes their dreams. Tell them to vote for Kay Hagan for the United States Senate."