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Posted by on Apr 14, 2015 in 2016 Elections, 2016 Presidential Election, Featured, Politics | 17 comments

Is history finally on Hillary’s side?

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WASHINGTON — That was quick. Strike up “Happy Days Are Here Again” and cue the balloon drop. Better yet, Democrats could skip the whole primaries-and-convention thing and let Hillary Clinton get to work on picking a running mate.

Barring the political equivalent of an asteroid strike, it’s over. The slick video Clinton released Sunday was both campaign announcement and acceptance speech. I’m tempted to say the Democratic presidential nomination is hers to lose, but I have trouble imagining any plausible way she could lose it.

Martin O’Malley isn’t going to beat her. Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to run. Jim Webb? Please.

So if Clinton stumbles, who’s going to be in position to take advantage? It’s true that this is not the first time she has appeared to be the inevitable nominee. But it’s useful to recall how she lost in 2008. Barack Obama had more than charisma and his eloquence on the stump. He had a campaign team that invented new ways of mobilizing voters and laid out a detailed and ingenious state-by-state plan to win convention delegates. Clinton, arguably, didn’t so much get beaten as blindsided; by the time her people realized what was happening, Obama had opened an insurmountable lead.

If Clinton were to allow someone to do that again, she would deserve to lose. But while progressive organizations have done some organizing on behalf of Warren, they won’t get far without a candidate — and Warren has done nothing to indicate she will run. No one in the party is building a broad-based, grass-roots, nationwide presence except Clinton.

Can Clinton be “relatable” or “likable,” or however it is she’s supposed to seem? Again judging by 2008, she can.

I remember Clinton’s rallies leading up to the Iowa caucuses, when she was still in inevitability mode. She was stiff, cautious, scripted within an inch of her life — as if she were trying to protect a big lead and run out the clock. But after she finished third in Iowa, behind Obama and John Edwards, Clinton became a different candidate. In New Hampshire, she let herself appear open and vulnerable — and she won.

Later, when it was clear that her presidential bid would probably fall short, Clinton got even better. During the second half of the 2008 primary season, she was basically as good as Obama on the stump. History just wasn’t on her side.

Sunday’s campaign launch came in the form of a gauzy video featuring vignettes of families (white, black, Latino, gay, mixed) talking about the new ventures they are about to launch. After 90 seconds of such, Clinton appears and says that she has a new venture of her own — “I’m running for president” — and wants to be the champion of “everyday Americans” because “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.”

Conspicuously absent is a certain William Jefferson Clinton. I have a feeling, though, that he’ll show up eventually. Try as he might, he doesn’t do meek silence well.

After posting the video, Clinton changed the picture on her Twitter profile — so goes 21st-century campaigning — and set off to Iowa. But instead of taking a private jet, she and several aides piled into a van for a carefully choreographed road trip. During the 17-hour drive, she would have ample opportunity to interact with those “everyday Americans” she so desperately wants to fight for.

The choreographed launch was overthought, overproduced and, in the cosmic scheme of things, not terribly important in its details. Everyone already knew she was running. More important will be the answers she eventually gives to questions about specific issues, such as fixing income inequality and dealing with Iran.

Many in the progressive wing of the party consider Clinton too cozy with Wall Street and perhaps too willing to use U.S. military power. In the final analysis, however, I believe the GOP will help bring the Democratic Party together.

No sooner had Clinton announced than the Republican National Committee issued a statement saying she has “left a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed policies.” Other Republicans resumed the familiar Benghazi chant. It doesn’t take clairvoyance to predict that the anti-Clinton rhetoric will become more heated, more extreme and more personal. I don’t think anyone will be surprised if it becomes sexist as well.

My guess is that progressive Democrats will react to these attacks by rallying around their party’s certain nominee. This time, Clinton’s inevitability looks real. History may well be on her side for a change.

Eugene Robinson’s email address is [email protected] (c) 2015, Washington Post Writers Group


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  • JSpencer

    “My guess is that progressive Democrats will react to these attacks by rallying around their party’s certain nominee.”

    Of course they will, because the alternative would be unthinkable. Even so, concerns about her Wall St. connections and her hawkishness aren’t going to go away.

    • Well said–not a flawless candidate but miles better than the alternative.

      • Rambie

        I think my dirty socks are a better alternative than anyone the GOP’ers will nominate.

        • Will your dirty socks get us into more foolish wars?

          Will your dirty socks further rig the system to transfer wealth and power to a small plutocracy?

          Will your dirty socks further the agenda of the religious right in imposing their views upon us?

          If the answer to these no, then I would agree that your dirty socks are preferable to anyone the Republicans would nominate.

          • Rambie

            Maybe an assault on the olfactories if you get too close, but I don’t think a war is in the cards. However, you never know what cabinet members from the underwear drawer will recommend. πŸ˜‰

    • Definitely the lesser of two evils, but hopefully Democrats can do better, even though it looks difficult to stop Clinton from getting the nomination at this point.

    • Rambie

      If she stays personable enough, she’ll keep their votes. If she alienates the progressives too much they may not show up to vote.

      It’ll be up to –hopefully– her primary challengers to keep her hands to the fire on her Wall St links and hawkishness. But even her hawkishness is mild compared to the GOP’ers.

  • The_Ohioan

    Barring the political equivalent of an asteroid strike, finally, after 60 years of voting responsibly, I’m giving up on electing a decent president. This after voting twice for one of the best in decades – which now makes it all so much worse.

    To say Ms. Clinton is better than the alternative, given the alternative(s) are so far beyond reasonable, responsible, ethical, patriotic presidential material that anyone who votes for them must be complete dupes or politically suicidal, is no comfort at all. None.

    I resent, deeply resent, being put in the position of either voting for a secretive, unethical, and potentially future unlawful chief executive or allowing the Supreme Court to be burdened with a few more justices that have no conception of what equality under the law means.

    We have been told we get the government we deserve. How could we have gone so wrong? Sorry, count me out. We’re screwed no matter what choice we make if Ms. Clinton gets the nomination.

    I will, in the interest of retaining sanity, ignore all the “gates” coming from another Clinton presidency knowing I didn’t help precipitate them; though living with the financial losses coming from a Republican administration will not be pleasant, either.

    C’est la vie.

    • Rambie

      That’s the unfortunate attitude I feel will keep the progressives home come election day. It’s easy to say she’s better than the alternatives knowing what the GOP is today and who’s likely to seek their nomination. It’s a very low bar to jump, as I said, I think my dirty socks would make a better alternative to the GOP.

      • The_Ohioan

        Oh, I won’t stay home. I’ll vote for everyone I can feel confident about and maybe do a write-in for president. I’m not giving up my vote for anyone! πŸ™‚

        • Rambie

          Good, though I’d hate to see the race come down to another Bush-v-Gore result… /ugh

          • The_Ohioan

            If HRC is a great as her fans say, shouldn’t be a problem – unless it happens in FL again and Bush or Rubio is the candidate. πŸ™‚

            Anyway, if this is the best we can come up with, we might as well hang it up; we’re done until we can get responsible people into congress and the courts which is where I’m going to concentrate my time and money.

            If we can’t outvote the billionaires…..it was nice while it lasted.

          • I see a lot of screaming about Bush/Gore on Facebook. (I am not saying you are doing the same as these people–just that your comment brought up the topic).

            First, I think it is way too early to worry about this. A primary battle, if we actually have one, is going to bring out a lot of negative feelings about some candidates, especially when we have one such has Clinton who both has views out of step with the party base and has such ethical flaws. A general election campaign will change things. Most opponents of Clinton will wind up voting for her when given the contrast of Clinton versus the GOP nominee, even if we have to hold our noses.

            Plus keep the electoral college in mind. For most liberal Democrats in blue states, their state will not be up for grabs and it won’t matter if a small number of liberal Democrats decide against voting for Clinton. It only potentially matters if anti-Clinton Democrats fail to turn out to vote in the close battle ground states.

            I also think that Bush v. Gore is not the only comparison to keep in mind. A better comparison might be 2008. Many opponents of Clinton, including myself, backed Obama because he looked like the best chance of stopping Clinton and getting an acceptable candidate. It worked, and while the odds are against us, it might work again.

            After Obama clinched the nomination, there was a good bit of noise from the PUMAs who said they refused to vote for Obama, and were happy to let the Republicans win. This did not have any meaningful effect on the election outcome. Similarly there will be some who refuse to vote for Clinton if she gets the nomination in 2016, but it is not likely to change the winner. (Plus it is a safe prediction that if someone beats Clinton, some of her supporters will refuse to vote for them.)

            A bigger issue than people outright refusing to vote for Clinton might be a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the Democratic base. Turnout might be depressed as in 2014–but not as badly in a general as opposed to midterm election. I do fear that having Clinton on the top of the ticket could hurt Democratic candidates for Congress and at the state level. Donations and volunteers might be down from the base, but I don’t think that Clinton will suffer badly because of lack of funds.

            (In another post the topic came up of thinking of articles here as like writing a comment. I’m going to throw a copy of this comment into Evernote and keep it handy for next week when I’m on vacation. This could very easily be turned into a blog post for a day in which I’m not by the computer very long.)

          • Rambie

            Agreed it’s early to fear a Bush-v-Gore outcome to the election. But it’s on my mind, as is a disengaged Democratic electorate. The GOP’ers have long had a –seemingly– easy time drumming up their base to go vote that the Democrats never learned to copy. Yes, lies are easier to sell than the truth so advantage GOP’ers, but it’s essential that the Democrats learn how to energize their base again, ie: 2008.

            I too supported Obama over Clinton, because he was a charismatic and fresh face that did energize the party. Clinton is coming off as more personable this round but, as we can see here, that’s not necessarily “doing it” for the more liberal side of the party.

            (I’m on vacation starting tomorrow too, so I’ll see if some topic comes to mind to try my hand at writing an article. )

    • Rcoutme

      “How could we have gone so wrong?”

      Easy answer:

      “Any society that would give up a little liberty, in order to gain a little security, will deserve neither and lose both.” B. Franklin

      • The_Ohioan

        The actual quote is

        “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. ”

        and was, in context, a very real concern for safety – and all liberty.

        Not sure how this applies to our temporary political situation and this election. Maybe you could elaborate?

        I think his earlier quote

        “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.”

        is more applicable to our current crop of politicians – and to us as voters in this election (barring the political equivalent of an asteroid strike).

  • Slamfu

    I’ll bet $20 to anyone that Hillary Clinton doesn’t win the nomination πŸ™‚

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