Although we have yet to get past the 2014 midterm elections and really gear up for 2016, most of the talk thus far has centered on possible GOP candidates. The reason is simple: it is a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate. But before anyone counts their chickens here, some intervening factors need to be considered. The first is age. Most polls have Clinton winning handily over any potential Republican candidate. It is as if there is no need to even vote for President in 2016 since Clinton will trounce her opponent. It is possible that this calculus is being weighed by potential Republican rivals. But, consider the fact that should Clinton win in 2016, she will be 69 when sworn in. This would make her the second oldest at the date of Inauguration behind only Ronald Reagan. The question is whether the Democratic Party, which is increasingly drifting more leftward, would want a 69 year old standard bearer for the Party. And the problems, age-wise, only get worse from there. The next most viable Democratic candidate is current Vice President and sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease, Joe Biden. He would be 74 on Inauguration day which would shatter the record for the oldest president to be sworn in for a first term. Personally, if I were a young Democrat I would think twice about supporting Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. After that, all the other names are B-list candidates like claymation figure Andrew Coumo, ex- Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and the like. The fact remains that after Hillary Clinton the Democratic bench is rather thin. Unfortunately, the lead off hitter and star pitcher- Hillary- is old.
Will Clinton face a primary challenge? Already socialist Senator Bernie Sanders- a/k/a Ichabod Crane- has said he will run whether Clinton enters the race or not. Thus, if she runs she will face, as of now, token opposition. But it is still opposition. No one within the Democratic Party really takes the chances of Sanders all that seriously. However, the alternative- an uncontested primary- likely leads to complacency. Primaries are great ways for a candidate to hone their skills and prepare for the main event. It is true that mistakes can be and are made along the way. On the Democratic side, the proponent of the liberal mantra becomes a centrist after the convention and on the GOP side, the carrier of the conservative mantra becomes the centrist after their convention. Regardless, despite the pitfalls, primary opposition is generally a net positive for the eventual winner as it hones the message.
But, the Left is dying for a hero and the question is whether Hillary Clinton fits that bill. Although not her husband, the two are inextricably entwined politically. For everything he says now, President Clinton was hardly a darling of the Left. For example, they know that bank deregulation occurred on his watch which is something for which they blame the 2008-09 financial crisis. They know that he signed into law massive welfare reform which the Left portrays as “pushing single mothers into meaningless jobs.” They know that he was a major proponent of free trade agreements that provided no guarantees for the concerns of two key Democratic Party constituencies- organized labor and environmentalists. They know that he doubled down on the War on Drugs. In short, Bill Clinton was no poster boy for the Left. And although she was First Lady at the time, she was also a very high profile First Lady who did not disavow or talk badly then or now against the policies of her husband. And the Left is likely to see in Hillary the same basic political tendencies and ideologies present in and exhibited by her “centrist” husband. The Left sees these Clinton policies as the exact opposite of what they stand for. In fact,perhaps the only major Clinton policy they may agree upon is Oval Office Oral Sex.
This is the reason so many today on the Left are touting Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren as a viable alternative to Hillary Clinton. In her, they see the embodiment of what the Left stands for in most key areas: pro-choice, for gay rights, anti-banking sector, for gun control, public schools over private, green technology, amnesty for illegal immigrants, and free trade agreements based on unionized labor and environmental concerns. Unlike Clinton, she has been steadfast in these areas and unapologetic for her stances and unlikely to drift to the center in order to garner independent votes. In short, she would represent a stark alternative to anyone the GOP could offer up, even the most moderate Republican. The question is whether she would run. Most likely, if Clinton were to decide NOT to run, Warren may feel compelled to do so. But, if Clinton does run, I cannot see Warren upsetting the apple cart. The fact remains that the Left is not necessarily enamored with Hillary Clinton as their standard-bearer although they would likely hold their noses and cross their fingers because to them the alternative- a Republican president in 2016- is the worse of two choices.
Another reason to consider opting out in 2016 for Clinton is 2008. Simply, her campaign was outflanked and out-maneuvered at virtually every turn by the Obama campaign. It is doubtful that she would use the same campaign management team, although even that is not out of the question. Why? Because (1) there is the possibility that no viable primary opposition will be present thus the dynamics of winning delegates will be decidedly different and (2) the patented Clinton loyalty to old hands. It would be difficult for a Hillary Clinton to tell her losing 2008 campaign team: “Nice try in 2008 guys, but I am going with someone else this time out.” Whether they make the same mistakes as 2008 or not, especially in a general election campaign, is the million dollar question. Forget about their performance in a nomination process where there is no competition.
Of course the one reason that most conservatives cite is the baggage that Clinton would carry into a presidential campaign. There are many questions that would resurface from her time as First Lady and although admittedly old history one would be foolish if these things would not be mentioned in a campaign. Simply, Hillary would carry a lot of baggage into that campaign and not all of it is good. As recent events illustrate, when Clinton left the office of Secretary of State, the world has become less safe and more tumultuous. Part of this is because of the Obama foreign “policy” which she helped devise and deliver. Then there is the entire Benghazi tragedy which, two years later, we still do not know the full story. A White House directed “cover up”and shifting of blame to a video- two things the State Department was part of with Clinton at the helm- is but one aspect of the story. But there remains the questions of why the ambassador was in Benghazi and why the State Department, under Clinton, did not respond to requests for additional security. Placing blame on Republican budget cuts four or five years after the fact will fall on deaf ears. And any sane GOP opponent would be well-advised to replay her “What difference does it make” shriek before Congress in a campaign commercial.
Politico recently had an article on Clinton where the author interviewed several Clinton associates. They all came to the conclusion that she is truly undecided about running at this point. There are whispers, since confirmed by recently released papers from the Clinton archives, that Hillary still believes in a vast “right wing conspiracy” against her and her husband. As part of that conspiracy is that contingent of the press not enamored and star-struck by Hillary Clinton. She realizes that a presidential run will dredge up old stories from her days in the White House where she was a First Lady with national policy implications. She was a rather so-so Senator and an even more so-so Secretary of State. Between questions like Monica Lewinsky, Hillarycare, “the right wing conspiracy” victimization ploy, and Benghazi the biggest question for her is whether she wants to subject herself and her family to this heightened scrutiny by the press- mainstream or not.
When Clinton resigned from the State Department, one thing that struck this writer was how much older and, yes, more haggard she looked than in 2009. Clearly, being in the public spotlight since 1991 has taken its toll on her. My initial reaction was that she should remain in retirement, help administer the Clinton Foundation, and tend to her daughter’s aspirations. My initial reaction was that Hillary wished to be a grandmother more than the next the president. That is the final consideration- her personal life now. With Chelsea’s pregnancy, she will become a grandmother. Bill Clinton remains in the spotlight as a “power broker” and speaker. Hillary can do the same, make more money while drawing less press scrutiny upon herself and her family. She can parse her words less in public life than as a candidate for president which, in turn, would make her a more powerful voice in the Democratic Party. And if nothing else, the will to power is evident among the Clintons.
In the end, given the pros and cons of a run, perhaps the words of another First Lady, Barbara Bush, are more on point here. To paraphrase: “In a Nation of over 300 million people, can’t we consider someone whose last name is not Clinton or Bush?” America has a traditional aversion to political royalty and that may be the final blow to a possible Clinton candidacy.