By Greg Smith
Why is anyone suddenly surprised the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is not sitting on a silver platter in the DNC headquarters with a “Property of Hillary Clinton” note on it?
When Clinton, from a then reliably Democratic Arkansas, wanted to run for Senate in 2000 she had to go to super-liberal New York to do it. A college basketball player working out on a Dunk Hoop would hardly impress NBA scouts. And going into the 2008 primaries Clinton was the odds-on favorite of Democrats, with all the name recognition, connections and fundraising potential a candidate could possibly hope to have. She went on to lose the nomination to a nobody. How has anyone taken her seriously since?
More damaging to her chances are the 20-plus years of her on the national stage. To put it mildly, she has baggage. In 1993 while pushing for her own version of health care reform Clinton was questioned about how the proposal would obviously harm millions of small American businesses and responded, “I can’t be responsible for every under-capitalized business.”
In 1959 Mao Zedong ordered large amounts of food exported from China to earn hard currency to pay for the Great Leap Forward, starving tens of millions to death. “When there is not enough to eat people starve to death. It is better to let half of the people die so that the other half can eat their fill.”
Sounding a little more humane than Mao isn’t much of a campaign strategy. Incidentally, why do the people in charge who want to make an omelet always insist on breaking someone else’s eggs?
This past October Clinton said – out loud – “And don’t let anybody, don’t let anybody tell you, that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs. You know, that old theory, trickle-down economics. That has been tried. That has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”
An aide tried to say Clinton’s meant giving tax breaks to businesses doesn’t help create jobs and Clinton herself tried to add context, but even the explanations didn’t alter the meaning of what Clinton said. She actually believes higher tax rates do not impact a business’ ability to compete or create jobs. A presidential candidate who tried to defend that idea would simply lack credibility with most independent voters.
Clinton’s record as secretary of state is similarly punctuated by notable naivety like the ‘reset’ button on relations with Russia. She and President Obama pushed the notion President Bush was a cowboy packing pearl-handled diplomacy that soured U.S.-Russo relations. Five years on and Russia has annexed a part of Ukraine and is still there fighting a proxy war. Obama has even resorted to mocking Russian life expectancy and as a nation that “doesn’t make anything.”
Since she lost in 2008 Clinton has been considered the favorite for the next open ticket the Democratic Party had to offer. The reason is simple: The Democratic Party is light on talent and has been since the turn of the century. One only need look at Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi to see how shallow the DNC’s bench is.
Their politics aside, Pelosi and Reid are train wrecks. The lack of cooperation in Congress is a two-way street, but these two have done as much as anyone to poison the well of bipartisanship with their incessant rhetorical attacks. The fact that after two historic drubbings in just three elections Pelosi and Reid are going to keep their leadership positions shows the paucity of political talent on the Democrat’s roster.
Democrats will shortly be down to 44 senators, and nearly all of them are either pretty liberal – Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer – with no chance at winning the White House or have no name recognition and no accomplishments. One of the few otherwise electable Senate Democrats is Robert P. Casey, Jr. D-PA. He is from an important battleground state, personable and likeable and somewhat moderate. But Casey is pro-life which means he has no chance at being considered for the top ticket, even as vice-president, because the next president will most likely nominate at least three supreme court justices, and if re-elected could nominate six or seven. The next kook who jumps the fence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has a better shot at making it into the White House than Casey.
Bill Nelson D-FL is another Democrat from a populous state with a track record and who manages to connect with the political middle. Michael Bennet D-CO has been called a rising star within the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, these two and all of their cohorts have one fatal flaw: They either voted for Obamacare or to maintain it since it first passed. After 2014, Democrats should be quite hesitant to bet the presidency on the electability of anyone who voted for the ACA.
Democrats also must privately recognize they elected a man whose charisma did not make up for his considerable lack of executive experience. Obama has shown almost no willingness or ability to work with others even within his own party. He demands others give him what he wants, and if they don’t he complains and fundraises; hardly an example of successful presidential leadership.
Having a nominee whose fingerprints are not on the ACA and who has shown leadership skill is why the next Democratic presidential nominee is going to be a governor. If Democrats are smart, their next presidential nominee will be from a GOP-leaning state where the governor had to work with opponents to get anything accomplished.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is one of the very few Democrats with a moderate track record and experience working with Republicans. When not running excessively liberal candidates Democrats have historically had traction in the Midwest, a region generally important in deciding presidential elections because it can go either way.
The reason Clinton lost in 2008 and will lose any election that isn’t heavily stacked in her favor is because she has high negative approval ratings. If 40 percent of the people would crawl through glass to vote against you it leaves very little wiggle room in the electoral math. She has specialized in being a polarizing figure, which makes her great at fundraising, great at drawing attention, and lousy at winning national elections.
With President Obama left on the sidelines, Bill and Hillary Clintons acted as surrogates on the midterm campaign trail. According to a list compiled by ABC News, of the 24 Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton campaigned for or with since September 9, 14 lost including the candidates for governor in Massachusetts, Maryland and Michigan. Practicing on a Dunk Hoop won’t get you ready for Lebron.
Nixon has said he wants Clinton to run, but if she doesn’t he’d consider a run himself. Over the next year watch for stories of the whisper campaign against Clinton as more Democrats recognize they need a fresh start, and a fresh face.
Clinton went into the 2008 primaries as a heavy favorite and lost, which shows how difficult it is to predict presidential elections years in advance. Still, given the rare circumstances Democrats face I would give Nixon a 40% chance at the Democratic nomination – perhaps with Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the ticket to satisfy Hillary supporters — which is at least 10 times greater than the odds Clinton herself merits.
Hillary can take heart in the fact the two major parties make foolish, ideologically driven choices with such regularity that nothing can be ruled out. ©
Greg Smith is a freelance writer and political consultant who lives in Bantam, CT. His blog is found at www.betterfatthanfascist.com.