October 7, 2013

One unintended consequence of the Republicans’ intransigence on fiscal matters is that they are making it easier and easier for their bête noire, Hillary Clinton, to win the presidency.

Hillary Rodham Clinton (Matt Rourke/AP)
Hillary Rodham Clinton (Matt Rourke/AP)

Whatever the outcome of the latest display of our dysfunctional political system, its aftermath will likely reverberate throughout the next two election cycles. Barring a “grand” resolution of the debt and budget impasse, more centrist voters, who determine presidential elections, are going to look desperately for a candidate who offers the best hope of ending gridlock. Hence, Clinton’s opportunity. The partisan centrifugal forces in both parties give her the perfect foil, and evidence suggests she has already seized this opportunity.

In a recent speech at Hamilton College, Clinton began to assert her centripetal political force. Today’s politicians, Clinton said, are risking the country “to pursue their own agendas,” too willing to choose “scorched earth over common ground.” The better path, said Clinton, is that “we are going to look at the facts. We are going to roll up our sleeves. We are going to solve our problems together.”

The potency in this otherwise bland rhetoric lies in its contrast to the status quo. “Hope” and “change” weren’t exactly original ideas either, but they served as a powerful antidote to the Bush years. Americans often choose their next president the way they choose their next partner or lover: Find the opposite. The stale stasis of the Beltway is a strong incubator for the Clinton candidacy. It gives her what she sorely needs: a way of framing the Clinton era as a time of progress, despite deep partisanship. She already had the money and the woman thing going for her. Now the Republicans have given her the third leg of her candidacy: a message.