Democrats and mainstream-media folk (I repeat myself) are measuring the drapes for the Hillary Clinton presidency. The “Is she or is she not inevitable?” argument has already grown tiresome. (Yes, she’s the most popular face in politics; no, she lost last time and is old. Zzzzzz.) More interesting is why so many on the left are rooting so strenuously for her.
After all, she was in favor of the Iraq war and never renounced her decision. (This contributed more than anything else to her 2008 primary loss.) Is that all hunky-dory now?
Showing the lack of courage that has characterized her entire political career, she managed to follow Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) in declaring her support for same-sex marriage.
And in urging military intervention in Libya, she was on the opposite side from the left.
So why do people now want to crown her president-in-waiting? A few things may be at play. For starters, there might be just a wee bit of guilt from a punditocracy that so openly rooted for her opponent in the 2008 primary. There is also the Dems’ insatiable need for a parade of identity candidates (African American, then woman, next Hispanic?).
But it is also the case that the Democratic Party has an incredibly weak bench. Compare Vice President Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (the only realistic alternatives mentioned by the Hillary hawkers) to the possible Republican contenders: Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio). (There are other credible GOP contenders I’ve missed, I am sure.) The non-Hillary choices for the Democrats match up pretty poorly against the GOP field. You could imagine just about any of those Republicans beating any of the non-Hillary nominees. (O’Malley vs. Christie? Cuomo vs. Rubio? You see the problem for the Dems.)
That, I think is the nub, of the Hillary rooting. The Democrats have struck pay dirt with elections about nothing other than the iconic status of their nominee. Years of Sen. Harry Reid’s commitment to doing nothing in the Senate squashed the profile of up-and-coming Democrats while Republicans have chased Democrats out of 30 governorships, leaving that well of candidates rather dry. So, fine, give it to Hillary. Besides, she was a good trooper.
The political sloth and sentimentality on the Democratic side doesn’t, however, explain why voters should prefer her in a general election over a GOP contender. It assumes she can get to the White House simply by virtue of being Hillary. It’s a very un-Democratic (yes, capital “D”) thing for a party that doesn’t tend to give the runner-up the prize next time and is constantly pushing the envelope for the newest, trendiest political phenomenon. But it does say a lot about the state of the Democratic Party post-Obama, and it should give Republicans reason for optimism.
A competitive Republican primary with an array of new faces (for most of the country), lively personalities and new agenda items offers the promise of engaging more voters and presenting the GOP as the party of the present and future. So if the Dems really want their coronation, the GOP should be delighted to run against the matron of their party.