We found out yesterday that John Podesta, former President Bill Clinton’s final White House Chief of Staff and current Counselor to President Obama, is Hillary Clinton’s new campaign chairman. Podesta is very capable, but is he fresh or new? Will he inject the Clinton campaign with a shot of adrenaline? Sorry, but no.
The Clinton Foundation’s annual gala in March will be closely watched — if not absolutely celebrated — as a de facto campaign kick-off event. And who did the Clintons choose to set the tone for the event as a special musical guest? None other than Carole King, a 1970s flower child. Like me, you may be thinking, well, who doesn’t like “Tapestry?” But that’s the point. You have to be in the neighborhood of 60-plus to remember that album; otherwise, chances are you need to consult Google or Wikipedia to even know who Carole King is. Does Hillary really need to remind people of her tie-dye years? Where’s Meghan Trainor when you need her? Carole King and John Podesta just aren’t all about that bass.
And Clinton, who famously leaves nothing to chance while traveling, made only one individual campaign appearance for a House member: for Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who prides himself on being a vintage “Clinton Democrat.” During the rally, Maloney not only played former President Bill Clinton’s old campaign theme song, he “closed his speech with language Bill Clinton took national in 1991,” prompting Hillary Clinton to praise Maloney for emphasizing Bill Clinton’s old message. Granted, Maloney did end up winning his election — albeit with less than fifty percent of the vote. But does that really suggest Hillary Clinton should embrace the old “Clinton Democrat” classification as her own rallying cry in 2016?
As former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said in a relatively obvious criticism of Hillary Clinton, “If someone wants to run a campaign about 90s nostalgia, it’s not going to be very successful.” Of course I’m not blind to the fact that Jeb is yet another Bush circling the Republican nomination, but at least he has competition within the GOP ranks.
Actually, this might not be a problem specific to Hillary Clinton: The Democratic Party may have a systemic problem of being unable to make a generational change. In the 2014 midterm elections, the Democrats’ star candidates were generational retreads (most of whom, by the way, lost their elections): Michelle Nunn, Alison Lundergan Grimes and Jason Carter, to name but a few. The Democrats’ trophy gubernatorial candidate in 2014, who went down in flames, was Charlie Crist in Florida — a former Republican governor. Not to mention, Democratic anchor state New York is currently led by Governor Andrew Cuomo — the son of the late Mario Cuomo, who was governor through the 1980s and into the 90s. And California’s governor, Jerry Brown, should be the grandson of the Jerry Brown who was elected governor in 1974 – except it’s the same person. With the exception of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is anyone new really energizing the Democratic party?
I know the conventional wisdom is that the Republicans are in a death spiral of changing demographics and are facing a formidable liberal coalition, but it is hard to remember that when you look at who the Democratic candidates are and who is ultimately winning elections.