The irony of the “hope and change” president refusing to change is not lost on the GOP. More important, conservatives should hope the epidemic of denial infects the entire Democratic Party. That would pose a series of challenges for Hillary Clinton:
If the voters did not reject the president, what did they intend by voting in a wave of Republicans in the Senate, House, governorships and state legislatures?If the voters no longer buy the “war on women,” what does that do to Clinton’s main selling point, her gender identity?Does the Democratic Party, led by septuagenarians Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and an “inevitable” nominee who will be 69 years old in 2016, have a generational problem in comparison with a GOP brimming with fresh under-50 faces such as Cory Gardner, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, Kelly Ayotte, Joni Ernst, Ben Sasse, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, etc.? (Before people get huffy about the issue, recall how the Obama team presented Obama as the youthful alternative to Sen. John McCain.)How is Clinton’s agenda and mindset any different from Obama’s?Will she blame Obama for the plethora of international woes?
As for the last point, there is some justification for personalizing failure: “Aloof from his own party and cabinet appointees at home, his relations with international leaders have always been cool and in some cases (like those important relationships as with [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan in Turkey or [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu in Israel) have deteriorated profoundly. (And let’s be candid: It doesn’t help much when you have staffers calling key allies ‘chickens—,’ either.)” But slamming the president did not go down well with core Democratic constituencies. The problem remains: Will Clinton acknowledge what has gone wrong and insist on course correction in an area of her supposed expertise?
In sum, Clinton must decide whether she is going to be as delusional and defiant about the state of the Democratic Party as Obama is, and whether she is going to therefore run as a continuation of an administration and party roundly rejected even in blue and purple states. Like the party she hopes to lead, she has been coasting on her reputation for years and reiterating the same platitudes for 30 years. What is uncertain is whether she is more self-reflective and more willing to entertain diverse viewpoints than her husband.
There is no path to the presidency for Clinton that does not include states such as Colorado and Iowa, where Republicans won big this year — let alone blue states such as Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin — which all elected innovative Republican governors who have new things to say and new reforms to tout. Perhaps she can rely on the same micro-targeting and ground game that dragged Obama across the finish line against an opponent of limited political skills. That victory, however, depended upon the GOP playing to type as the party purely of business owners and of clueless rich guys. Maybe Clinton will get lucky and run against the 21st-century incarnation of Barry Goldwater in the form of one of two right-wing freshman gadflies. However, judging from the GOP’s ability to pick competitive general-election candidates this year, that is quite a gamble.
As the GOP becomes harder to typecast, it becomes harder to think of Clinton as the future of a major political party and a movement that likes to think of itself as progressive. What exactly is she progressing toward and how is she going to get there? It is a function of how dreary the prospect of two years of a Clinton campaign seems that 65-year old, 1960s-style leftist Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appears to be the more contemporary of the two. Right now she sure is the more interesting of the pair.