Belmont Club

Avoiding the Unthinkable

Rarely has there been such a mismatch in raw talent, creativity and energy as between the opposing sides going into the 2016 election.  The Republican side — whether one approves of them or not — has a new generation of leaders: Jindal, Paul, Fiorina, Rubio, Cruz, Walker to name some.  Even their supporting cast can boast of the likes of Paul Ryan and Tom Cotton.  By contrast the Democratic Party only has tired old Hillary Clinton and perhaps Elizabeth Warren.

Yet Jamelle Bouie of Slate believes Clinton is the Democrat’s “indispensable candidate” — “more vital to the future of the Democratic Party than even Democrats realize”.  They need her and they need her bad. He advances two reasons in support of this conclusion.  Hillary alone has a chance of winning and she must win in order to preserve the gains of the Obama era and second, only Hillary the figurehead can hold together a Democratic party seriously split by Obama’s shift to the Left.

while his legislative agenda has long since stalled, he’s made ample use of executive authority to protect his core accomplishment—the Affordable Care Act—and advance priorities in immigration, climate change, and civil rights. But none of that will stand if Democratic Party can’t win in 2016. … their national strength could collapse as the country swings to the Republican Party. …

the president [Obama] presides over a divided party. One wing, personified by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, is furious with Obama’s relationship to Wall Street, his penchant for compromise, and his willingness to always take a half loaf—to rarely take a stand against his ideological opponents.

The other wing is the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It’s content with the progress of the Obama administration and more interested in protecting its gains from a radical-minded Republican Party than expanding the possible of liberal politics.

They wanted a president who would speak to their concerns, who would reverse the Bush years and usher in a new progressive era. …

Clinton’s strength—her influence across the breadth of the Democratic Party—is a unifying force. Polls make it clear that almost every constituency in the party, from liberals and blue dogs to black Americans and working-class whites, is ready for her candidacy. The ideological divide in the Democratic coalition—the fight between Wall Street–friendly Democrats in the center and populist Democrats on the left—is dampened by her presence, not because of any sudden love or affection, but because the various factions see Clinton as the key to keeping the White House and saving the gains of the Obama administration from a far right—and come 2016, restless—Republican Party. It’s no surprise that the bulk of the Democratic Party machinery has fallen behind Clinton. Given the stakes, no one wants open warfare.

I will add a third reason for the necessity of a Clinton victory, which Bouie diplomatically fails to mention. Hillary must win the Oval Office to sign the pardons which will be required and stall the investigations that are sure to crop up if a Republican wave engulfs both the White House and Capitol Hill.

But in any case Hillary has become the last remaining hope that Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again. The degree to which her healing presence is required is underscored by a Haaretz article, which argues that Hillary is needed to bring Jewish voters back into the Democratic fold.   She must haul back Jewish voters who have been tossed overboard by the incumbent. “American Jews overwhelmingly vote Democrat, except when the presidential candidate is viewed as unsympathetic to Israel.”  That means a face from the good old Clinton years.

She must function like a monarch, a unifying figurehead who will keep all the Big Tent’s identity groups from ripping each other’s guts out over the last remaining piles of other people’s money. The Slate article concludes, “to underscore the Democrats’ plight, as a thought experiment, imagine if Clinton didn’t run.” Bouie then describes a scene of apocalyptic desolation, concluding in the critical observation that for some unaccountable reason the party “has a shocking lack of new talent”, making Hillary the last hope.

Then the Democrats would have a problem. Well, two problems. First, as previously mentioned, the ideological fights in the party would spill out into the open. The unity created by Clinton would fall apart, as centrist Democrats fought to retain their influence and liberal Democrats fought to displace it. In this world, you might see a Warren candidacy, and you’d certainly see efforts from the handful of Democratic politicians with ambitions in 2016….

One of the real problems of the Democratic Party, both for 2016 and looking forward, is the extent to which it lacks a bench of nationally viable leaders. It’s not just that, if Clinton didn’t run, Democrats would have to choose from a group of unknown and unfamiliar faces. It’s also that—across all offices—the party has a shocking lack of new talent.

Bouie is exactly right except for the modifier “new”. The Democratic Party has a shocking lack of any talent period. And that includes the incumbent president, most of his principal officers and Hillary herself. As Carly Fiorina has repeatedly asked, what has Hillary Clinton ever accomplished? It’s a question to which no satisfactory answer can be found. It is as elusive as the president’s school transcripts. The depth of Hillary’s ineptitude was underscored in a book by former British diplomat Emma Sky.

A former British diplomat has accused Hillary Clinton of contributing to Iraq’s disastrous meltdown during her four years as Barack Obama’s foreign policy chief.

Emma Sky, who served as an adviser to one of the top US commanders in Iraq, claims in a new book that Mrs Clinton operated a “dysfunctional” diplomatic mission to Baghdad that allowed a lapse back into sectarian warfare after elections in 2010….

While the demand for a speedy drawdown from Iraq was driven primarily by Mr Obama himself, Mrs Clinton is accused of appointing an incompetent US ambassador to Baghdad, Chris Hill, who had little experience of the region and held its people in contempt.

That then paved the way for Washington to be outmanoeuvred by Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who was able to grab a second term in office despite fears that he was a sectarian dictator in the making.

The book also claims that the US-vice president, Joe Biden, showed little interest in Iraq’s political complexities, making oafish comparisons between its sectarian civil war and Britain’s historic tensions with Ireland.

Thanks to Mr Obama’s hasty pull-out at the end of 2011, Ms Sky says, hard-won opportunities for a lasting peace in Iraq after the war to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003 were squandered.

“That war – and the manner in which the United States left it behind in 2011 – shifted the balance of power in the region in Iran’s favour,” she writes. “Regional competition… exacerbated existing fault-lines, with support for extreme sectarian actors, including the Islamic State, turning local grievances over poor governance into proxy wars.”

This shocking lack of talent arises precisely from the “gains” which  Jamelle Bouie celebrates.  It is the consequence of what he wishes so ardently to preserve.  The Party has been taken over by a system which systematicaly rewards mediocrity and blind ideological conformity over sanity.  Unsurprisingly it  finds its ranks peopled with nonentities and hacks.

Hillary, a mediocrity herself, is not expected to change things, only provide the party with a temporary lease on life should she win the White House.   The diagnosis is still terminal, but the hope is that Clinton can provide dialysis for four, perhaps eight years.

And despite her defects, a Hillary victory is entirely possible.  She is preparing to spend $2.5 billion dollars in her campaign, or about $38 a voter to gain the Oval Office.  If that astronomical amount proves insufficient, more money will be added to the effort on the well proven engineering principle that “given enough thrust even a barn door can fly”.  And Hillary must fly, whatever it takes because as Jamelle Bouie put it, the alternative for the progressive cause is unthinkable.

It will mean the day of reckoning will finally arrive and nobody wants that.

From a certain point of view the least disruptive thing the Republicans can do is let her win.  Before the end Democratic pundits may make the argument that the patriotic thing to do is “give way to Hillary” to avoid “dividing the nation”. The current Democratic party needs four more years of  power the way an addict needs a fix.  That Hillary should be considered indispensable is proof of how desperate the need is.

‘Where was it.’ Raskolnikov thought, as he walked on, ‘where was it that I read of how a condemned man, just before he died, said, or thought, that if he had to live on some high crag, on a ledge so small that there was no more than room for his two feet, with all about him the abyss, the ocean, eternal night, eternal solitude, eternal storm, and there he must remain, on a hand’s-breadth of ground, all this life, a thousand years, through all eternity– it would be better to live so, than die within the hour? Only to live, to live! No matter how–only to live!’

— Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

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