Belmont Club

Democrats Have No Choice But to Continue With Hillary

In popular memory, Churchill reacted to the humiliating loss of HMS Hood by signaling the Home Fleet: “I don’t care how you do it, you must sink the Bismarck.”

In view of the need to retrieve the prestige of the Royal Navy, every warship in hail was mobilized:

[Even] the old Revenge-class battleship HMS Ramillies was detached from convoy duty southeast of Greenland and ordered to set a course to intercept Bismarck if she should attempt to raid the sea lanes off North America.

Similarly, when Hillary Clinton’s campaign suffered a near-catastrophic disaster when she collapsed at a 9/11 ceremony shortly after describing a large section of the American public as “deplorable,” every major Democratic political figure put to campaign sea to salvage the situation. Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and even Clinton’s husband, the former president, took to the hustings as surrogates with Bill reprising the role of the aged Ramillies.

With the fate of so many interests at stake, it is as if Hillary must make the Oval Office, even if her surrogates have to carry her through the door. Unfortunately for the DNC, unless Hillary is replaced only she can sink the enemy in electoral combat. The British could at least mourn the Hood and move on. But Hillary was towed to drydock, which poses its own set of problems. For even if one could raise her, the “Mighty Hood” would still have the irremediable material defects which made her a floating bomb.

In the light of the Denmark Strait experience, a hypothetically raised Hood could only ever be employed inside her immunity zone, where her deck armor would not be vulnerable to plunging fire and her belt armor still proof against flat trajectory shots. Otherwise, the same result would likely occur over and over again. Since the Hillary scheduled to leave the yards is essentially the same woman that went in, the same considerations apply.

All future public exposure is likely to be very carefully managed so that shelter from prying cameras is never more than a very few steps away. If any lesson was likely to be learned from her 9/11 meltdown, it is that Hillary should never be allowed to venture too far from the Scooby-Doo van to get undercover quickly.

But getting candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the November 2016 election is a different proposition from getting president Hillary Clinton to the end of her term. The DNC will offload her in a few months, after which the liability presently carried on the books of the Democratic Party will be transferred to the voters for the duration of her term. It’s a substantial risk, and the premium will be “priced into” U.S. foreign and domestic policy.

The obvious question to ask is why the Democrats simply don’t replace her.

Why raise the Hood and not, as was the case in 1941, send the newer ships after the Bismarck? The answer — and a similar one can be constructed for Trump — is that they can’t. Washington is now beset by a bane once exclusively associated with monarchies and authoritarianisms. Washington has a succession problem that has been growing for some time. This is astonishing for a system which once surprised Adolf Hitler by taking Franklin Roosevelt’s death in stride.

It has become unaccountably fragile for reasons that are not hard to understand. The thinning bench of the Democratic Party, the replacement of a broad national consensus by a crazy quilt of identical political issues, the weakening of constitutional constraints, and the rule of law in favor of cults of personality have all contributed to make the system unpredictable. It is no longer the constitutionally constrained system of former times, but one dependent on the caprice and health of individual human beings. It has become like the USSR America laughed at in its last days, with Kremlin watchers eagerly waiting to see if Brezhnev could stagger to the podium without assistance.

Suddenly the politically easy things become hard. These are signs, like Hillary’s falls, of something progressively degenerative. The poverty of the presidential field is suggestive of seizure: despite the seething activity of millions of individual American who know something’s wrong all the political system can inarticulately utter is “Hillary” or “Donald.” It is almost as if the nation itself were standing beside the Scooby-Doo van of the history, helpless, waiting to be lifted by events to whatever awaited.

In a fundamental sense events are in a contingent phase, where luck will play a big part.

Cass Sunstein once observed that Democratic presidents could count on being “lucky” — being elected in times of prosperity following someone else’s administration. Hillary will not have that advantage thanks to Barack Obama.  She comes at a moment when the world is aflame and the nation is divided. If, to paraphrase Lefty Gomez, you have to be lucky when you aren’t good, then this time America had better be lucky, because it has no reasonable expectation of good.

It is sometimes the case, though few analysts care to admit it, when it is simply impossible to objectively predict the prior probability of an event. We peer into the crystal ball but it remains silent. In the choice between the candidates, some supporters of Hillary — though well aware of her flaws — have persuaded themselves she is the lesser risk than Donald. The same reasoning is probably being invoked by Trump’s backers.

But if you were to honestly press them? Neither side could defend its choices except to say: “I’ve got a feeling.”

That is no defect. When all is said and done, sometimes the only thing left for each side is to make a bet and to see what’s in the box that Lefty’s Luck or God opens. Even Shakespeare knew life or history would sometimes come down to a gamble:

Why then, lead on. O, that a man might know
The end of this day’s business ere it come!
But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known.

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