That is not as stupid a question as it first sounds. Ostensibly we know her four ready answers.
I. Who Else?
One, there is no other credible Democrat who could run for presidency. The senior party leadership — Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Dianne Feinstein — is shrill and buffoonish. They all have either tried before and failed, or are ossified has-beens — or both. There are no up-and-coming governors with distinguished records of executive success. There are no young charismatic Democratic senators — other than the well-preserved, 65-year-old Harvard populist Elizabeth Warren — out to make a name, who can speak well and mirror image a Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, or Mario Rubio. Congressional-district gerrymandering that encourages ethnic chauvinism and hard-left polarization has almost ensured that there will not be another minority star, like Barack Obama, who can win crossover votes and statewide office as a springboard to the White House.
II. Her Turn
Two, Hillary Clinton, like a Walter Mondale, Bob Dole or John McCain, believes that it is finally her turn. In her case she lost in 2008 and loyally served the man who defeated and often humiliated her (“you’re likable enough, Hillary” Obama condescendingly remarked during a debate of Democratic presidential candidates in January of 2008).
She feels that she was robbed of a sure nomination by the upstart Obama, who cut in front of the line with his inane “hope and change” banalities and subtle race carding, as if racial chauvinism must always trump gender pandering. She blew a huge lead in the primaries, licked her wounds, and now it is time for the party to unite loyally behind her the way she did with Obama.
III. First Woman
Three, she thinks she can win largely on the issue of being the first woman president in the manner that Barack Obama milked his racially iconic status in lieu of a record. Her supporters believe that they can reignite the old wars: the Republican war on women, war on minorities, war on immigrants, war on the environment, war on the poor, war on everybody — and thereby galvanize the supposedly oppressed, as in 2008-2012, to register, turn out, and vote in lockstep in record numbers. Thereby they will more than make up for the millions of independents and white, blue-collar so-called Reagan Democrats that she will lose by such racial and gender histrionics.
IV. Money, Money, Money…
Four, Hillary Clinton assumes that she can buy her way to the White House and trump even the Obama shakedowns of the one-percent elite. No one grubs money better than the Clintons, who have turned a so-so presidential foundation into a money-laundering machine for their global jetting and politicking.
Both Bill and Hillary have an uncanny insight into the very wealthy of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Upper West Side, and the Florida coast. They understand the formula: when many of the rich become very rich they no longer worry about high tax rates, either on the assurance that they have the capital and know-how to avoid them, or in the belief that that a 50% federal and state rate could hardly eat away much of their enormous pile. Huge federal redistributionist policies may fail and hurt the minorities and poor, but for now they are felt to be about the only insurance that the gates of the rich will not be stormed or their private schools and neighborhoods flooded.
The Clintons rightly sense that the one-percenters in certain fleeting moments feel awfully bad about their privilege. Thus they will feel much better about indulging their endless material appetites, if they give large tax-deductible contributions to the spread-the-wealth, help-the-helpless shtick of elite Democrats. The lifestyles of Hill and Bill over the last two decades reassure wealthy liberals that it is OK to wallow in the material good life as long as you pay occasional penance for such indulgence — and there is no better atonement than helping Hillary Clinton out in 2016 to speak truth to power. After all, with students facing $1 trillion in aggregate debt, Clinton marched into UCLA, check-listed some liberal nostrums for 30 minutes and walked away with $300,000 without a complaint — or about $165 in scarce university dollars for each second of her pieties. In other words, Hillary is running because she has invested enough in the past that the money will be harvested as never before in a presidential race.
The Obama Tenure Was Good, Bad, or Nothing at All?
Otherwise, why is Mrs. Clinton running at all? She has no agenda. She is not a former vice president like Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, George H.W. Bush, or Al Gore who ostensibly promises to continue and amplify, for another four to eight years, the party visions of a popular and successful president.
Obama is neither successful nor especially popular. The Democratic Party is calcified. We still do not know to what degree the party supports the Obama deal with Iran, the Cuba outreach, or the executive-order mass amnesties. Hillary will not yell out at stadium crowds, “If you liked the last eight years, I promise eight more years just like them!”
Will she amplify or ignore her own Obama administration tenure as secretary of State? Will Americans hear that the plastic reset button with Vladimir Putin was a good or bad thing?
Will Clinton replay in her campaign commercials her boast over the deposed and murdered Khadafy (“We came, we saw, he died”) or her statement about the dead at Benghazi (“What difference does it make?”)? Or will she fear that the Republicans will use her own words against her?
Will reneging on missile defense with the Poles and Czechs and ending George W. Bush’s mild ostracisms of Russia for snatching Ossetia become a neat campaign talking point? Will she brag that we got all U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011, or that she helped set the foundations for the current Iranian negotiations? Were her Arab Spring policies smart diplomacy as evidenced by the current state of affairs in Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen? Will she say she had a hand in Obama’s “special relationship” with the Ottomanist Recep Erdogan of Turkey?
Perhaps she can point to her continual jawboning of Israel as the font for our current distancing from the Jewish state. Will she remind us that “al Qaeda is on the run”? Will she dare say radical Islam or will she stick to “overseas contingency operations,” “workplace violence,” and “man-caused disasters”?
A Domestic Record to Be Proud Of?
Of course, Mrs. Clinton will not run on her own foreign policy initiatives, such as they were, or her boss’s. Perhaps, then, she will turn to the generic Obama domestic record of 2009-16. But then will she praise or promise to reform the IRS, VA, NSA and Secret Service? Was the massive borrowing of the last administration — greater than all previous administrations’ red ink combined — a good or bad thing?
Maybe someone will object that Hillary Clinton is her own person and has no need either to support or distance herself from the administration that she so loyally served and aided.
What, then, is her agenda, in terms of economic and foreign policy? More borrowing, more social spending, more defense cuts, higher taxes still, more restrictions on fracking on public land, more promises to table the Keystone pipeline? Will she go full bore to promote cap and trade?
The point is that Mrs. Clinton has neither a past record that she is proud to run on nor support for an Obama administration tenure that she will promise to continue. She is not a good speaker and has a disturbing habit of switching accents in amateurish attempts to mimic regional or racial authenticity. She accentuates her points by screaming in shrill outbursts, and dismisses serious questions by chortling for far too long. She is deaf to human cordiality, has a bad temper, and treats subordinates with haughty disdain. In that sense she is more authentic than her equally callous and narcissistic, but charismatic husband.
What is then left? Actually one motif.
Hillary is both a victim and trailblazer. Her disastrous record of unethical and illegal activities — shaking down foreigners for donations to her foundation while secretary of State, creating her exclusive server for a private email account, destroying all her emails after admitting that she was judge and jury of what were and were not government records — is instead proof of right-wing McCarthyism.
Those who attack her are afraid of a woman president and what she represents — an inclusive social agenda that protects gays, women, and minorities from right-wing hooliganism and religious bigotry, fire-and-brimstone anti-abortionists who want entrance into our bedrooms and to erect glass ceilings to thwart feminists, reincarnations of Bull Connors and Lester Maddoxes who would put blacks back in chains, nativists and restrictionists who hide their racism by faux calls for border enforcement, and greedy speculators and stock manipulators who care little for the 99%.
That is Hillary Clinton’s past, present, and future. There is nothing more. No record — ever — of success, no innate charm, eloquence, brilliance, or campaign savviness. And given her iconic female candidacy, her turn, her money — and the lack of an alternative — Hillary Clinton needs no agenda, whether a past one to defend or a future one to rally to.
The agenda is simply that Americans are not doing well because of all sorts of illiberal enemies who conspire to thwart them due to their class, race, and gender — and the nation’s first woman president will make it all nice.
Don’t laugh. It may well be a winning formula in the present-day United States.