Amid the Trump psychodramas, the public has forgotten not just Hillary Clinton’s latest contortions over her emails, but Mrs. Clinton herself. Hillary has assumed the position of a tired vice president in waiting, without any of the perks that might accrue from a lame-duck president to his dutiful VP.
Ostensibly Clinton’s candidacy is to be a continuation of her boss’s eight years. The problem, however, is that for all Obama’s iconic status, the president polls well below 50% in approval ratings. He lost both the House and Senate, and the majority of state governorships and legislatures are now Republican, if not solidly conservative.
His signature legacies — Obamacare, the Iran nuke deal, open borders, and massive deficits — poll poorly. Is borrowing another $8 trillion Clinton’s agenda? Cutting another 25% from defense? No one believes that Obama’s liberal boilerplate — more government regulation, zero interest rates, higher taxes, bigger deficits, smaller defense, more illegal aliens, greater racial hyphenation — is working.
The logical liberal trajectory of abortion on demand is the Planned Parenthood fetus emporium, of race-based grievance politics is the “hands up, don’t shoot” (and Trayvon as the son Obama never had) fantasy, of open borders is the murder of Kate Steinle, and of therapeutic foreign policy is the Iran deal, reset with Putin, Benghazi, red lines with Assad, the collapse of Iraq, and the birth of ISIS.
The result is Hillary is sort of stuck. She can mouth Obamisms that remain unpopular, with the realization that the polarizing rhetoric needed to energize an Obama black or Latino bloc voter in the past had often ensured turning off a working-class Reagan Democrat. Hillary needs to win both groups, but so far there is no indication that her “first woman president” theme will energize minorities in the fashion they had flocked to “hope and change.”
Or Clinton can go full-populist, damning Wall Street, the elite, and the one-percent, while again changing accents to reflect regional audiences. Here the challenge is twofold: all three Clintons swim most comfortably in plutocratic waters. Hillary, Bill, and Chelsea are all multimillionaires, precisely because they leveraged their political connections and the Clinton name, in quid-pro-quo fashion, to extract millions from cash-flush Wall Street and banking concerns. The world of the Clinton Foundation, the family’s jet-setting, the Clinton son-in-law, and the speaking fees of all three Clintons are elitist to the core and simply unfathomable to 99% of the population.
Hillary cannot go to the left of Obama’s record without de facto being critical of it. Any deviation from the Obama orthodoxy might earn a Joe Biden candidacy or a year of leaks from the substantial Obama Chicago-style dossier on her. Obama may assume both a Biden or Clinton will lose, but he would prefer a candidate to tour the country defending his record with an outside chance of winning and perpetuating his legacy than being triangulated by candidate and then President Hillary.
Hillary can also play the outsider and run on her record as an outlier secretary of State, as if she kept her finger in the dike as the Obama foreign policy collapsed. That is a stretch, because Clinton was central to the Benghazi fiasco. Her fingerprints are all over the Libyan implosion and failed reset with Vladimir Putin. Her naiveté about Bashar Assad (“reformer”) is infamous. At best she was asleep at the wheel when Obama moved away from Israel and toward Iran; at worst, she was an architect of that transmogrification.
Given the above, Hillary can run on the promise of being our first female president and try to avoid any specifics and as many interviews as possible. Soak the rich like herself, attack Fox and the right-wing press, warn about the Republicans’ war on women and minorities — that’s about the extent of her toolbox. She won’t pledge any new tax or entitlement or budgetary reform, and instead will hope that no one cares, as no one cared during the era of vacuous hope and change. If Obama icon-ed his way to the White House, why cannot she?
But again her first-woman-president theme will be harder than Obama’s first-black-president model. She is nearing 70. She is wise to avoid the press, because she comes off as petulant and cranky, if not confused and self-contradictory in every interview she gives. Her recall is bad and she seems ill-informed about most issues other than offering a platitude or two about fighting for the underdog. In a larger sense, the Democrats themselves seem reactionary: a coronation or inauguration rather than a true primary fight, with far fewer candidates, ideas, and debates than the Republicans have. The podiums were be staffed mostly by older white people who believe it’s their turn, and whose presence is antithetical to their own dogmas about diversity and how we look being more important than who we are. Hillary is a reactionary candidate for a reactionary party. When a septuagenarian socialist like Bernie Sanders cannot speak in Seattle of all places, because further-to-the-left race-mongers hijacked the podium, we are replaying the ’60s not as history, but as farce.
Whatever one thinks of Republicans and their Trump melodrama, the circus of 17 candidates is lively, full of younger faces and lots of minorities, with a full spectrum of conservative ideas. In contrast, Hillary’s implied message is: “give me the nomination because I will be the first woman and Bill will try to remember what he did nearly a quarter-century ago. We can’t say out loud that Obama was too leftwing, but privately you know we are winking that he was.”
I don’t think her candidacy is much more than that. Her nomination hinges on a five-hour work day of light campaigning, doing softball interviews with preselected toadies, shaking down big green, gay, and feminist bankrollers, damning right-wing news, shrilly slurring Fox News, and hoping that she can stay on the Obama reservation and not earn a David Petraeus-like indictment from the Obama Justice Department.
That’s about it.
But who knows? It might work.