Resigned to Hillary?

by John Lawrence

Neither the squirreled away State Department emails, nor the Wall Street (and God knows who else) contributions to the Clinton Foundation, nor the acceptance of donations from troglodytic sheikdoms while promoting empowerment of women are likely to have enormous impact individually on either the determination of Hillary Clinton to run for the presidency, or on the electorate.

Rather than individual, the impact is cumulative, both on Clinton and on her party. The alleged mini-scandals add to the incessant drumbeat of charges culled from 35+ years of public life that fuel a pit-of-your-stomach uneasiness with putting all the Democrats’ eggs in this one basket.   Under the very best of circumstances (i.e., a successful campaign in 2016 and re-election in 2020) we are looking at nine and a half more years of implacable, often irrational combat, charge and countercharge, and innuendo certain to batter a politics-weary nation into greater and deeper despair.  We know it’s coming, and that’s if things go really well.

The issue, for many Democrats, may not so much be Hillary’s inevitability as the unavailability of a credible alternative.  At a recent dinner party chock full of fellow latter day yellow dog Democrats (as at many gatherings over the past year or so), there wasn’t a single person doubting they would vote for Hillary, but also not one who didn’t admit to some ambivalence. Lack of enthusiasm can translate into lack of turnout, and of course, that can be lethal in a campaign. Oy yi yi, the baggage, the enmity, the dismaying “beat[ing] on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Is there no way to both win the election and turn a corner in the nation’s political history in 2016? Sadly, the answer may well be “no.”  The press, interest groups, the partisan electorate all live to devour candidates and officeholders, the less confrontational, the more satisfying the destruction. Need proof? If ever a candidate descended on a golden beam of light, an altruistic alternative to the tempestuous tumult of rancorous politics, willing to embrace all who came to the negotiating table, of any party or ideology, that was Barack Obama, whose post-partisan eagerness to accommodate was met with unrelenting and unparalleled viciousness.   So why should we expect something different following the 2016 election, whether it is President Clinton II or President Whoever. The next commander in chief will rapidly become the target of pay-back and business-as-usual from cable TV, talk radio, social media and the 48% of the electorate who voted against her, or him and considers the winner the Anti-Christ.

It is the very inevitability of that poisoned atmosphere that, ironically, may be the most compelling argument for a Clinton candidacy.  Does anyone think the Republican/Tea Party machine of personal destruction that has eviscerated Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and any other Democrat willing to take them on, would suddenly regain its manners and sit quietly with hand folded for any other Democrat?  Not on your life.  Let’s not pretend the Republicans would revert to Sunday school manners for a candidate Elizabeth Warren or Mark Warner.   They have only one gear.

So, why not go with the willing candidate who doesn’t need to build her name recognition or fundraising base, who already has a loyal cadre of supporters and at least as compelling a resumé as any other contender?  (Okay, it’s hard to name any real accomplishment of Secretary Clinton, but so what? Who was the last Secretary of State who achievements you could reel off? Henry Kissinger?) Why not fall in line behind the probable nominee, save donors half a billion bucks that would be wasted in primary battles only to wound the eventual nominee, and get on with the inevitable, however ambivalent or fearful of another decade of incoming political artillery, backstabbing and caterwauling?

Not since Nixon in 1968 has a major party wandered into an election with a non-incumbent as scarred and battered as Hillary Clinton.  Why not nominate someone we know can take a punch and come back fighting, not fold like a cardboard suitcase? That’s not a bad attribute for someone who’s climbing into the presidential ring. The attacks will never end; the only real issue is whether Clinton, or Democrats, will allow the opposition strategy to succeed in its singular objective of knocking the strongest Democrat out of the race.

What Hillary needs to do is what any battalion under bombardment would do: create a diversion. Clinton needs to unveil a bombshell that resets her to encourage skeptics and non-acolytes to reconsider their perception of her. That suggestion will come in the next blog.