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June 16, 2015 / Sandy Asher

SETTING THE STAGE FOR PRESIDENT HILLARY CLINTON by Harvey Asher, Ph.D.

What do Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki and Rand Paul share in common besides seeking the 2016 Republican Party presidential nomination?  No chance of winning the presidency.

These would-be nominees carry heavy baggage. Cruz, Santorum, Huckabee and Carson are perceived as ideologues on religious, sexual and women’s issues, and are on record making hurtful, nasty, and controversial statements on these hot button social topics. Walker’s resume is limited to busting public and private unions in Wisconsin. Even with new glasses, Perry remains an intellectual bantam weight. Fiorina and Rubio are ineffective, if not incompetent, money managers at the corporate and personal levels; the latter also faces challenges from his shifting views on immigration reform.  Christie can’t escape linkage to “Traffic-gate,” the bridge closings ordered by his associates as political retaliation. Graham is perceived as a hawk all too willing to expand American military involvement precipitously. Bush remains too connected to his brother’s disastrous presidency despite his efforts to align his star with his father’s administration. And like Pataki, he lacks appeal to the party’s most conservative wing. Rand Paul’s quirky and contradictory libertarian positions are too off-putting.

Moreover, they can win only by carrying an overwhelming percentage of white voters, who would need to turn out in extraordinarily high numbers, and simultaneously reducing significantly the wide margins Democrats have among women and minorities, many of whom live below the poverty line and are unhappy with perceived Republican hostility and indifference to their plight. Though unlike Mitt Romney in 2012, they have not written off half the population as spongers and urged illegals to self-deport, all will experience some degree of guilt-by-association for sharing general Republican emphasis on trickle-down economics.

Hillary Clinton, the for-certain Democratic nominee, brings her own share of weighty baggage as well as some of her husband’s to the contest. It includes Benghazi, using her own computers for sending state department memos, receiving six-figure fees for lectures delivered after leaving office, and association with the funding of the Clinton Foundation. But there is no reason to think that given the lack of smoking guns in her public service record she will not at least hold her own in the baggage wars.  If Jeb Bush becomes her opponent, she has a very good chance of winning the Bush-Clinton family feud.

Nor will the cuddle factor be a decisive impediment. To be sure, for many Democrats, the problem is less Clinton’s agenda and more her failure to exude great warmth on the national stage; many see her as cold, abrasive and secretive. But her intelligence, political savvy, speaking skills and experiences as first lady, Senator, and Secretary of State will be sufficient to overcome this liability.

Being a grandmother offers opportunities for her to soften her image and she has already put this card into play. In her recently published memoirs she tells how frazzled she was before the birth of her granddaughter and of being “unabashedly giddy” after the birth. And on occasion she has choked up in public, as when at a community forum in her 2008 run against Obama her voiced quivered and her eyes welled up with tears in her response to a question by an audience member asking how hard it was for her to get out the door every day.

At the same time, her supporters do not want her to become a female version of House Speaker John Boehner who sheds tears too frequently.  As a woman politician, she needs to demonstrate the same toughness and strength assumed of male candidates. There is no reason to think she cannot balance these contrasting images.

More significantly, she maintains a reputation as a liberal, albeit not the old-fashioned progressive kind embodied by Elizabeth Warren or the social-democratic version offered by Democratic rival Bernie Sanders. Even more than their agenda, which is not that different from Clinton’s (reducing income inequality, reviving a disappearing middle-class, and protecting the environment), their popularity comes from speaking from the heart for a cause, and doing so frankly, directly, spontaneously, and passionately. This appealingly authentic discourse is quite different and more arousing than that employed by establishment politicians who understand the need to win over all components of the broader constituency and to avoid unnecessarily alienating stalwarts less supportive of a more radical agenda. Hence Clinton’s need to employ – rightly — a less exciting, lowest common denominator campaign style.

While none of the current Republican crew can best Clinton running as the sole Democratic candidate, she does face the danger of Sanders siphoning off enough Democratic votes to impact the final results. It was not that long ago that another impassioned independent candidate – Ralph Nader – got six percent of the vote, primarily among those who put anger and principle before victory.  It proved to be enough of a shift to give George W. Bush a narrow Electoral College margin over Al Gore who took the popular vote.

Clinton has already begun to define her message as a populist by promising to reverse the growing gap between the rich and the poor and to push for universal prekindergarten education, paid family leave, equal pay for women, and equal rights for gays. The more success Sanders experiences, the more likely Clinton will veer slightly more to the left, but she will stop short of the transformative ideas surrounding Obama’s 2008 campaign, and now Sanders’ campaign. Her efforts and tinkering should be modern enough to hold onto their supporters come crunch time. But, if not, a party divided against itself may not stand.

Republican candidates and transformative ideas don’t go together unless one labels returning to the past and shrinking the size of the federal government as such. For various reasons, they have put themselves into the position of “the party of no,” bent primarily on undoing most of Obama’s legislation. It’s hard to see how this position can be overcome in the short time remaining between now and the 2016 election. A mediocre Republican hopeful running against derailing the Obama legacy will not be enough to garner the presidency.

Moreover the anti-Obama dividend that energized Republicans in his bids for office is less intense. Even with Donald Trump in the race, rumors of Clinton’s Kenyan birth will not play, not even in Peoria.

To those who look forward to the uncertainty and suspense of the presidential contest, I apologize for turning the keys to the White House over to Hillary Clinton so far in advance of the election. No doubt the race will have its inevitable gotcha moments: speaking goofs, off camera revelations that go public, newly discovered quotes to explain or take back, but we will not see the high passions associated with Obama’s “yes, we can” emotional pitch.  Maybe that’s not a bad thing; less political passion cushions us against inevitable disappointments.  Democrats may think they want the next Obama in a Warren or a Sanders, but note Obama’s fall from grace among his own party members.  Idealism inevitably runs up against the reality and pragmatism that make up the world of politics.

Hillary Clinton is nothing if not pragmatic.  No, she’s not going to be as much fun, but she’ll be fine.

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  1. Patrick Murphy / Jun 16 2015 7:43 pm

    I think Walker will get the nod if he doesn’t commit a major faux pas. The base likes him for being a bootstraps evangelical, the very definition of anti-elite, and business likes him because of what he did to unions in Wisconsin. The GOP political class likes him because he’s won three straight elections (counting the recall) in a blue state. A Walker-Rubio ticket running on generational change would be very strong, and they can play the dynasty card against Hillary. Walker needs to demonstrate some foreign policy chops and supposedly he’s been working hard on that and will do better than Palin did.

    Stronger still would be Kasich-Rubio, which would win Ohio and Florida. Republicans can’t win without Ohio (ask Romney) and Democrats can’t win without Florida (ask Gore). For Independents simply looking to change the party in the White House (and you know this is how many Independents vote), Kasich would be the least objectionable Republican, and he and Rubio could also play the dynasty card against Hillary. But Kasich would have to win some primaries and he’s taken stands the base doesn’t like. He’s 2016’s Huntsman unless nobody gets the required number of delegates before the convention, in which case Kasich could be the Republican establishment’s white knight. He’s my dark horse.

    If polls are to be believed, Republican primary voters just don’t cotton to Jeb! He’s betting on winning big in NH and doing well on Super Tuesday, hoping the field thins thereafter. But dark money can keep candidates in the race long after they would have folded pre-Citizens United. Besides, Jeb! doesn’t seem to be very sure-footed. I was surprised until I read Chris Lehmann’s takedown in LRB: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n12/chris-lehmann/the-candidates

    Ah, a brokered convention! Wouldn’t that be wunnerful?

    BTW, Christie’s henchmen blocked the GW, not the Lincoln Tunnel.

    >

  2. rogerjyoung / Jun 19 2015 12:48 pm

    Hi Sandy & Harvey,

    Just to let you know that I really enjoy reading your thoughts and opinions.

    Keep them coming 😉

    All the best, Roger (ex-Drury)

    On Jun 16, 2015, at 5:48 PM, AMERICA –THE OWNER’S MANUAL: How Your Country Really Works & How to Keep It Running wrote:

    > >

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