Judging by my Facebook feed, it would seem that the natural thing for me to write about today would be the Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. But, as my (oh so many) faithful readers might recall, I gave my two cents on that case about seven months ago, so I think I’ll talk about something that I haven’t mentioned before. It actually surprises me quite a bit that I have managed to keep this blog going for eight months and not write anything about Hillary Clinton. She is, after all, the inevitable Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Well, as it so happens, that’s exactly what I want to write about this week—Hillary’s troubled relationship with inevitability.
I’m sure you all remember 2008, back when Hillary had her first turn at being the inevitable nominee for president. Her clunky, mismanaged campaign was outmaneuvered and outflanked by the efforts of an audacious senator named Barack Obama. To Hillary’s credit, being the inevitable nominee is actually a very difficult position to maintain—when you’re the undisputed king of the hill, you end up with a target on your back so large that anyone could take a shot at it. And the longer you have to maintain that precarious perch, the harder it becomes. And that is what makes Hillary’s path to the 2016 nomination even more difficult than it was in 2008. The media basically declared that the nomination was hers to lose the moment after Obama was inaugurated for his second term last year, leaving her with three years to somehow keep her favorite status before she can even think about actively campaigning.
I think people really underestimate how difficult that is going to be for her. She is, after all, inevitably tied to the past. The Clinton name carries with it the legacy of her husband’s presidency and the politics of the 1990s. Times change, and the political landscape today is very different from when she was in her prime. As the Democratic Party becomes ever more populist and progressive, her particular niche becomes more and more unclear. We’ve already seen the first few cracks in the wall—her recent comments about leaving the White House “dead broke” have opened the door for some early populist blowback. (Joe Biden, who I personally believe has been laying the grounds for a presidential run since he assumed the Vice Presidency in 2009, chose this time to mention that he doesn’t even have a savings account.) Clinton also had a very unhelpful interview with NPR in which she struggled mightily to explain her evolution on the gay marriage issue. One is reminded of her difficulty explaining her vote in favor of the Iraq War during her campaign six years ago.
Ben Domenech at The Federalist mentioned last week that Hillary’s biggest challenge may be keeping up with younger voters. A borderline Millennial himself, he nevertheless does levy the kind of grumpy complaints against the Millennials that are all the rage these days. We are, according to Domenech, a generation of “wayward slackers” who exhibit a “fickle but sincere flightiness” when it comes to our jobs and commitments. I suppose I can forgive yet another media commentator for making the mistake of forgetting that in the sordid economy in which today’s younger generation finds itself, swinging from job to job is often the only option. And I can certainly understand why a conservative writer would be frustrated with a group of voters who continually vote Democratic despite getting absolutely nothing in return.
But I digress. His regrettable miscalculations aside, Domenech has a point. Hillary, he says, is “an out of touch one percent candidate who hasn’t run for anything in eight years.” I think he is absolutely right in thinking that such a candidate is a bad match for today’s young people and, in turn, their liberal compatriots within the Democratic base. Anyone brazen enough to challenge Hillary for the nomination in 2016—be it liberal lion Biden or attack hound Martin O’Malley—will unquestionably run to her left and try to win over those same young voters. And under those circumstances, Hillary could lose. We’ve seen this movie before.
So, if Hillary Clinton seriously wants the Democratic nomination in 2016 (and, for the record, I think she will ultimately decide that she doesn’t), she may want to heed Bill Maher’s advice and “just go away.” Because, as he says, “otherwise you’re going to blow this.”