Reading the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago, I found myself doing a double take. Could the authors of a particular opinion column be serious?
Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback was attributed to the joint efforts of Douglas Schoen and Andrew Stein. Schoen previously worked for the Clintons in a pollster/consultant capacity and Stein is a New York Democratic politician.
And yes, they were serious.
Schoen and Stein see the Democratic Party as endangered by a perfect political storm.
President Joe Biden’s poll ratings are deeply negative and doubts about his personal capacity persist. Vice President Kamala Harris’s numbers are even worse, and her political ineptness shows no signs of being corrected.
Meanwhile, the Democratic bench isn’t exactly brimming with prospective replacements. A scan of the current cabinet or elected ranks produces no obvious candidate.
All of which brings Schoen/Stein to Hillary.
She is, in their reckoning, “an experienced national figure” who could position herself as the “change candidate.” And on Election Day 2024, she’ll only be 77-years-old!
The first part of this analysis is difficult to disagree with. Absent a significant shift in the political atmospherics, 2024 could indeed be tough sledding for Democrats. And while political circumstances can change, it’s hard to see either Biden or Harris acquiring personal characteristics they don’t currently possess.
Still, promoting Hillary as the answer is a dubious proposition. And labelling her as a prospective “change candidate” seems bizarre.
For better or worse, impressions of Hillary are deeply entrenched. She’s been both prominent and controversial for three decades. “Shopworn” is a term many would apply.
She’s also a two-time loser. And as she was lavishly resourced on both occasions, there can be no suggestion that the odds were stacked against her.
Yes, the 2008 loss to Barack Obama can be rationalized. His surprise candidacy was a historic phenomenon with which the liberal political and media establishment promptly became enamoured. This deprived her of an influential support base she’d expected to take for granted.
However, losing to Donald Trump in 2016 was a different matter entirely. Despite overwhelming advantages in terms of money, organization and institutional support, Hillary blew it. There’s no way of sugar-coating that.
Indeed, the 2016 campaign underlined something about Hillary. When it comes to winning the crucial swing vote, she’s simply not very good.
When asked why Hillary didn’t spend more time in a swing state unexpectedly won by Trump, a Democratic operative told an unpleasant truth: the campaign didn’t schedule more time because her polling numbers tended to drop after a visit. Where the target voters were concerned, she irritated rather than inspired.
That said, proponents of Hillary’s cause can point to the 1968 resurrection of Richard Nixon.
After losing a presidential cliff-hanger to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and a California gubernatorial race in 1962, Nixon was perceived as politically dead and buried. Accordingly, he took himself to New York City where he pursued a lucrative career in corporate law.
But he never lost his ambition or his all-consuming interest in politics. So when the chaotic upheavals of the mid-60s provided the opportunity, he presented himself as the “new Nixon,” the experienced, sage hand who could put things right. And he won the presidency in 1968.
The parallel doesn’t end there.
Like Hillary, Nixon was a controversial figure with a substantial number of die-hard detractors he could never placate. Because of who he was – or who they thought he was – there was no way of blunting their enmity. Hillary faces the same predicament.
The precedent, however, isn’t perfect.
Nixon didn’t enter the 1960 election cycle in as relatively favourable a position as Hillary enjoyed coming into the 2008 race. Yes, as sitting vice-president he was a shoo-in for the Republican nomination. But the Democratic frontrunner, Kennedy, was clearly a charismatically formidable opponent.
As for California in 1962, Nixon’s motivation for running was to maintain a political profile while awaiting another presidential shot. He had no interest in actually being governor and voters weren’t blind to that.
Besides, those thinking about Hillary’s prospects in a general election are getting ahead of themselves. She’d have to secure the Democratic nomination first.
Should Biden not run for re-election, just imagine the intra-party bloodbath if there’s an attempt to replace his black heir apparent with a superannuated white establishment insider.
Pat Murphy casts a history buff’s eye at the goings-on in our world. Never cynical – well, perhaps a little bit. For interview requests, click here.
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