A few days ago, the New York Times ran a story on the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton. Citing mostly unnamed party leaders and donors, it reported that they not only assumed that Clinton would be the nominee in 2016--as she almost surely will be--but that they see her as the party's only hope, not only to hold on to the White House but to regain control of Congress. I read that part of the story in some amazement, and I can only interpret it as evidence not only of my party's desperation, but of its inability to understand what has been happening to the nation and where we are going. I do not think there is anything that I or any other Democrat can do about this, but that doesn't incline me to ignore it and simply hope for the best. I have been trying to face reality here for more than ten years now and it's too late to stop.
An aura of inevitability surrounds Clinton's nomination and, among many (but by no means all) older women, her election. They see her as destined to become the first female President, an honor to which they feel some woman clearly to be entitled. Other news reports, indeed, suggest that her budding campaign plans to play this angle for all that it is worth. That is not surprising, because Clinton, unlike Barack Obama will not be able to offer any convincing, sweeping new policy proposals in 2016. She has already indicated that while she believes that inequality is an increasing problem in the United States, she does not believe Americans want to solve it by taking more money away from the rich. Given her well-developed ties to Wall Street and her husband's reliance on Goldman Sachs employees during his administration, this is anything but surprising. The health care issue has been taken off the table by the ACA. Hardly anyone would believe that she could get sweeping domestic legislation through a Republican Congress. On foreign policy, my strong suspicion is that she will want to come across as a bit more hawkish, and certainly more pro-Israel, than Barack Obama. She will offer, in other words, another moderate Republican approach to major issues of foreign and domestic policy, while standing for the rights of women, minorities, and gays. The first critical question is whether the appeals to minorities, which were crucial to Barack Obama's victory last time out, will be successful for her. The second question is whether the youth vote, which largely views questions of gender equality as old news, will turn out for her in anything like the numbers that they did for Obama. And the third question, of course, is whether the Republicans can nominate a candidate with sufficiently broad appeal to win back a few states such as Colorado, Florida, and Ohio.
On the other hand, the idea that Hillary could sweep the Democrats back into control of Congress strikes me as utterly delusional. Gerrymandering protects the Republicans for at least the next election and perhaps for the whole decade. (Although one can't be sure--the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in 1874, in the middle of U.S. Grant's second term, so anything is possible!) Obama's presence in the White House has simply wiped out the Democratic Party not only in the old Confederacy, but in the border states, except Maryland and Delaware, as well. I do not think they will be more favorable to Hillary. Indeed, I have felt for a long time that the history of the last six years would have been essentially the same had she been nominated and elected in 2008. She would have aroused the same hatred among the same people, albeit for slightly different reasons.
The "email scandal" is another example of how low our politics have sunk. There is nothing in it, clearly, but it is already tying up endless amounts of news time and space and Congressional investigations are certain. There will be more episodes like it and, presumably, more "controversies" about Bill Clinton's romantic life. None of this, of course, will help Hillary's chances.
The Democratic Party is in deep trouble because it is so old. Hillary, an exact contemporary of mine, is significantly younger than Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or Joe Biden. The leading Democratic Boomer in Washington is Chuck Schumer, who splits his allegiance between Wall Street and AIPAC. Hillary in 2016 will arouse the enthusiasm of those who remember when women were just emerging as independent beings. I don't know that that will be enough to elect her.