Friday, March 13, 2015

Hillary the savior?

 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.


Energyflow said...

I thought immediately of Indira Ghandi. Her father Nehru was first PM and she married a man for his surname, cynically. Her son was PM and hr grandson PM in waiting. I see dynasty building in USA as democracy crumbles. Jeb would be 3rd president in the family.

From spengler:

'But the form of the ruling minority develops itself unstoppably from class above the party to entourage of individuals. The end of democracy and its transition to Caesarism expresses itself in that not the party of the lower classes(3rd estate), liberalism disappears, rather the party as form at all.
Convictions, popular goals, the abstract ideals of all genuine party politics dissolves and in its place comes the private politics, the uninhibited will to power of a few spirited people.'

He describes the rapid decline of Roman democracy from interest in elections to disinterest, corruption, takeover by caesar, etc. The same is happening today in the West.

Assurance-First-Assurance said...

Excellent post. Thank you. You confirm my sense of pessimism, but it is also reality.

southern born said...

Why, oh, why is there no depth on the bench of the Democratic party for more viable candidates? WHy is Hillary our ONLY choice? Depressing.

Unknown said...

In the run-up to the 1856 and 1860 elections, the mainline parties split, and the Republicans (far different than today's Republicans) emerged from the wreckage. The center is not holding, and centrists (moderates) like Clinton have lost their footing. The Republicans are also reeling from their inherent lack of political cogency. Both parties could see splits, and as the global crisis worsens, an independent could also run (Sanders?). This is the most volatile time in US politics since the 1850s, and, like then, this is a good but difficult thing.

Bruce Wilder said...

"The Democratic Party is in deep trouble because it is so old."

Exactly. You've emphasized the importance of generational change to the cycles of American politics, but I wonder if you've thought about this odd divergence of the Parties in regard to turnover at the top. The Republican Party has seen the emergence of many younger faces, in the House and in governor's mansions, but -- Obama aside -- the Democrats have kept some very old faces front and center.
In the run-up to the Civil War, the sweeping wave of generational change that happened after the War of 1812 meant that figures like Clay, Calhoun, Benton were exiting the stage as early as 1850, and younger men like Lincoln and Douglas were already in the fray. The issues that defined the Jacksonian division of Parties had faded into a consensus that everyone accepted, while, of course, slavery loomed ever more insistent. Still, the leadership of the Confederacy tended to be about ten years older than the leadership of the Union, which shaped the course of the war.
The run-up to FDR's election also marked a dramatic generational changing of the guard. The defining issues of the Republican Party -- the gold standard and protective tariffs -- dated back to the 1890s and, as policy, were fatal handicaps no longer appropriate to circumstances. The massive immigration wave that had allowed the Republicans to align around the Anglo Protestant Ascendancy and "Americanism" was old news. In the census of 1930, the non-native-born, being older, had, on average, been in the U.S. longer than the native-born!
The Republicans, long accustomed to a presumptive majority, actually managed to squeak out a victory in the House elections of 1930 despite worsening economic conditions, but so many members died and were replaced in bye-elections before Congress finally met, that the Democrats achieved a majority of one, and organized the House.
And, yet, here we are, more than a decade after Bush was re-elected in 2004, and approaching a decade since the sweep of 2006, and the Democrats seem to be fading into history. Aside from personnel, I think people fail to recognize how much Obama has undermined the Democratic Party issues identity.

sglover said...

Since so far there doesn't seem to be even **one** challenger to Clinton's near coronation, we see another sad facet of Dem sclerosis: Fading memory and near total inability to learn from history.

Why did Clinton's husband rise to national prominence in the first place? Because he took advantage of a political vacuum created when **every** likely Dem presidential contender decided that Bush the Elder was invincible. That's it. Dem "leaders" preemptively ceded the field.

Now, I can't think of any Dem I'd call a "leader". In general, national-level politics seems to filter out almost everybody who's not a grifter or a hack. But even so, it's not like 1992 is ancient history, and HRC has far, far more liabilities than Bush the Elder did. Yet would-be Dems seem cowed by her "inevitability". In fact, HRC might be uniquely likely to deliver the White House to whatever loon the Republicans choose.

For what it's worth, I want to see Bernie Sanders give it a go. I think (hope?) that he might have the spine to face down the vicious smear campaign he can expect.

Bozon said...


Great stuff.

We have dynasty building here, (as Mr boyle notes), without having ever had either an authentic aristocracy, or an hereditary nobility, as troublesome as those institutions had long been in their native soils, unfortunately.

These lacks were, from the beginning, perceived in some circles as handicaps for the USA.

all the best

Bozon said...


Just a small footnote:

The Bushs, of course,
are Busheois.

I am sure they would take it as a sort of compliment.

all the best

sglover said...

I forgot to mention this in my earlier remark: How is it obvious that HRC's latest stupidity, her e-mail management, isn't significant?

Forget about the usual questions of self-dealing and evasion that always seem to come up when a Clinton's involved. It would be remarkable if her server wasn't a beloved target for just about every intelligence service on the planet. The suggestion that she and her people could maintain security better than State Dept. systems is risible. Actually, it's an insult to the intelligence of everybody who uses a network on their job.

I work for a federal agency. We have nothing to do with secret information, law enforcement, national security, or any of that. However, we do work with confidential personal information. Now, there are lots of easy jokes about how hard it is to fire civil servants, and like any good cliche', they're not totally wrong. But at my job, one very sure and easy way to get fired -- and possibly prosecuted -- is to expose confidential info by letting it out of the agency network.

I believe that HRC was one of those screaming for Snowden's blood. All that time, it's not a bad bet that she was firehosing state secrets straight into the arms of -- whoever. After all, it was "Guccifer", a not at all sophisticated Romanian who earns his living by driving a taxi, who revealed her e-mail habits. She should be facing subpoenas and prosecution.

Unknown said...

Wow. It seems that a political message in your blog engenders more intense and frequent comment than the pinnings of history to current foreign policy. But then, why debate what dangers await beyond the shore when prevalent circumstances within the country are more dangerous. Reason has flown. Superstition and lies equally weighted with common sense and facts. The public is disengaged, apathetic or deciding on faith (suspension of disbelief). Of the people, by the people, these same people having abandoned their responsibility. Some democracy. No, oligarchy. It took a while for the Hellenists to realize their irrelevance as Christianity marched on. What inflection marks the unendingly slow demise of democracy in the U.S.?