09 August 2013

What if Hillary Clinton doesn't run?

Yes, I know, it's more than three years away, but strangely enough, the shape of the 2016 election can actually be seen a lot more clearly than 2014 can.  Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive front-runner on our side, and would win the general overwhelmingly, being competitive even in red states like Georgia and Texas.  The Republicans have a miscellaneous grab-bag of candidates, each of whom appeals to one or two of their dissonant factions while alienating others; most polls show Chris Christie the front-runner, though only barely.  Barring some unlikely game-changing event -- a massive terrorist attack, or a major scandal that knocks out Clinton, or a new charismatic figure coming out of nowhere -- the course of the election seems clear.  The nomination, and the Presidency, are Clinton's for the taking if she wants them.

But what if she doesn't run?  I admit this is unlikely.  No one gets as far in politics as she has without being ambitious, and she showed in 2008 that her aspiration to the Presidency is real.  She'd be 69 in 2016, but that's three years younger than McCain was in 2008.  As her party's strongest candidate, she might even feel an obligation to run, to definitively prevent the disaster which a Republican administration would mean.  But the possibility exists.  Her health could decline, or she could simply tire of politics.  People do.  It's a possibility we need to prepare for.

Polls show that Joe Biden is the second choice among Democrats.  As a successful Vice President, he'd clearly be the center of attention if Clinton did not run.  His debates with Palin in 2008 and Ryan in 2012 showed he'd be a strong campaigner (the latter arguably revitalized Democrats disconsolate over Obama's poor first performance against Romney).  And he's hinting that he might be interested.  As with Clinton, the main reason for skepticism is age -- if elected in 2016, Biden would be 74 when he took office.

For either Clinton or Biden, the age factor would mean a lot of attention for the VP choice -- as with McCain in 2008.  Clinton, as the prohibitive front-runner, would not be under the pressure that prompted a losing McCain to take his disastrous gamble with Palin; not needing a game-changer, she would be free to make a safe, even dull choice.  Biden, too, would probably go for a safe choice over a dramatic one; he was such a choice himself in 2008, and that clearly worked to Obama's advantage in contrast with Palin.

I'm intrigued, though, by the strong showing of Elizabeth Warren, who is the third choice of Democratic voters after the big two, despite being much less well-known nationally.  The support she does arouse is passionate.  And with good reason -- aside from the issue of how likely she is to win, she's what the country really needs.  She challenges and confronts the interests of the financial parasite class far more openly than most.  There are few politicians whose influence Wall Street has tried so desperately to obstruct.  She's our best realistic hope to actually do something about the problem of skyrocketing inequality instead of just wringing hands about it.

The intuitive argument against Warren -- that middle America won't elect a Harvard professor with only one Senate term's experience in politics -- is refuted by the current President.  A more substantive objection is that she might be too radical to win.  Hard-right Republicans regularly delude themselves that extremist candidates whom they personally like, such as Santorum or Bachmann, are far more electable than is actually the case.  We have to beware the same danger on our own side.  On the core issues of inequality and the devastation wrought by unconstrained capitalism, much of the country is not yet aware and awake.

But it could be made aware and awake.  Ultimately these problems cannot be solved until it is.  The scandalous growth of inequality, and the unequal distribution of income gains, over the last couple of decades should have been enough alarm to awaken the dead.  Senator Bernie Sanders has done a sterling job of focusing on these issues, but he is only one voice.  What if the Democratic party had joined in spreading the message?  What if it begins to do so?  The last few years have seen an actual test of conservative-style austerity policies in most of the European Union vs. stimulus policy (however weakened by Republican obstruction) in the US, and the contrast in results is as clear as can be.  The Democratic party has not clearly and forcefully articulated this fact.  It should.  If Warren were our nominee in 2016, it would have to, for the campaign would naturally focus in her signature issues.

It would be a big gamble.  We'd be accepting a greater risk of defeat in exchange for a much greater pay-off if we won.  It's a gamble which, in my judgment, we should take only if the risk of defeat is still minimal.  For make no mistake -- a 2016 win by a Republican, any Republican, would be a disaster (see for example the Supreme Court issue, and don't forget the Republican base).  The first priority has to be to make sure this does not happen.

How much the risk can be minimized depends on the mood of the electorate in 2016, and on what the Republicans do.  If for whatever reason the Republicans look formidable, we'd be wiser to choose a "safe" candidate like Biden who would capably carry forward Obama's work.  But if the economy is much improved and Obamacare is an acknowledged success, and/or the Republicans nominate an unelectable extremist and/or end up hopelessly divided from their primary battle, then yes, go for the gold and nominate Warren.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The democrats have enough people to run in 2016. Nobody's the favorite at this point. We saw what happened last time Hillary had it in the bag. And people that run for president aren't known for their humility. There's Deval Patrick, Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Mario Coumo, Martin O'Malley, Mark Warren, and others who are qualified.

Elizabeth Warren is far from a radical. She's pretty moderate. She's just smarter and tougher than what's usually allowed to get on tv. Unlike John Edwards she has a real track record. Having taught at Harvard Law, she can debate the GOP half wits in her sleep.

We look at the republicans and see they have nothing to offer. They haven't been building their party. All they've done was double down with stupid. Mitt Romney was the best they could do against Obama. Mitt's better than anything I've seen from the GOP right now. Chris Christie can't control his temper and there are some holes in his record. Ted Cruz speaks his mind on camera in the 21st century. Marco Rubio's a clown. Jeb Bush has Stand Your Ground and the Schiavo incident on his record. No republican from congress should even think about running for president. There's no way to explain away eight years of obstruction without sounding weak. Their best bet would be to build the party.

It would be nice if democrats would exploit their advantages.

Vic78

09 August, 2013 08:50  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

All we have to do to see what a disaster a Republican presidency would be for this country is to look at the states that were taken over by Republican governors in the 2010 elections.

Look at what's been done in those states to voting rights, abortion rights, union busting, blocking the ACA, etc. A disaster.

My choice--even though I know it could never happen in this somewhat backward country--would be Hillary Clinton for president and Elizabeth Warren as VP.

Why should that be so radical? We've had two males as president and vice president candidates since this country's founding except for Mondale/Ferraro and McCain/Palin.

Why shouldn't we be able to accept two women??

Oh, I know, never mind.

09 August, 2013 18:53  
Blogger Jerry Critter said...

How about a Clinton-Warren or a Biden-Warren ticket?

09 August, 2013 19:14  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Vic78: We saw what happened last time Hillary had it in the bag.

I did acknowledge the possibility of "a new charismatic figure coming out of nowhere". Yes, that happened in 2008, but it's rare.

Elizabeth Warren is far from a radical.

The enemy (Wall Street) doesn't think so, considering how far they've gone to try to stop her.

I agree with your assessment of the Republican potential candidates, except that in fact the public supports stand-your-ground laws.

Shaw: Yes, and there are several specific examples of horrific policies imposed in Republican-controlled states which I hope our side will point out as examples of what would happen if they got national power.

Personally I'd be very happy with a Clinton/Warren ticket. Clinton would assure victory and Warren as VP would be in a strong position to run for President thereafter.

Jerry: Agreed -- see above.

10 August, 2013 06:18  

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