Regarding Hillary

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Democratic Party, Republican Party

Eleanor Clift suggests that, maybe, Hillary Clinton can be for the Dems in 2008 what Ronald Reagan was for the Republicans in 1980.

When was the last time we had such a dominant front runner this early who raises such anxiety about electability? The answer is Ronald Reagan. It took a leap of imagination to believe an aging grade-B movie actor with orange hair could win the presidency.

I hadn’t remembered he had orange hair. But Clift misunderstands the essential problem with Hillary Clinton. Clift writes that “Democrats want to win so badly that they are leery of experimenting” with a woman candidate. And she spoke with Paul Begala, who dismissed the polarization factor.

“It says to me we don’t believe in ourselves anymore. Anybody who runs from either party will have negatives of 40 to 45 percent before it’s over. She may have them the week she files,” he conceded, “but what more can the Republicans do to her? They’ve exhausted their supply of scandalous revelations. “

And maybe, Begala says, if the Republicans are really mean, Hillary will benefit from a sympathy backlash.

Oh, please

First off, like him or not, Reagan didn’t gain a following from a sympathy backlash. He gained a following by taking firm positions on a number of issues conservatives cared about. But see also this bit from Wikipedia (emphasis added):

Reagan’s first attempt to gain the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 was unsuccessful. He tried again in 1976 against incumbent Gerald Ford, but again met defeat at the Republican National Convention by a few votes.

The 1976 campaign was a critical moment for Ronald Reagan’s political development. Gerald Ford was largely a symbol of the “old guard” of the Republican Party. Reagan’s success was remarkable considering Ford’s status as an incumbent President. At the convention in 1976, Reagan gave a stirring speech in which he discussed the dangers of nuclear war and the moral threat of the Soviet Union. After that speech, many at the convention said they felt like “they had voted for the wrong man.”

I submit that Hillary is our Gerald Ford, not our Ronald Reagan. She represents the old guard. She is at the core of the inside-the-beltway Democratic culture that has left the party without direction or passion and sometimes, it seems, without purpose.

And I believe — I hope, anyway — that in 2008 the electorate will be done with the old guard of both parties.

Kos Moulitsas has an op ed in tomorrow’s Washington Post:

Moving into 2008, Republicans will be fighting to shake off the legacy of the Bush years: the jobless recovery, the foreign misadventures, the nightmarish fiscal mismanagement, the Katrina mess, unimaginable corruption and an imperial presidency with little regard for the Constitution or the rule of law. Every Democratic contender will be offering change, but activists will be demanding the sort of change that can come only from outside the Beltway.

Hillary Clinton leads her Democratic rivals in the polls and in fundraising. Unfortunately, however, the New York senator is part of a failed Democratic Party establishment — led by her husband — that enabled the George W. Bush presidency and the Republican majorities, and all the havoc they have wreaked at home and abroad. …

… She epitomizes the “insider” label of the early crowd of 2008 Democratic contenders. She’s part of the Clinton machine that decimated the national Democratic Party. And she remains surrounded by many of the old consultants who counsel meekness and caution. James Carville, the famed longtime adviser to the Clintons, told Newsweek last week, “The American people are going to be ready for an era of realism. They’ve seen the consequences of having too many ‘big ideas.’ “

In other words, her message is, “elect me, and I promise not to do much”?

Bill Clinton found a political strategy that worked for him in the 1980s and 1990s, when right-wing extremism was on the ascendancy. He combined his preternatural charm with cautious positioning on issues — the famous “triangulation.” Clinton moved to the right to appeal to the broadest possible swatch of the electorate, but in doing so sold out core progressive values. As a result the upper levels of the Democratic party became disconnected from the liberal-progressive base. And to many Americans Brand Democrat became Brand X — the bland, generic alternative to Republicans.

It may be that by 2008 voters will be so disgusted with the name brand that they’ll choose Brand X, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Fact is, it’s the Republicans who are having to walk away from their big ideas, which either didn’t sell (e.g., Social Security reform) or didn’t work as advertised (e.g., Medicare drug coverage; the Iraq War). They’re retreating into “junk” issues like criminalizing abortion and preventing gay marriage. Or, as E.J. Dionne suggests, they’re trying to sound more progressive, suddenly developing concern for the environment and/or the poor.

The current reaction is not simply to President Bush’s low poll numbers. It’s also a response to the failure of conservative policies and to the declining appeal of conservative rhetoric. Conservatives are trying to save themselves by offering progressive-sounding criticisms of the status quo, much as liberals offered ersatz conservative critiques two decades ago.

If Rick Santorum wants you to look at his record in a way that makes him a paladin for the poor and if Dennis Hastert wants you to know that he’s suspicious of the oil companies, the political weather is changing. When one side starts making the other side’s argument, you don’t need to be a pollster to know which belief system is in the ascendancy.

This is not the time for hyper-cautious Hillary Clinton, tip-toeing around issues so as to not be caught taking a stand on one. This is the time for Democrats to stand up and offer a real alternative to what the Republicans have to offer. Let the wingnuts wring their hands over the poor innocent stem cells and the war on Christmas. We have real problems — stagnant wages, eroding financial security, growing numbers of Americans without health insurance, snail’s-pace progress rebuilding the Gulf Coast. And can we say, gas prices? And the foreign policy from hell?

It’s going to take some big ideas to solve these problems. It’s going to take leadership and vision and the ability to persuade voters that government can work for them again.

The last thing voters will want to hear is, don’t worry; we won’t rock the boat.

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26 Comments

25 Comments

  1. alyosha  •  May 7, 2006 @12:52 am

    Your Gerald Ford / Ronald Reagan analogy is apt and insightful. We’re therefore in the position of waiting for our new guard Reagan figure to come forward and defeat old guard Hillary. A great song about this longing, by Neil Young appeared in Saturday’s Boston Globe.

    There are a number of people I’m hopeful will come forward and do so. One of my favorites is Al Gore, whose movie, An Inconvenient Truth opens later this month. It will be interesting to see how he handles the neanderthals, and what sort of attack they’ll make. Interesting article about him in Wired magazine. He’s evolved since 2000.

    Admin note: And if all these hrefs actually work as planned it will be amazing. How I wish your website had a “preview” feature….

  2. Sam  •  May 7, 2006 @1:47 am

    Hillary is not the answer. I’ve felt this way for some time.

    I agree with half of what James Carville said, “The American people are going to be ready for an era of realism.” It’s what we’re all hungering for because of all these years of spin and lies (often from both sides). But I believe his second claim does not follow: “They’ve seen the consequences of having too many ‘big ideas.'” What does he think, we should all just hunker down as the environment deteriorates, our economy has a meltdown as the babyboomers retire and medical costs continue to climb? Etc, etc.

    Hillary can analyse quite competently, but she can’t do.
    And I want people who can. People like James DeWitt come to mind.

  3. Jonathan Versen  •  May 7, 2006 @1:52 am

    It’s difficult not to agree with your assessment of HRC as the old guard– but I wonder if the fix is in. I just remember how everybody thought Dean was unstopable in late 2003, then Kerry supposedly pulled a rabbit out of the hat in Iowa.

    My read of Iowa 2004 was and still is that its unique (and archaic)caucus system rewards voting for the least objectionable candidate as opposed to the one who arouses the most fervor, and the old guard will pour money again into Iowa to stop any Dean-like candidacy in its tracks. And maybe Kerry will run again and decide to tack faux-left to appear to be the “alternative.”

  4. Sam  •  May 7, 2006 @1:56 am

    As my son just asked, “What kind of “big ideas” is Carville talking about? Does this include good “big ideas”? What ridiculous kinds of arguments we have to listen to these days. Our brains are turning to mush!

  5. justme  •  May 7, 2006 @2:39 am

    As a woman, I would like to see a woman President, but I agree with Sam that Hillary is not the answer.I do, however , like the fact that all the buzz around her keeps the swarming masses grubby mits off the rest of the candidates.The righties are so worked up into a lather over the thought of Hillary running they can’t even see past her to notice there are others and I say that is a good thing.

    I swear to you Iowa will not choose Hillary… it will have to be NH…in these parts Feingold would be a stronger candidate…

    I think that there should be a greater focus on who the righties candidate will be….some say Allen(ugh), some say rice(ugh x2),,and some have even mentioned jeb(heaven help us all)….I would like to see all of these people cut down to size in the eyes of the public pre 2006 elections,,,why wait for the holiday rush?

    At this point in king george’s first run he was visiting “gated communities” for private fund raisers so who on the right is being fluffed for the job by the society elite in rightie world now?Many have “stopped by “Iowa to pay their respect,, but none stood out..

    I guess I am trying to say that I wonder if king george plans to leave or plans to have elections in 2008,,because THEY don’t seem worried about getting someone out there for their party the way bush was a full 2 years before the 2000 elections and it worries me.Am I the only one who’s noticed that everytime there is talk of “who is running in 2008” it is only the potential Democrat candidates who are discussed?

    The difference between the right and left in this situation is that on the left we will decide in the primary phase who our candidate will be and on the right it will be decided for them, the same way bush was selected by folks in “gated communities” while flying from city to city on the “enron” jet…

    In political chat rooms and with friends when I bring up who the candidate on the right will be no one can even muster a guess..on either side of the isle…it’s like no one had even thought of it…weird.

  6. justme  •  May 7, 2006 @3:03 am

    Jonathan,,, from my view here in Iowa , Kerry pulled it off by his crew being the biggest pain in the asses ….sometimes 5 or 6 calls a DAY from his camp ,, they were relentless…Day and night his group canvased neighborhoods , door to door…and that was just caucus season…by election time they were at my house more often then I was….I found myself wanting to hurry and vote so I could just have some peace,, even after I sent in my absentee ballot, they still bugged me…there was NO peace in Iowa until Nov 6…..Deans people were just not on the streets in the “in your face” way Kerry’s people were…

    While I am not questioning your “old guard” theory at all, I just wanted to mention how hard core Kerry’s team really was…I have never seen anything like it.(the bush folks may have intended to be as annoying but I turned my big scary biker mr on them and they RAN off the porch at the sight of him and never returned) :0

  7. Sam  •  May 7, 2006 @3:33 am

    justme –
    That was really interesting about Kerry’s “get out the votes” team in Iowa. (Most of us out here on the West Coast have no idea what you guys in Iowa have to put up with during the presidential elections.) That sort of aggression is more crucial than I’d realized.

    As for Republican candidates – they put out George Allan quite excitedly. Fizzled quickly, though, didn’t it? Here’s a fairly complete list of them.
    http://www.politics1.com/p2008-gop.htm

  8. hettiemae  •  May 7, 2006 @5:14 am

    Well, I’ve heard everything now. A supposedly progressive blog that praises Reagan and bad mouths Bill Clinton. I beg to differ with you. Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter because the press was on his side and because he made a deal with the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. Ronald Reagan was a traitor to our Constitution. He participated in murders in South America and sold WMD to Iraq and Iran. I am sick and tired of people singing his praises. He was a terrible American and a terrible president.
    Bill Clinton legitimately did what he had to do to get legislation passed that he favored. You can’t blame him if the democrats running for office were to dumb to beat the right wingers. Clinton got our country in the best economic condition we have ever been in. And I base that on what my micro and macro economics teachers said in the 1990’s. By the way, both professors thought Reagan was a disaster for our economic health. So please stop swallowing the kool aid and extolling the disasterous reign of Reagan.

  9. maha  •  May 7, 2006 @6:13 am

    Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter because the press was on his side and because he made a deal with the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. Ronald Reagan was a traitor to our Constitution. He participated in murders in South America and sold WMD to Iraq and Iran. I am sick and tired of people singing his praises. He was a terrible American and a terrible president.

    I didn’t say Reagan was a good president. I said that by 1980 he had built a strong following among conservatives. He did that over a period of several years, which is why he almost got the nomination in 1976 and clinched it easily in 1980. And, as you say, he exploited the hostage crisis masterfully.

    Bill Clinton legitimately did what he had to do to get legislation passed that he favored.

    Clinton often fell short from a progressive standpoint, although one could argue he did the best job anyone could have done given the political climate of the times. But that climate has changed. Hillary is running like it’s 1993, and it isn’t.

  10. undeniable liberal  •  May 7, 2006 @8:57 am

    Amen! We don’t need anybody moving to the right ot the center. This country needs a progressive outsider. Politics in this country has shifted enough to the right as it is. Dems don’t need to follow that trend.

  11. c u n d gulag  •  May 7, 2006 @8:59 am

    Maha,

    I understand.

    I’d love a woman President. I just hope it isn’t Condi…

    You’re right about Hillary. Her stance on the flag-burning amendment made me want to hurl. She’s moving too far to the right!

    What does she believe in, besides winning elections?

    We need to embrace what WE believe in.
    Hold it.
    Touch it.
    Feel it.
    Mean it.

    That’s too long a list to include here.

    How about Wesley Clark for President, with either Feingold or Obama for VP, and Hillary as Secretary of State? Or, put her in the VP role and move Feingold/Obama around?

    If not Clark, Obama or Feingold, I’d rather see Howard Dean than Hillary or Kerry as my candidate in ’08. At least I know what Howard stands for. And I stand for the same things, too!

    Let’s see what the country thinks. Are they ready for what we need – “all for one, and one for all?”

    If we’re not together, then we are, truly, apart. Are we that divided that we con’t come together when the country needs us?

    Well, if we’re not ready to come togeher, we progressive liberal’s can go down fighting!

    I’d vote for this – “All for one, and one for all!” Is that too Socialistic?

    It worked for Nixon – “Bring us together…”

    Here’s something for the religous people amongst us:

    And lead us not into temptation – Republican’s.

    But deliver us from evil – Republican’s.

    For “our’s” is the…

    ‘Nuff said….

  12. spearNmagicHelmet  •  May 7, 2006 @9:42 am

    the only reason you need to believe she’s not the right choice is the fact that the MSM is pushing her to be the right choice.

  13. Ivan Raikov  •  May 7, 2006 @11:07 am

    Perhaps I’m too cynical, but seems that the impending energy crisis will change our lives and society so much, it almost doesn’t matter whether the next president will be Al Gore or Roy Moore. Well, I’m exaggerating a bit, but most American political leaders are so utterly oblivious to the deep structural problems of the American economy caused by its excessive dependence on cheap energy, that Peak Oil will bring upon a horrific and inevitable catastrophy. It seems too late now to develop a comprehensive research program for alternative sources of energy, and catch up on nuclear power plan construction. And indeed the last American president to have been aware of energy issues was probably Jimmy Carter.

  14. Rick  •  May 7, 2006 @11:33 am

    Before Booshit I didn’t follow politics very much but I voted and almost always voted democrat(locally sometimes republicanwas a better pick. ‘course this was back when some of them weren’t beaten to submission). So I only know Clinton was getting the shaft from the VRWC and a lot of progressives think he’s not a true Dem. I want him on the ticket if there’s a Clinton running. That or give Gore a second shot, he seems to have found his legs…

  15. Sam  •  May 7, 2006 @11:38 am

    alyosha –
    I’m with you on Gore. I have been ever since the 2000 election. Thanks for that link to Wired. Last sentence: “For Al Gore, it’s the race of his life.” In my opinion, for the country, it’s the race of its life. Which leads into the other link you supplied on Gore’s movie (I included it during our discussion on the environment awhile back). This is the only candidate I know who is willing to tackle this supreme issue and who has the knowlege, insight and connections (with the scientific community) to offer us at least some hope.

    Sorry, hettiemae. I think Maha was on the mark in her analysis. I loved Bill Clinton and think Reagan was a joke and a danger in many areas. However, Clinton was not perfect (no one is). Dissecting the results of actions in order to learn from them is how we learn. It’s something that righties and true believers refuse to do.

  16. Donna  •  May 7, 2006 @1:51 pm

    One reason I don’t want to see or pick a ‘frontrunner’ Democrat this far out is that I absolutely loved the primary debates with nine [then eight] candidates in ’04.

    That series of debates gave a good exposure to the candidates…. I could watch and judge one each over time and under pressure. And that series of debates allowed a steady stream of media-aired repeated-and-agreed-upon criticisms of the Bush administration which I believe began a slowly growing groundswell of more critical attention to Bush and Co’s actual behavior and failures.

    I read something about the curious fact that no clear ’08 frontrunner has emerged for the GOP. Reading that, I have wondered if the Republicans are waiting in order to ‘copy’ the Dem’s successful use of multiple primary debates.

    c u n d gulag, you’ve named the very ones I most admire: Wesley Clark, Obama, Feingold and, most of all, Howard Dean……all of whom are not only highly intelligent and proven competent, but have the integrity to get off the fence and to speak without spin.
    I was surprise to hear General Zinni speak with that same undeniable competence and leadership. Is he a Repub or a Dem?

  17. Donna  •  May 7, 2006 @1:59 pm

    If Al Gore would run, I would do all I could to help him become the President, as he should have been in that position all along. He says he will not run…..but he surely should be in our government!

  18. Sam  •  May 7, 2006 @2:00 pm

    Donna –
    There’s a rundown of potential Repubs on my link on Comment #7. You’re right that there is no frontrunner. They’ll float one for awhile and then you don’t hear much after that. Maybe the political climate is too unstable right now for both sides to chance it. Repubs are probably feeling a bit unsure of the waters. Similar to how what the Dems were after Clinton? I’m not as politically savvy as some of you. What do you think?

  19. Cassidy  •  May 7, 2006 @2:08 pm

    I voted for HR Clinton as Senator for NY. Even if I still lived in NY, I would only vote for her again as the lesser of evils. I am very disappointed by how calculated she is in her choices and how unwilling she is to take the risk necessary to do the right thing.

    Symbolically, I remember being repulsed by her standing elbow to elbow next to CT Joementum during a Bush State of the Union and hopping to her feet, applauding enthusiastically, every bit as much as Joe did. I can’t remember the year, but does it really matter? She’s smart enough she should have known George and Joe for what they are long before she was in the Senate. Yet she chose to support, or feign her support, for them.

    That is not good enough for us. Not now. Not in ’08. Not ever.

  20. Jake  •  May 7, 2006 @7:23 pm

    We are having this very discussion ‘writ small’ here in Pennsylvania regarding our Democratic primary May 16 to pick a candidate for US Senator. Everyone hates Rick Santorum so much that we’ve allowed the failed party leadership, of which HLC is a part, to anoint a dud of a candidate, Bob Casey Jr., when a really, truly progressive candidate exists in Chuck Pennacchio. And please, no strawman argument that opposition to Casey is ‘only’ about Choice (as if that’s not a major problem with him) — if you want to begin to see the downside to Casey, you can start here. And add to that a recent Casey statement that not only would he support a military solution to Iran, he also wouldn’t take the use of nukes off the table. His nomination will be a move to the ‘center’ indeed.

  21. janinsanfran  •  May 7, 2006 @8:15 pm

    I read a lot of British blogs and I think the condition of Labour Party stalwarts who feel they have no party to turn to since Blairis exactly how most of us would/will feel if Hilary or another business as usual Democrat wins in 2008. These people aren’t going to pull back the empire, restore the rule of law, or do anything significant that would cost business money to make life on the planet sustainable.

    People might be interested in this British article or this.

  22. Donna  •  May 7, 2006 @8:48 pm

    Sam, I think the Repubs see the handwriting on the wall about the ’06 elections…..notwithstanding their diehard ‘happy face’ self-assurances. So, I suspect that they will wait to see about how to frame ’08 depending on whatever the Dem’s do after ’06…. ‘new slogans’ will be designed to spin some emerging issues which they’ll then rally around.

  23. beverly mcewen  •  May 9, 2006 @12:01 pm

    The perfect ticket for 2008 is Clinton/Obama. It might be a miracle but think seriously. We want positive change, this would be positive change but most importantly real change. Gender and race will definitely scare people but together this country can recover from fiscal, and social crimes perpetrated by the Republican reign. We love our freedoms and equality, let’s prove it. They’re our best bet for a warless foreign diplomacy, a balanced budget, plus individual needs like health care, secure social security, crisis competence, much needed American industry for Amercan jobs. Want the middle class back, Clinton/Obama. Remember the saying,”it takes a Clinton to clean up a Bush mess” Comment by B.McEwen, May 9, 2006 @ 11 am.

  24. abhcoide  •  May 11, 2006 @1:58 pm

    I’m with Beverly…I wish Democrats had the balls for at Clinton-Obama ticket. It’s about time you had a woman President, many other countries managed it years ago, I can’t see why you have to live in the dark ages. It would send a powerful message. In some places women are still thrid class citizens, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan for example. It’s long overdue America.

  25. kidd  •  Jun 1, 2006 @9:45 pm

    does she still run over security guards and not say sorry,or does she still say she doesn’t know what happened to vincent foster.you tell her to come clean and I won’t make fun of her two faced bull crap.and let her know,you can’t win the presdency without going going on Bill Orielly.The most watched cable news commentator.May Vince Foster killer be caught.

    May the lord bless you all!!!!
    Kidd

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