Clinton: The newest New Democrat

By Bill Schneider
July 25, 2013

Democrats have a history of plucking presidential candidates out of obscurity: Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama. Republicans are supposed to go for whomever is next in line, particularly if they have run before: Richard M. Nixon, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Mitt Romney.

It looks like just the opposite for 2016.

In the latest Iowa poll, Hillary Clinton completely dominates the Democratic field with 56 percent of the likely caucus vote (she came in third in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, behind Barack Obama and John Edwards). No other potential Democratic candidate gets more than single digit support. It’s Clinton’s turn.

And for the Republican nomination? The top choice of Iowa caucus-goers is “unsure” (36 percent), followed by Senator Marco Rubio (11 percent), Senator Rand Paul (10.5), Representative Paul Ryan (9), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (8.7), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (7.7) and 2012 Iowa caucus winner Rick Santorum (6.7). Meaning, the Republican race is wide open. In 2016, Republicans may very well end up plucking a candidate out of obscurity. Hey, it’s worked for Democrats before.

Clinton will be 69 years old on Election Day 2016 — the same age Ronald Reagan was on Election Day 1980. Could someone that old take over leadership of the New America coalition that Obama brought to power? Republicans are gleeful at the prospect of running against her. “The idea that we’re at the end of her generation and that it’s time for another to step forward is certainly going to be compelling,” Karl Rove told the New York Times.

The New America is not primarily about age — though young voters are among its strongest supporters. It’s about diversity and inclusion. It’s hard to see how the election of the nation’s first woman president would not be a victory for diversity and inclusion.

Would young voters buy that argument? Apparently, yes. In this month’s Quinnipiac University poll, Clinton leads New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the strongest Republican contender, by better than two to one among voters under 30 (58 to 25 percent). Among older voters, Clinton and Christie run neck-and-neck.

Support from young voters is not a function of a candidate’s age. It’s a function of a candidate’s association with new ideas and change. Reagan got 59 percent of the youth vote in 1984 — when he was 73 years old.

Clinton — new ideas? “The reality is, when you look at the Democrats,” Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (age 42) told the Times, “they’ve got old, tired ideas being produced by old, tired candidates.”

But surely a woman president is a new idea, just like an African-American president was in 2008. The real imperative for Clinton to run is to protect the legacies of two Democratic presidents — her husband’s and Obama’s. If Republicans win control of the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016, both legacies could be obliterated.

After a president has been in office for eight years, voters usually want something they are not getting from the incumbent. One thing voters associate with Bill Clinton’s presidency is good times (in every sense of the word). While Americans believe the economy has improved under Obama, most are not ready to say times are good. In CNN polls, 35 percent say economic conditions are good today. When Clinton left office, the figure was 82 percent. “Remember, the last three or four years he was here, we reduced the debt and created 22 million jobs — pretty good deal,’’ Senate majority leader Harry Reid said about Bill Clinton on PBS NewsHour, adding, “She’ll handle things probably even better than he did.’’

Obama comes from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. His core support comes not just from African-Americans but also from educated upper-middle-class professionals. He embodies a tradition that goes back to Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Gary Hart and Michael Dukakis. The populist wing of the party goes back to Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Clinton — and most of all, the Kennedys. The populists were champions of the working class. Above all, they were fighters.

One thing voters are missing in Obama is fight. Obama couldn’t even get a bill through the Democratic Senate to require background checks for gun purchases — something 90 percent of Americans wanted after the Sandy Hook massacre. Hillary Clinton warned us about that in 2008, when she offered this memorable put-down of Obama: “Now I can stand here and say, ‘Let’s just get everybody together. Let’s get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing. And everyone will know we should do the right thing and the world will be perfect.’ Maybe I have just lived a little too long, but I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be.”

By staying in the 2008 race until the very end, Clinton demonstrated her toughness. She never gave up. “When I say I will fight for you, I will. It’s what I’ve always done,” she said in Ohio that year. That’s the Kennedy tradition. Edward M. Kennedy was one of the few Democrats who appealed to both the progressive and populist wings of the Democratic Party. The Clintons can do that, too.

Since 1980, the Democrats’ biggest losses have been with white working-class voters, who were once the core of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition. The only Democratic presidential candidate since 1980 who carried non-college whites was Bill Clinton in 1996 (51 percent for Clinton, 49 percent for Dole). In the 2008 Democratic primaries, non-college whites went decisively for Hillary Clinton over Obama. She wiped Obama out in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania — states dominated by working-class white voters.

It’s a constituency that’s diminishing in size, however. Democrats can win without them — as Obama proved in 2008 and 2012. He built a new coalition based on minorities, women and younger voters.

But Democrats have still got to carry a respectable minority of working-class whites to remain competitive. In the Quinnipiac poll, Clinton gets a 44 percent favorable rating from non-college whites. Obama? 34 percent.

If Clinton were to run and win in 2016, it would be a terrible shock for Republicans. Just like George H.W. Bush’s victory in 1988 was for Democrats after two terms of Ronald Reagan. 1988 forced Democrats to wake up and say, “We can’t go on like this.”

Bill Clinton emerged to carry that message to Democrats. What Republicans need is a Clinton of their own.

 

PHOTO (Top): Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) listens to President Barack Obama speak during a meeting with members of his Cabinet at the White House in Washington, Nov. 28, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarqu

PHOTO (Insert A): Senator Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) speaks at a “Club 44″ campaign event for Clinton in Washington, June 6, 2007. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

PHOTO (Insert B): Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and her husband and former President Bill Clinton are introduced at the Iowa State Fairgrounds during a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, July 2, 2007.

 

 

 

17 comments

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The hand of destiny points at Kirsten Gillibrand for 2016 as surely as it did for Barack Obama in 2008.

Posted by JeanNicot | Report as abusive

What America DOESN’T need is a Hillary of it’s own.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

The job of POTUS is tough enough without placing someone in the office with zero experience in administering government. Electing anyone who has not been a governor is effectively on-the-job training–and someone who has only been a Senator is even worse.

Think about it. A Senator is one vote out of one hundred. There is not any ownership for anything they do. Now a governor, s/he owns what happens in total and they are accountable to the voters at the grass roots level. Senator–not!

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive

A victory for diversity and inclusion maybe, but not the right choice for the country. You may have noticed we are in a little trouble, so the next election hopefully will not be a feel good exercise.

Posted by zotdoc | Report as abusive

Do not fool yourself into thinking Hillary is a woman, in fact she isn’t even a real person. She has done nothing to benefit working class women or working class people. She has only brought harm to America, she is as 1% as you can get, everything she says is an illusion.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

She has certainly shown herself to be absolutely incompetent at foreign affairs. Why not give her the office of POTUS. I suspect that a lot of the folks who support her think they are getting Bill, but she is not Bill.

The point is well made that her only experience as an administrator was fraught with mistakes, graft, and incompetence. Hmmmm, maybe she should run for mayor of Chicago…

Posted by DangerousDanR | Report as abusive

Clinton is anything but new. She is the worst kind of old Democrat, plus inexperienced, plus inflexible, plus nasty. She got a media makeover into the “nice Hillary” when she ran for President in the Dem primaries. Now all we see are airbrushed, smiling photos taken from a distance in order to make a witch look like your favorite happy grandmother. She won’t get anything but drooling support from the media because they would back any Democrat they think can win, even Hillary “elect me I was Bill’s wife and I am a female, really” Clinton.

Posted by Pat_Rich | Report as abusive

I love Hillary. I supported her in 2008. And I will in 2016 if she decides to go.
However, there is a question: what is the point to fight if the House (and possibly the Senate) will be Republican?
In this scenario, the only reason is to protect the achievements of the Obama’s administration in 2009-2010.
That is what the article is saying. Yes, the determination of GOP to return the country back to the past is dangerous.

Posted by OUTPOST2012.NET | Report as abusive

I might have supported her too, until I woke up. Oh, I fell down and got a boo boo, and have a “head injury.” That way everyone will feel sorry for me, and not ask about how I killed the Ambassador to try and start a war, so the MIC could make more money for my friends. How many US solders now have head injuries? What kind of injuries did the dead Ambassador sustain? How much unrest has resulted in her decisions? I am so glad Kerry is there and not the she devil.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

Another thing about the she devil. If she couldn’t handle the responsibility of Secretary of State, then what makes anyone think she can handle the Presidency? The things she is best at, is being manipulative and conniving.

Posted by 2Borknot2B | Report as abusive

In the 2008 primary I thought Hillary was the corporatist candidate and Obama was the reform candidate, so I voted for Obama. I was wrong, they were both corporatists. In 2012 I voted Green and will continue to vote third party until the Democrats stop acting like Republican wannabes.

Posted by JBookly | Report as abusive

@Out Gridlock is good as it places structural limits on government. The perfect example of not having a contentious political environment is Obamacare. Even the Dems who voted for it (without reading it) are bailing out as it’s unworkable.

Those who do not understand the foundation of gridlock in government should read both the Federalist Papers and teh Anti-Federalist Papes. They each provide significant insight into the purpose behind the structure of government and the arguments, pro and con.

The biggest problem we have in this country today is that the states have abdicated the rights afforded to them under the Constitution (purchased with OUR federal tax dollars redistributed from inside the Beltway). If we can fix that problem, the country would be all be much better off.

Posted by COindependent | Report as abusive

Is it too politically incorrect to say voters should choose competence over “inclusion and diversity?” Hillary should have been elected in 2008 and we would have avoided a lot of problems.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive

Is it too politically incorrect to say voters should choose competence over “inclusion and diversity?” Hillary should have been elected in 2008 and we would have avoided a lot of problems.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive

Is it too politically incorrect to say voters should choose competence over “inclusion and diversity?” Hillary should have been elected in 2008 and we would have avoided a lot of problems.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive

Is it too politically incorrect to say voters should choose competence over “inclusion and diversity?” Hillary should have been elected in 2008 and we would have avoided a lot of problems.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive

If Democrats put the issue of inequality on their agenda – and for serious, they would have a good chance in 2014 and 2016.
The Obama’s speech in Kansas and astonishing facts published by “Mother Jones,” have shed light on the reality: 90% of households live on less than $30K.
It is a very rough reality. And many Americans (white poor, in particular) have no idea what the real situation is.
We have a heated discussion at our international forum.

Posted by OUTPOST2012.NET | Report as abusive