The first woman president is not about the past

By Bill Schneider
February 27, 2014

Want to know the latest meme in U.S. politics? Here it is: Hillary Clinton is a candidate of the past.

It’s been spreading through the political press. Now Republicans are beginning to echo it.

“Elections are almost always about the future,” says the Washington Post, “and Clinton is, for better and worse, a candidate of the past.” The woman who ran for president most recently, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), contrasts Clinton with President Barack Obama. Obama, she told Politico, was “new and different,” while Clinton is an old-timer less likely to excite voters.

Want to see excitement? Look at the polls. In the latest CBS News-New York Times survey, 64 percent of Americans say they would like to see Clinton run for president. No other potential contender in either party — Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo — gets more than 33 percent.

The first woman president of the United States is not about the past. It’s about the New America — the coalition that Obama brought to power. It’s a coalition of out-groups — including African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, working women, gays, young people, the unchurched. What holds the coalition together is a commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The New America gave us the first African-American president. It’s bound to be excited by the prospect of the first woman president.

Speaking in Florida this week, Clinton said, “Inclusive leadership is really what the 21st century is all about.” She explained, “It is the work of this century to complete the unfinished business of making sure that every girl and boy, that every woman and man, lives in societies that respect their rights no matter who they are, respects their potential and their talents, gives them the opportunities that every human being deserves. No matter where you were born, no matter the color of your skin, no matter your religion, your ethnicity or whom you love.” That’s the credo of the New America.

Her husband has become a magnetic figure on the campaign trail. President Bill Clinton went to Kentucky this week to campaign for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democratic Senate candidate who’s running against Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Clinton carried Kentucky twice. Obama, not once. Obama’s job rating in Kentucky is 32 percent.

Democrats are defending seven Senate seats this year in states Republican nominee Mitt Romney carried in 2012. They are clamoring for Bill Clinton to campaign for them. Obama? Not so much.

The story is told that when George McGovern was the Democratic nominee back in 1972, his campaign manager called a Democratic congressman in Ohio and told him, “I have good news. Senator McGovern is going to come and campaign in your district.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” the congressman said. “I’m going to be in Florida, visiting my mother.”

“Wait a minute,” the McGovern manager said. “I haven’t told you when he’s coming.”

“It doesn’t matter,” the congressman replied. “Whenever Senator McGovern shows up, I’m going to be in Florida, visiting my mother.”

Republicans will not be shy about bringing up the bad memories of the Clinton years. Paul recently labeled the former president a “sexual predator.” The Democratic contender in Kentucky had an answer for that. She summed up the Clinton years as, “Goodbye recession, hello prosperity!

To many Americans, a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a vote to restore the Clinton era — which they associate with good times (in every sense of the word). A vote for, say, Biden would be a vote for a third term for Obama.

Obama has managed to make the Clintons look more moderate. And more populist. In 2012, for the first time, a majority of Americans described the Democratic Party as “liberal.” In 2013 according to Gallup, 43 percent of Democrats described themselves as liberals — the highest figure ever.

Speaking to the Washington Post, Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, criticized “the 1990s Clinton days where big corporations run the show and both parties suck up to them.”

Educated, upper-middle-class liberals like Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio are trying to push the Democratic Party away from Bill Clinton’s New Democratic centrism toward what they regard as a more populist direction.

That’s the populism of the Occupy movement. It’s very popular at Harvard, where Warren used to teach, and Park Slope, Brooklyn, where de Blasio lived. The Clintons’ populist appeal is more authentic. They don’t talk about going after Wall Street or rich people or big business. They talk about bringing back prosperity.

Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, told the Washington Post, “I think it’s really not helpful for the Democrats to turn this into an attack on the 1 percent. . . . As Republicans attack immigration, we attack rich people? If you learned anything from the president, selling hope is better than selling hate.”

A lot of experts believe the Senate is likely to go Republican this year. If that happens, the clamor for Hillary Clinton to run will be deafening. Democrats will see her as the only Democrat who can save the White House. And keep Republicans from gaining total control of Washington and obliterating the legacies of both Bill Clinton and Obama.

Will Hillary Clinton have an easy ride to the White House? Of course not. Republicans will hit her with everything they’ve got. They won’t stop talking about Benghazi. They’ll label her the godmother of Obamacare. As for the first woman thing, Bachmann told Politico, “There was a cachet about having an African-American president because of guilt. People don’t hold guilt for a woman.”

One thing Clinton can’t promise to do is end the polarization of U.S. politics. The last four presidents — two Republicans and two Democrats — promised to do that. They all failed.  In the CBS-Times poll, an overwhelming 82 percent of Democrats say they would like to see Clinton run for president.

What percentage of Republicans would like to see her run? Zero.


PHOTO (TOP): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks during an event at the White House in Washington, September 9, 2013.  REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

PHOTO (INSERT 1): Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pauses as she bids farewell on her last day in office at the State Department in Washington, February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

PHOTO (INSERT 2): Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) talks with her husband, former President Bill Clinton at a dinner at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, November 20, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

Pretty much any Dem can run for POTUS and win at this point.

If Hillary wants it, it’s hers. The New America — “minorities” raised on the milk of grievance, angry womyn, illegal immigrants, queers and those that luv them — has attained majority status.

Demographics will ensure that there will never be another GOP POTUS. The party’s white base is dwindling, due to immigration policies that purposely abet massive non-white influx, as well as the white working and middle classes being taxed into below-replacement level growth rates to subsidize colonies of their ethnic rivals.

And really, what is this “Third Way”? Schneider sounds (and looks) like any other self-hating white liberal who glories in the demise of his own kind.

Posted by f00 | Report as abusive

Yes, my vote goes to Hillary Rodham Clinton and more people like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in Congress to keep them all honest. The article says, “To many Americans, a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a vote to restore the Clinton era” AND Glass Stegall, which Bill Clinton signed away. We don’t need anymore of that kind of Wall Street manipulated prosperity.

Posted by njglea | Report as abusive

“The first woman president is not about the past.”

No, it isn’t, nor is it about the future. It is only about the imaginary glass ceiling and the illusion that diversity actually has any value at all for a society. It will placate the rabid feminists and make the liberals feel all warm and fuzzy inside. As for the U.S., it’s too late to save it anyway, so enjoy the ride down history’s toilet.

Posted by JRTerrance | Report as abusive

One of the positive points about ex-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton is that she was on the board of Walmart for several years. While she has had very little experience working in the private sector otherwise (having negligible business experience or training is a point of pride for most Democrats, especially their politicians) it is to be hoped that she learned something from the great Sam Walton while she was there. Assuming that her relatively advanced age allows, she might not be as incompetent a president as the incumbent.

Posted by ExDemocrat | Report as abusive

“Obama has managed to make the Clintons look more moderate.”

Which is pretty ironic, given that he’s promoted more conservative positions than Clinton did, and Clinton was himself more moderate/centrist than the mainstream of the Democratic party at the time. Remember the DLC and “Third Way”? Clinton was a leader of that movement for Democrats to abandon their liberal principles, and now that it’s the mainstream of Democratic politics, including people like Obama, it still gets called “radical far-left” by conservatives. What a joke.

Posted by RobertHoward | Report as abusive

The beside-the-pointness of identity politics is succintly explained in this cartoon: ready-for-hillary?

Posted by JBookly | Report as abusive

Oops, I meant “succinctly.”

Posted by JBookly | Report as abusive

Wow Hillary 2016? I got to find the Irish betting pool for this one just so I can get get in on the not going to happen line before the odds fall through the floor.

/but please talk it up Dems, wave that flag all over so my takings will be all the higher. easy money given the facts.

Posted by VultureTX | Report as abusive

“As for the first woman thing, Bachmann told Politico, “There was a cachet about having an African-American president because of guilt. People don’t hold guilt for a woman.””

Barack Obama wasn’t elected president because of racial guilt. He was elected because he was the best man for the job and because his values and ideals line up with America’s values. If Hillary Clinton is elected president, it will be for the same reason.

Posted by delta5297 | Report as abusive

I think it’s a mistake for anyone to assume a Democrat OR a Republican will win in 2016 – male or female – but there are two women who are qualified for the job: Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.

Posted by JL4 | Report as abusive