January 24, 2006

Time to Move On, Hillary

Hatched by Dafydd

Real Clear Politics has run several posts recently on Hillary's chances of being the Democratic presidential nominee -- and her chances of winning the general election. We certainly agree (John McIntyre, Tom Bevan, and Big Lizards) that she has little likelihood of winning election as president: there simply is no indication that she would pick up any more Democratic support than any other Democratic nominee, and no evidence that she will appeal to Republican moderates, despite her attempst to appear "centrist" over the past couple of years: for exactly the same reason that her ardent supporters assume that, whatever she may say, she is still the same, leftist Hillary, her vehement critics (which include virtually all Republicans) assume the same.

Where we part company is on the probability that she will win the nomination in the first place. On this, RCP is starting to come round to my longstanding position. Today, Tom sneaks up on it thus, then shies away at the last moment, like a horse that just can't jump the fence:

I agree that Hillary isn’t as much of a lock to win the nomination as she was a year ago, but I’ll stick to my analysis of last week that if she is truly going to be denied the nomination I have to believe it will be to someone like Mark Warner. It's plausible Democrats could make a cold decision to move beyond the Clintons and nominate a candidate they feel has a better chance to win in November, but they won't pass over Hillary to nominate someone to her left who would be slaughtered in the fall of 2008.

Au contraire, as our greatest friends, the French, would say; I myself believe that is precisely what the Left will do.

First, you have to understand that this argument -- nominate a "centrist," because he can actually win the election -- has been made by the moderate "DLC" Democrats every, single election since 1988. The Democratic Leadership Council is the centrist group founded in 1984, after the shellacking "progressive" Democrat Walter Mondale took at Reagan's hands, to steer the party away from radical or progressive positions back into the American mainstream. The DLC (which has included both Bill Clinton and Al Gore, both of whom claim to be among the founders) argues that progressive Democratic candidates cannot be elected anymore and urges the nomination of Democratic centrists -- like Gore circa 2000 and John Kerry. (For purposes of clarity, please visualize scare quotes around all subsequent uses of the word "progressive.")

And of course, the problem with this argument should be immediately apparent: both of the last two moderate Democratic candidates were defeated; and even Clinton's victories were less than inspiring, as he was elected by a small minority in 1992 (his minority was just bigger than Bush-41's minority) and by just 50% in 1996... over the largely ridiculed Bob Dole, the oldest man ever to run for the office as a major-party nominee and who found a way to hurl himself off the podium during one of his campaign events. This track record for DLC candidates hardly screams "electability."

Worse, most Democrats react with such visceral hatred and revulsion towards Bush that they can only assume that is everybody else's reaction, as well; they really do think the majority of Americans hate Bush -- but held their noses and voted for him because they were even more disgusted by the cowardice of the DLCers.

This is not mere supposition on my part; I am on a bulletin board comprised mostly of liberals -- not bomb-throwing radicals (at least they weren't ten years ago), but what should be the core support for Hillary Clinton -- and this is just exactly what they argue. They really do believe this line, I rib you not. And when they talk about candidates they want to see, Hillary's name rarely if ever comes up. They are so unhappy with her that it's hard to fathom; evidently, they do not buy the idea that she is a committed, dyed-on-the-sheep leftist in a moderate's blue dress. They see her as either a sell-out or, more commonly, a soulless, unprincipled opportunist who will say anything to get elected. Oddly, I find myself in agreement with the Left, for once.

These liberals -- literate, educated, published authors -- now argue that Gore and Kerry lost precisely because they "ran away from the Democrats' natural constituency," the poor, towntrodden, huddled masses yearning to breath the heady air of socialism. They cheer on Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia, pointing to them as evidence that the world is turning progressive, and that now is the time to throw off the masque of moderation and run as what they are: people concerned about the terrible destruction wrought by Capitalism, people who want to see America go the way of more compassionate States -- Sweden, the Netherlands, and the rest of the European Union.

This tide has grown with every election failure by the supposedly more electable centrists. And indeed, if the argument of the DLC is "cast off your ideology so you can be elected," it cannot but be undermined when they cast off their ideology -- and lose anyway!

Those few DLCers left who argue that path to the White House (most have already been converted) say that running a progressive in 2008 will result in certain defeat. The mass of the liberals on that board respond that even if that happened, it would still finally strip the rot of appeasement and accomodation from the party. Once the heresy was staked once and for all, they exclaim, the passion of the Left will carry them to victory in the 2010 midterms and the 2012 presidential election... a victory that will actually be meaningful.

That is, the Left now believes that it's the very equivocation of the DLC that has led to apathy among naturally progressive voters, hence to failure at the ballot box. And the cure for this disease, they claim, is to get back to the roots of the party: FDR and Johnson (without Vietnam), the New Deal and the Great Society. They truly believe that the American people are ready for a little radicalism, and by golly, that's what they plan to give them. And they expect there is a possibility that 2008 is a lost cause anyway, since the DLC has so undermined support by embracing the enemy; but they consider the loss worth it to finally destroy the now-hated Democratic Leadership Council.

And that is why I have maintained since last July that Hillary will not be the Democratic nominee this November... or ever. The Left never bought into the "electability" argument; they don't buy the secondary claim that Hillary is really "one of them," but she has to hide her leftism under a Bush just to get elected; and the embarassing failure of the DLC to elect a Democrat, even against a president that most Democrats see as a manifestly stupid, drooling chimpanzee, has undercut the only argument the moderates ever had.

In fact, the Left argues that even when the DLC did manage to squeak out a victory in 1992 and 1996, what did they get? War, welfare reform, "don't ask/don't tell," and a Republican Congress! They say that they may as well have had a Republican in office: they would have gotten the same policies, but they could at least have blamed the GOP when the inevitable "backlash" occurs (yes, they expect the American people to rise up and demand European style socialism any day now).

All the money and energy is on the progressive side; the question will be whether Howard Dean jumps in as the man denied the presidency, not by a scream in Iowa, but by the dirty tricks of Clintonistas such as Wesley Clark, Lanny Davis, and yes, Hillary Clinton... or whether it will be some other candidate (Clark, Gore, or some new face) running on the MoveOn.org - George Soros - Micheal Moore - John Murtha - Nancy Pelosi - Harry Reid -Dick Durbin ticket. (In fact, that hypenated label itself should give pause to those expecting the co-presidents to be nominated again; that list of fever-swamp critics comprises not only all the cash and jazz but most of the elected Democratic leadership.)

But I strongly believe that the least likely result will be to nominate the queen to the king of "triangulation," which most Democrats now see as "Billery Clinton gets the White House, and we get the shaft."

(In my next post, I will republish my July 11th, 2005 post from Captain's Quarters about Hillary's chances.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 24, 2006, at the time of 1:48 PM

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