Winning History: Hillary’s Next Race…
While Hillary Clinton embarks upon her misbegotten “The Former Candidate Known as Hillary” tour, we are reminded that poor losers are better tolerated than bitter ones, just not by much. There is little doubt that she has her points in that the 2016 election will forever be marred because of Russian interference and the questions surrounding the Trump campaign’s complicity. Still, it should be acknowledged that Clinton herself bears some portion of blame and not a little responsibility in her own defeat. After all, hers was a tactical loss as well as an electoral one. Even as she garnered more votes than Trump, neither she nor her bete noire could persuade a majority of Americans that they were better suited to lead us. The Trump Electoral College victory with just over 300 votes representing about 46% of the national total seems to have given Clinton wind for her sails. Forgotten is the reality that she herself could not persuade more than 47% to her cause. Unfortunately, the argument she presents is pyrrhic at best, and just more wind at its worst. Even friends and supporters are cringing at her latest charge which blamed , in order, the Russians, the DNC, the media, and James Comey for her loss. She has nominally taken some blame herself, although mea culpas come off as grudging. Her best effort at taking blame somehow encompasses the thought that she lost because so many (read the media, DNC, and James Comey) thought that she would win so easily. This vein of thought, and the tour itself, requires her own serious rethinking. Any reassessment should start with a realization that had she won, our nation would most likely be at the same point — fraught with allegations, recrimination, and investigations. Trump and the republicans would not have gone quietly into the night.
So, here is a meta thought to consider: Hillary would have likely lost had she won, not unlike the position Trump finds himself in. Would the nation have been in better hands? Undoubtedly. Would our institution have been better off? Yes. Would our allies be sleeping better and would Vladimir Putin be sleeping with one eye opened? Likely. However, sometimes a loss is less than that, and so is victory. We are currently witnessing republicans snatching for a loss from the jaws of victory. They rode Donald Trump’s ample shirt tails into the white house while failing to notice that the Emperor’s wardrobe was limited to those self same tails. Clinton and the democrats, instead of assigning blame, should allow the political course to play out. It may contain the silver lining so necessary for a reset of the 2016 election. In this scenario Hillary lost the election when her cause failed to ignite a movement that could have changed the face of Congress. She had no “skirttails.” For Clinton to have won and made a difference she would have required a new Senate and House. One that had a far more moderate look. Placing her in the White House with a hostile Congress would have ensnared her presidency in deeper gridlock than the Obama presidency faced. There is the chance that hers would be a “failed” presidency since she would not have enjoyed the early successes that benefitted Barack Obama, who entered the presidency with majorities in the House and Senate, and a 6 state majority in governorships. Blaming Obama’s administration for the loss of these majorities over his 2 terms is the stuff of another blog, however, there are similarities in the rising and falling tides of moderate, if not democratic, leadership. Obama came into office on the strength of a crises. The recession and misadventures of the Bush administration created the call and hunger for change. In the 2008 election, Obama represented change. If Obama lost his party’s political capital, he did so by purchasing real change. Yes, health care reform was costly in many ways, not unlike the cost to democrats in the Johnson administration of voting rights and integration. Change is difficult, costly, and glacial in its pace.
There is no way that Hillary could have made the case for change in 2016. It wasn’t her fault, nor by the way is it her strong suit. She was perceived as a continuation of the Obama era and as such was the victim of the lost capital that changed the face of the legislatures after the 2010 mid-term election. Hillary and the democrats should take both a modicum of comfort and close scrutiny in this consideration. The tides are turning thanks to Trumpian miasma. The incompetence of his management and the stench of Russian collusion are akin the the crises that formed the wave that the democrats rode into the White House in 2008. The 2018 mid term election could be the crucible which forges the next progressive majority and sweeps Donald Trump and his eponymous movement out of power. It could. The question is, can Hillary set aside her self serving and indulgent sense of hurt. Does she want to serve the country in a way that, in many respects, would be more valuable than as the “first female president?”
Hillary’s greatest strength and weakness were never about her gender. Her assets include a brilliant policy mind, a determined work ethic, and the ability to work with others — not unlike the gold starred student around the sand box in Kindergarten. Her drawbacks include her projected sense of entitlement, her long years in the public eye, and her husband. The Clinton brand has been around a long time. She was always more suited to a life in the Senate than a term in the White House. Her aura is far more Ted and far less Jack Kennedy. She is far more respected than liked, less endearing than enduring. And that is all OK. At this point in time, fighting to be who she really is, is less important than who she is perceived to be. Neither is really in her control other than when she allows herself the luxury of feeling a need to define herself and defend her campaign. Both are now better left to history.
Hillary’s next gambit should include building a majority and helping lead it. As she famously proclaimed in 1992 when she was attacked for choosing motherhood and a career in law, “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas…” But, she didn’t, and she should never have to defend her choices. She could instead pursue her ideals. She could choose to help enact a better agenda than the one proposed by the gasbag who inhabits the presidency at this time. She should avoid at all costs contributing gas of her own. If she chooses to run for a Senate or House seat, or seek a governorship, it will be beneficial to start by ignoring the temptation to pout.
Get on with it. The opportunity that lies ahead is one created by the perceived losses suffered before. Need anyone tell the woman who put her husband’s scandals and missteps in the past behind to turn the page on Donald Trump? At a time when many think that her time has passed, perhaps she should begin focusing on how her time has come. It is time for Hillary to start taking herself seriously again. And it is long past time to whine.