This is the fourth part of a five (or maybe seven) part series I will do this week making the case for and against each of the major candidates, with a wrap-up on the weekend. I did this in 2012 and I will observe the same ground rule I did then: making the case for a candidate means making the case for a candidate, not a case against the opponent. That’s the subject of later posts. So “he’s not Hillary” is not a reason I will list for voting for Trump and “she’s not Trump” is not a reason I will list for voting for Clinton. Each one of them will get their own special post all to themselves about they don’t deserve our votes.
Today I write the post I’d hoped I’d never have to write: making the case for Hillary Clinton. Ugh.
Hillary Clinton has been part of our political landscape for 25 years. There are grandparents who can’t remember a time they didn’t know her name. Andrew Sullivan used to call her “Nixon in a pants suit” and that’s very appropriate. Like Nixon, she was denied the Presidency in a close race by a younger, more charismatic candidate. Like Nixon, she’s back for more. Like Nixon, her principle advantage in this election is having a terrible opponent.
So why should someone vote for Clinton? I mean, other than masochism?
She would be checked by a Republican Congress: I made this point four and eight years ago with Obama and it remains true. We have a system of checks and balances that puts much of the power — and almost all of the power to spend money — in the legislative branch. The Republicans are very likely to hold onto the House and might still keep the Senate. Paul Ryan would be a powerful balance against Clinton.
Now I can already hear the cries of “surrender caucus!” But let’s remind ourselves of what the Republican “surrender” looked like: Obamacare deprived of its “public option” and risk corridors; no card check; no cap-and-trade; flat spending; a deficit cut in half; spending $700 billion per year less than Obama was projecting back in 2010; the retention of most of Bush’t tax cuts; no gun control; no “free” college; no amnesty.
Remember that all that was in opposition to Barack Obama, a charismatic politician and good speaker who came into office with a nearly filibuster proof majority in the Senate, a big majority in the House, a 70% approval rating, a massive electoral win and a national economic crisis to capitalize on.
Hillary Clinton is no Barack Obama. Many people within her own party don’t like her. Thanks to Gary Johnson, she’s unlikely to win even 50% of the vote and, thanks to her recent collapse at the polls, she may only eek out a slim electoral margin (in fact, Nate Silver now estimates an 8% chance she wins the electoral college while losing the popular vote).
Obama had a mandate. Clinton won’t. If she’s going to get anything done, anything at all, she’s going to have to drive a bargain. And that bargain will be favorable to the GOP. She simply doesn’t have the political skill to hang shut-downs and confrontations on them.
A weak President means a strong Congress. And I like the idea of a strong Congress behind Paul Ryan. I like it a lot.
She might … might … govern like her husband. Bill Clinton’s presidency managed to be one of the better ones of modern times, certainly better than Bush 43 or Obama.* Granted, a lot of his achievements were due to a Republican Congress. But we avoided stupid wars, balanced the budget, controlled spending, had a booming economy and reformed welfare.
Will Clinton II be like that? I am very doubtful, as you’ll find out tomorrow. The party has veered sharply left since Bill left office and Clinton has veered with it. She was once a Goldwater Girl so she can’t be completely beyond redemption. But that was 50 years ago.
Still, one can hope. Hope is really all we have these days.
The Democrats should reap what they have sewn: One of the hallmarks of Obama’s legislation is time-delay. Obamacare was gradually rolled out, Dodd-Frank was gradually rolled out, most of his regulatory excesses have come recently. There is a price that is going to be paid for Obama’s policies. Obamacare is teetering on the brink of collapse, the economy remains sluggish and we are due for a setback. And a host of regulations and minimum wage hikes are soon to come crashing down on us.
Maybe we should let these happen when a Democrat is in office. If these happen under President Trump … give me a second to recover from those words … the Republicans will reap the blame from the disaster Obama has sewed. If it happens under President Clinton … give me a second to recover from those words … she will take the blame.
And that brings me to:
2020. In general, I don’t like playing the “let’s lose this election so we win the next one” game. I heard that in 1992 and the GOP didn’t take the White House back until 2000 and even then with a “compassionate conservative” in charge. In general, I believe you play for today’s election.
But if the GOP loses this year, they will have to purge the Trumpistas and rebuild toward a potential landslide in 2020. I have little doubt that Clinton will be vulnerable in 2020. Hell, she may not even be in office by then. Maybe we can gamble four years of Clinton against denying Trump and having a sensible candidate in 2020.
That’s it. You’ll notice that, like Trump, I’ve mainly focused on things outside of the candidate — the next election, Congress. You could argue there are some other positives about Clinton: her massive experience, her time in the State Department, her skill in organizing her campaign. But most of those, as I’ll explain tomorrow, I don’t see as a positive.
She’s semi-competent. And she’s sane. I doubt she’ll be as bad as my heart tells me. And if she turns out to be great, I’ll be happy to eat some delicious crow in four years. But I don’t see a huge amount of upside here. However, that’s the case for being Ready for Hillary.
(*For those of you interested, my ranking of the Presidents in my lifetime from best to worst: Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Carter, Ford, Obama, Nixon, Bush II. Ford is a bit difficult to rank and Carter I rank high only because he embraced deregulation and appointed Volcker to the Fed Board, both of which were of enormous benefit to the economy of the last 30 years.)