As we approach 2015, and the seemingly interminable presidential election “cycle” — why on earth does it take nearly two years, and possibly billions of dollars, to choose party nominees and vote in the general election? — kicks off, I’ve been starting to ponder whether I am, as the slogan goes, “Ready for Hillary.” The short answer: I might be, but it certainly won’t be automatic, and she’ll most definitely have to earn it. I’m not hesitating just for the sake of it; to the contrary, I have serious questions I want answered. A few big ones include:
1. What (if anything) have Hillary Clinton and “Clinton World” learned from their debacle of a campaign in 2008? For instance, have they learned not to be arrogant and just assume that she’ll be the nominee, that the other candidates are essentially irrelevant, etc? Just as importantly, have they internalized the lessons from their 2008 campaign regarding why that was such a cluster****? Obviously, the vicious infighting the Clinton campaign experienced in 2008, combined with some serious hubris and downright incompetence, must not be repeated in 2015-2016. But does that mean it won’t be? We’ll see. But the bottom line is that we MUST win the White House in 2016, if for no other reason than the balance of Supreme Court being at stake. But beyond that, it would be utterly disastrous for America to put today’s extreme, far-right-wing, science-denying incarnation of the Republican Party in charge. Which means, bottom line, I’m not going to be “ready” for Hillary – or any other candidate – unless and until I’m convinced they can win the November 2016 election.
2. What will Hillary Clinton’s message be this time around? In 2007-2008, for a long time it was basically, “I’m the inevitable nominee, resistance is futile.” Obviously, that didn’t cut it last time around, and it seems even less appropriate this time around. For one thing, we need to hear Clinton articulate where she wants to take the country, how she wants to address our most pressing issues – confronting climate change by transitioning rapidly from fossil fuels to a clean energy economy; figuring out a way to address growing income inequality and wage stagnation; investing in our decaying infrastructure; reforming and improving our nation’s dysfunctional health care system; educating/training Americans to compete in the economy of the 21st century; reforming our tax code and welfare programs (both individual and corporate); addressing our chronic budget deficit; improving our standing in a world of dangerous state and non-state actors; etc. There’s a lot to talk about, and I want to hear how Hillary Clinton’s approach is fleshed out before I am “ready” for her to be our nominee in 2016.
3. Will Hillary Clinton prove to be a disciplined candidate who is able to avoid gaffes and stay on her message? Over the past year or so, I’ve seen several cringe-inducing gaffes from Hillary, the worst of which may have been this one. There was also this incident, in which Clinton snapped at NPR’s “Terry Gross for pressing her on whether she changed her mind on gay marriage or she publicly stated something she had always believed.” Now, although I love Terry Gross, I do think she was being a bit ridiculous in that line of questioning. Still, Hillary Clinton’s many enemies on the right will be waiting to pounce on incidents like that one, let alone the “Don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs” comment. We’ll also have to see if Bill Clinton can stay on message, which at times during 2007-2008, he most certainly was not able to do — to Hillary’s detriment.
4. Finally, I DO want to see what other Democratic candidates throw their hats in the ring. If I’m convinced that any of them are a) better able to win the White House; b) better on policy issues; and c) well qualified, then I’ll seriously consider being “ready” for them as opposed to Hillary.
Bottom line: after the 2008 experience, I believe it’s far too early for Democrats to simply be lining up and declaring their fealty to any particular candidate. What we should all do is chill out, watch the process unfold, let representative democracy work its will, and let the candidates EARN our support. If, after all the debates, primaries, caucuses, etc., Hillary Clinton turns out to be the nominee, then more power to her, and I’ll strongly support her for president. But there’s a long way to go before we get to that point.