Like most people, I expect the next elected President of the United States to be a Democrat, I expect that next elected President to be a woman, and I expect that next elected President to be a Clinton. Like most people, if asked who I expect to vote for between her and any named Republican, I answer “Hillary.”
And yet, as a Democrat, I’d have to acknowledge that the Republicans are about to have a whole lot more fun nominating their candidate than we Democrats are about to have. In fact, the upcoming nomination process isn’t just a matter of having fun, it’s a matter of selecting someone who will emerge at the nominating Convention and beyond in fighting trim. As things stand now, the Democrats aren’t going to have such a candidate. They will be offering a candidate who has been coronated – in other words, someone who hasn’t had to earn her starting job. While the Republicans will be fiercely debating each other, the Democrats will be fiercely raising money and poll-testing positions. Then, a year-and-a-half from now after Hillary emerges as the nominee without having to practice “with her pads on,” the rust will be readily apparent. Her opponent, by contrast, will be ready to hit the ground running after a tough, competitive session. It will be “the inevitable one” against “the street fighter.” The former will go in as the favorite, but the underdog will go in as the one who is ready. I’ve seen that pairing play out before, both on the football field and in the Bible. It usually doesn’t go well for the one who plays the role of Goliath – at least not if the “David” has any skills whatsoever.
Part of the reason I’m still betting on Hillary is that I have no confidence in the “David” who emerges from the Republican field. But nor would I count them out altogether. Bush III has the advantage of being perceived as moderate, bright, and not inexperienced. Plus, he’ll have a ton of money. Walker and Rubio are fresh faces who, with proper packaging, might indeed play well in Peoria. All these guys will present a contrast between themselves, as populists, and the Democrats, as supporters of entrenched bureaucratic interests. They will have the benefit of running against Washington, which is always useful.
When was the last time we elected a Democratic President who was not the incumbent but came from the Party that controlled the White House? (And don’t tell me “Al Gore,” because even though he ran against Alfred E. Newman, he still was never officially elected.) The answer is James Buchanan in 1857, and perhaps that is only because his predecessor, Franklin Pierce, served one term. That is what Hillary is up against.
The conventional wisdom in Washington is that Hillary only has to show up, show that her name is still “Clinton” and that she has two X chromosomes, and she’ll win. The conventional wisdom is that Hillary has 100% percent chance of getting the nomination no matter who runs, so no serious person will run against her. The conventional wisdom is that the Party will find some folks to toss their hats in the ring, but everyone will know from the start that they have no chance, and they’ll serve the same role that sparring partners serve – throwing no real punches and just getting “the champ” ready. Perhaps more to the point, these other candidates will play the role of the Washington Generals and Hillary will be like the Harlem Globetrotters – she will dazzle, they will fade into the woodwork, and the outcome (and perhaps even the plays leading up to the outcome) will be preordained.
But can it really be that easy? Can a candidate whose last name produces fatigue, who is far from the most natural candidate in her own family, and who can’t credibly run as an outsider do well in a general-election campaign without having cut her teeth against real intra-Party competition? That’s a hell of a good question, as far as I’m concerned. Now there is a worthy competitor in Hillary’s Party – her name is Elizabeth Warren. But for some reason, and I think that collective senility might be the only decent explanation, the Party elites aren’t begging Warren to run. They still seem to think that an essentially unopposed Hillary will be able to show up in the Fall, face competition for the first time in nearly a decade, and sing in tune from start to finish. I honestly don’t know how they can be so confident in such a plan.
There is a reason teams have a pre-season. In fact, there is a reason that over-and-above the pre-season, teams hold practices with other teams where the guys get to hit one another hard – just to get ready for the pre-season. Competitors need competition in order to (what is the word?) … compete! The Democratic establishment appears to be OK with throwing Hillary out there without competition.
Maybe this party is socialist after all. Now I realize that they don’t seem to care about helping the poor or even the lower-middle class, but only a socialist would fail to appreciate the value of competition in grooming lean, mean companies … or candidates.
Elizabeth Warren, join the race in earnest. We Democrats need you to run. And nobody needs you to run more than Hillary Clinton. She might think she can pull off a James Buchanan with relative ease, but people like that don’t come around very often. History has proven as much.