When Democrats worry about Hillary Clinton's electability, they focus on her reenergizing a depressed Republican base while demoralizing core Democratic activists, particularly those outraged about the war, and thus maybe lose the election. But there's a further danger if Hillary's nominated -- that she will win but then split the Democratic Party.
We forget that this happened with her husband Bill, because compared to Bush, he's looking awfully good. Much of Hillary's support may be nostalgia for when America's president seemed to engage reality instead of disdaining it. But remember that over the course of Clinton's presidency, the Democrats lost 6 Senate seats, 46 Congressional seats, and 9 governorships. This political bleeding began when Monica Lewinsky was still an Oregon college senior. Given Hillary's protracted support of the Iraq war, her embrace of neoconservative rhetoric on Iran, and her coziness with powerful corporate interests, she could create a similar backlash once in office, dividing and depressing the Democratic base and reversing the party's newfound momentum.
I had forgotten that happened with her husband. I do recall that he put his wife in charge of universal health care right off the bat, and the blowback was immediate and severe ...
Think about 1994. Pundits credited major Republican victories to angry white men, Hillary's failed healthcare plan, and Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." But the defeat was equally rooted in a massive withdrawal of volunteer support among Democratic activists who felt politically betrayed. Nothing fostered this sense more than Bill Clinton's going to the mat to push the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Angered by a sense that he was subordinating all other priorities to corporate profits, and by his cavalier attitude toward the hollowing out of America's industrial base, labor, environmental and social-justice activists nationwide withdrew their energy from Democratic campaigns. This helped swing the election, much as the continued extension of these policies (particularly around dropping trade barriers with China) led just enough Democratic leaning voters in 2000 to help elect George Bush by staying home or voting for Ralph Nader.
1994 was a time before my political activism; I was working hard and long hours on my corporate career (having moved from Midland to St. Pete, FL and then to Houston in '92, 3, and 4) and while I had successfully converted from republican to Democratic in the wake of the post-Reagan era, I wasn't paying particularly close attention beyond reading the newspapers, Newsweek and such. So while Loeb accounts for his grassroots experience in Washington state as evidence of the disillusionment of enthusiasm by liberal activists, I just can't verify that was the case in Houston or Texas. I wasn't on the ground. Let's pick his point back up, though:
To prevail in close races, Democrats need enthusiastic volunteer involvement. This happened in 1992, and then again in 2006. If Hillary is the nominee, she's likely to significantly damp this involvement, especially among anti-war activists. She'll also draw out the political right in a way that will make it far harder for down-ticket Democrats in states like Kentucky and Virginia where the party has recently been winning. She might not win at all, despite Bush's disastrous reign.
Recall my many postings about Texas Democrats down-ballot from Her. Though I think Loeb is wrong about her losing.
But even if she does, she is then strongly likely to fracture the party with her stands. She talks of staying in Iraq for counterterrorism operations, which could easily become indistinguishable from the present war. She backed the recent Kyl-Lieberman vote on Iran that Senator James Webb called "Cheney's fondest pipe dream." She supported the bankruptcy bill and the extension of Bush's tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. If her contributors are any guide, like those she courted in a $1,000-a-plate dinner for homeland security contractors, she's likely to cave to corporate interests so much in her economic policies that those increasingly squeezed by America's growing divides will backlash in ways that they're long been primed to by Republican rhetoric about "liberal elitists." And if Democrats do then begin to challenge her, the relative unity created by the Bush polities will quickly erode.Because the Republican candidates would bring us more of the same ghastly policies we've seen from Bush and Cheney, I'd vote for Hillary if she became the nominee. But I'd do so with a heavy heart, and a recognition that we'll have to push her to do the right thing on issue after issue, and won't always prevail. We still have a chance to select strong alternatives like Edwards (who I'm supporting) or Obama. And with Republican polling numbers in the toilet, this election gives Democrats an opportunity to seriously shift our national course that we may not have again for years. It would be a tragedy if they settled for the candidate most likely to shatter the momentum of this shift when it's barely begun.
That's pretty much me, right?