Very interesting post by No More Mr. Nice Blog. I agree with this part:
I know, I know — “Hillary can’t win.” Except I’ve stopped believing that. As a lot of people have pointed out, the Bush win in 2004 proves that being utterly despised by huge chunks of the population is no longer a barrier to victory in a presidential election. (Arguably, we should have learned that in ’72.)
I wouldn’t say she’s my ideal candidate, but I’m not sure I could identify my ideal candidate. Can a true progressive ever actually win a presidential election? I doubt it, at least in the current climate. Far too few Americans identify with progressivism (even though they may support a lot of things that would be described as progressive).
Both these points are right, I think. The fact that large numbers of people despise Clinton isn’t really a big deal; these voters for the most part aren’t in play anyway. Clinton is a very canny politician. And Clinton is certainly progressive enough for a Democratic candidate for President, despite being far from ideal. I do, however, have two major caveats:
- While I don’t worry about how much the Republican base hates Hillary, I certainly do worry about the media. I am inclined to agree with Bob Somerby that a Hillary run would make the kneecapping of Gore look like nothing. Every phony scandal would be rehashed ad infinitum ad naseum.
- There’s another important problem, which I also think Yglesias brought up recently. Steve is correct that Hillary is much more moderate than her reputation, although she would certainly be infinitely preferable to whatever the Republicans cough up (and, Jon Chait notwithstanding, this definitely includes McCain.) But, of course, a candidate whose reputation is more liberal than their real politics is the worst model to follow. I have always argued that Gore’s campaign simply wasn’t the disaster many people claim, but the worst thing about Gore as a candidate is that he was a fairly conservative Democrat, who had the reputation of being a moonbat liberal. Being a pragmatic fellow, it doesn’t bother me that the Dems run a centrist. but they should at least get credit for it. I just don’t see Hillary getting that credit.
None if this is to say that Steve is necessarily wrong; Clinton certainly could win. The economic context in 2008 could well be so bad that it’s a virtual slam-dunk for the Dems. The Democrats may be better positioned to respond to the inevitable smear campaign. While enough leftists deserted Gore to throw the election to Bush, after 8 years of seeing the consequences only people of an Cockburnesque level of lunacy will be hopping on Nader’s clown car in 2008. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the second problem is real but not easily solved–it’s virtually impossible for a prominent Democrat to be more progressive than their reputation in the media. One reason Bush was able to win in 2000 was the media (with, of course, an assist from Nader and his supporters) gladly went along with the narrative that a man who governed to the right of the Texas legislature as a moderate who would restrain Congressional Republicans. The Democrats will never get that luxury. The problem may be particularly actute with Clinton, but I suspect the Dems will have to overcome this problem no matter what.
I don’t, of course, endorse Clinton; it depends on who else is running, who it looks like the GOP will run, etc. I’m skeptical. But to say that she can’t win is silly. She certainly can.
UPDATE: People more skeptical that I can rest easy: now that Dick Morris has predicted it, it won’t happen. The caveat is that Rice’s 0% chance of being the GOP candidate provides the inevitable falsification, but betting against Dick Morris is one of the world’s surest paths to wealth.