To be honest, it’s been tough to believe that Republicans can pull off a miracle in the midterms this year to hold onto the House. Yes, the polls show a GOP rebound in the generic ballot, and yes, Nancy Pelosi seems intent on making snobbery the central Democratic Party theme for the election. Donald Trump’s approval rating has even begun climbing again.
I want to believe, I really do. But it wasn’t until this morning’s Washington Post report that I really began to see a permanent Republican majority, or something:
In the first electoral season since the stunning loss that extinguished her years-long drive for the presidency, [Hillary] Clinton, 70, has begun a discreet and low-profile reentry into the political fray.
Her emerging 2018 strategy, according to more than a dozen friends and advisers familiar with her plans, is to leverage the star power she retains in some Democratic circles on behalf of select candidates while remaining sufficiently below the radar to avoid becoming a useful target for Republicans seeking to rile up their base.
Most likely, they said, Clinton will attempt to help Democratic candidates who have a history of supporting her and her family, and expending her political capital in a number of the 23 congressional districts she won in 2016 but are now held by a Republican. Lending a hand to Democrats organizing at a grass-roots level is a priority, they added.
What could go wrong — for Republicans? Nothing, really. Democrats have insisted that they want to make the 2018 midterms a referendum on Trump. What better way to do that than to highlight the woman who not only managed to lose an election to him but for months afterward was even less well liked that he was? Hillary managed to insult half the country with her “deplorables” remark, a revealing look at her snobbery that voters will not soon forget — certainly not in just two years.
Furthermore, asking Hillary to boost “organizing at grass-roots level” is somewhat akin to making Sid Blumenthal the Minister of Transparency. Don’t Democrats remember her performance in grassroots organizing in places like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania? They might get a rude reminder if they rely on Hillary for their election fortunes again.
In fact, she got beaten in both of her presidential runs for that specific failure. Barack Obama out-organized her in the 2008 primaries, and she never bothered to put the resources into that fight eight years later in the general election. Hillary was too busy talking with deep-pockets donors and assuming that people would just show up for her against Trump. That also appears to be the broader Democratic strategy in 2018 too, which means they still have that much in common.
Besides, what will Clinton’s message be? She’s been stuck for more than a year on November 8, 2016, talking about herself and the injustice done to her. Even her allies have gotten tired of this schtick. Boston television critic Joanna Weiss wrote yesterday in Politico that it’s like living through a nightmarish version of Groundhog Day, and that Hillary needs to, ahem, “move on”:
It’s tough to lose an election for student council, let alone for president. So it made sense that, after November 2016, Hillary Clinton would have spent some time wallowing in the past, howling at the universe with a side of Chardonnay. That’s the frame of mind she described in What Happened, her post-campaign memoir that came out in September, which was more of an angry play-by-play of how she was wronged than a clear-headed self-assessment of the race. Now, five months after the book came out, 15 months after the election, Clinton’s been spotted promoting family friend Lanny Davis’ new book, The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency.
We just passed Groundhog Day on the calendar, but it feels like we’re still living it; we can’t break free from the gnashing and rehashing of the 2016 election. …
The point is to drop any public grumbling about the past, or calling out of Trump in outraged tweets, or stirring up partisan fury by mocking Trump in public. (Though at least her cameo at the Grammys, reading a passage from “Fire and Fury,” redeemed itself with a self-deprecating joke: “The Grammy’s in the bag?”) There are plenty of people willing and able to analyze the 2016 race and point out the absurdities of Trump. Clinton doesn’t need to be a voice in that mix. She has the chance to go down in history as much more than the almost-first-woman-president. It starts with changing the subject.
It’s not just Hillary that needs to move on. Democrats need to move on from their obsession with the Clintons, and for that matter their obsession with the Kennedys, too. Voters made it excruciatingly clear that they don’t want dynasties in politics for their own sake, and especially not for the sake of the dynasts themselves. When Democrats care more about working-class voters outside the urban bubbles than they do about the Clintons, they’ll win more elections. Until then, Republicans will be delighted to help them make Hillary’s resentment over being denied access to power the main theme of the Democratic Party.