Not lonely enough and not long enough, but at least it’s a start. “No one wants to campaign with Bill Clinton anymore,” the New York Times’ Lisa Lerer reports, thanks in part to the #MeToo movement, but not in the largest part. The former president and dominant Democratic figure of the last 26 years finds himself in low demand as Democrats fight to win back control of the House and limit their losses in the Senate. Even back home in Arkansas, the Big Dog just don’t hunt anymore:
Mr. Clinton, who was governor and attorney general of Arkansas, was once a near-ubiquitous presence helping Democrats in tough races back home, but the former president hasn’t been asked to appear on the trail for Mr. Tucker.
There are no plans for him to do so. Or, for that matter, appear publicly with any Democrat running in the midterm elections.
As Democrats search for their identity in the Trump era, one aspect has become strikingly clear: Mr. Clinton is not part of it. Just days before the midterm elections, Mr. Clinton finds himself in a kind of political purgatory, unable to overcome past personal and policy choices now considered anathema within the rising liberal wing of his party.
The former president, once such a popular political draw that he was nicknamed his party’s “explainer-in-chief,” has only appeared at a handful of private fund-raisers to benefit midterm candidates, according to people close to him.
How bad has it gotten? Clinton did a fundraising event for Mike Espy, his former Cabinet official, to benefit his run for the open Senate seat in Mississippi. That race is such a foregone conclusion that there’s hardly any polling in it, but a recent NBC News/Marist survey put Espy down 14 points to appointee Cindy Hyde-Smith, 50/36, if the two end up facing each other in a runoff election. (That’s likely, because Republican Chris McDaniel is in the race and getting 15% of the polling respondents, making it a 38/29/15 race for Hyde-Smith.) Even in a state where Clinton could hardly hurt his prospects, though, Espy’s campaign refused to comment about his presence at Espy’s fundraiser.
Now that’s cold.
So what’s the cause of Bill Clinton’s political leprosy of late? Lerer posits that Clinton has become a liability on two #MeToo and his center-left track record. The #MeToo issues are obvious, especially as the media begins to ask questions about multiple allegations of sexual assault that are about 26 years overdue. The attempt to force Brett Kavanaugh out of his Supreme Court nomination over vague and unsubstantiated allegations of teenage groping made that situation worse, as Democrats who had long shrugged off allegations of actual rape with Clinton suddenly found that alleged assault entirely disqualifying for public service even if it couldn’t be substantiated. How do you stand on a podium with the Clenis after that?
However, Democrats have no issue backing candidates with allegations of violence hanging over their heads, as long as they are sufficiently progressive otherwise. Just ask Keith Ellison, who got the DFL to give him cover with a cooked-up “outside investigation” of domestic-violence campaigns. And he might end up being Minnesota’s top law enforcement officer as well as the Democratic Party’s vice chair, a role he has not relinquished nor been asked to do so. Clinton’s sin here is that he hasn’t been — or really, wasn’t — a progressive during his presidency. His tough-on-crime and welfare policies don’t fit the current gestalt in the socialist-ascendant Democratic Party, while Ellison’s radicalism fits it like a glove.
Give Bill Clinton credit for recognizing this, though. It’s just too bad that his audition with Louis Farrakhan didn’t solve the problem. And it’s a big, big problem if Hillary Clinton has any thoughts on a third try for the brass ring. Although if the Clintons were clever enough, they could turn lemons into lemonade, as Democratic New York state assemblyman Dov Hilkind did yesterday, via the Reagan Battalion:
— Dov Hikind (@HikindDov) November 1, 2018