Given how much America enjoyed Trump-Clinton I, the prospect of a rematch feels like an early Christmas present.
Raising doubts about legitimacy of election, even w/out overturning result, is part of Clinton's plans to keep her options open for 2020
— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) November 28, 2016
That’s just Fournier spitballing, right? Nothing gets the juices flowing on a slow post-holiday news day like the unfounded suggestion of a dismal losing candidate coming back for more punishment in four years. He’s just tossing it out there to start an argument. Except … no, he isn’t. He claims that people close to Hillary are open to the idea. This isn’t coming from him but from them. To which you and I might say: Why? Why would they want to relive this nightmare in four years? Ben Shapiro runs through a few of the many, many arguments against “Hillary: The Sequel.”
She was the first female major party candidate in history, and she was unable to pull away from a man who was caught on tape talking about grabbing women by the “p***y”; her husband was a president with significant blue collar appeal, and she lost the blue collar white vote in historic fashion; she didn’t even match Barack Obama’s numbers among Hispanics after Trump openly said a judge of Mexican descent couldn’t judge his case fairly; she relied on Hollywood glitz rather than on-the-ground campaigning and paid for it with the White House.
Hillary for re-election in 2020 would be incredible for Republicans. She’d be back, she’d be twice as annoying (which is almost mathematically impossible), and she’d have half the enthusiasm (again, almost mathematically impossible). Meanwhile, she’d suck all the oxygen out of the room, preventing other candidates from rising. Her corruption would ensure that any future Trump corruption would be negated as a campaign issue. Republicans should pray for more Hillary.
It won’t happen, with 99 percent certainty. For all the ink spilled since the election about Democrats being lost in the wilderness and divided about the direction of the party, they seem to have grasped two points fairly well. One: They need to rebuild their appeal to the working-class white voters who broke overwhelmingly for Trump. That’s the essence of Rep. Tim Ryan’s challenge to Pelosi for the leadership of the Democratic caucus in the House. Ryan’s a Rust-Belter from Ohio; he wants the party to be less the party of coastal liberal elites like Pelosi and more a party for blue-collar voters in his backyard. Bernie Sanders, although every inch the full-spectrum liberal that Pelosi is, became the sensation that he was in the primaries by running on left-wing economic populism more so than cultural liberalism, which puts him in line with Ryan. Liberals seem to understand, recently even to the point of self-mockery, that they’ve neglected old-fashioned trans-racial class-based appeal for a too-heavy emphasis on identity politics and cultural crusades like gay marriage.
Two: Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate. She was the essence of Wall Street establishmentarianism in a populist climate. She had no message beyond “Trump bad.” She was, almost uniquely among prominent Democrats, nearly as unpopular as Trump himself. She made some incredibly poor strategic choices, starting with her decision to neglect Rust Belt states like Wisconsin down the stretch in order to make a quixotic bid for Arizona. And she was saddled with a criminal investigation involving national security that nearly sank her candidacy this summer and may well have damaged her badly the week before the election. Yeah, she won the popular vote, but that’s probably more a testament to blue states’ deep reservations about Trump than it is a reflection on Clinton. Has any Democrat outside of Hillary’s own immediate orbit made the case since Election Day that she was a solid pick for the party and ran a good campaign? Certainly most liberal commentators have conceded that she lost a winnable race.
Put those two points together — Hillary’s terrible and the party needs to win back blue-collar voters — and how on earth do you justify a “Hillary 2020” campaign? If Democrats go all out to win back whites in the Rust Belt, they can surely do better than a Washington dinosaur known for getting paid six figures for speeches by bankers. If instead Democrats go all out to try to duplicate the “Obama coalition” again, i.e. turning out upscale liberals, young adults, and minority voters en masse, they can surely do better than an elderly white lady who took to campaigning with LeBron James and Beyonce in Ohio to try to create a reason for black voters to show up for her. No matter which direction Democrats go, the Ryan/Sanders populist direction or the Obama direction, Hillary’s a bad fit. There is no “Hillary direction” and there never has been because Clinton doesn’t really stand for anything. All of that being so, it’d be nutty to bring her back in 2020 and pit her against a candidate who’s already defeated her once and will be running with the wind of incumbency at his back this time. Somehow she’d need to overcome all of that, plus the stench of having lost once before, and get elected to her first term of office at the ripe old age of 73. Even if you’re dead set for whatever reason on nominating an underwhelming woman senator from New York, why wouldn’t you draft Kirsten Gillibrand instead of Hillary? At least Gillibrand’s not crushed by scandal.
Like I say, it’s 99 percent certain that Clinton’s dunzo — but there’s still that one percent of doubt left. Why? Two reasons: Trump might have a successful term, depleting the ranks of Democrats willing to run against him, and the Democratic bench is awfully, awfully, awfully thin to begin with. Bernie Sanders will be 79 on Election Day 2020 and can safely be ruled out. Elizabeth Warren will be 71, which would make her older then than Trump is now, but if the party goes in the Ryan/Sanders direction, she’s the favorite. If instead they try to put the Obama coalition back together, they’ll look at Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, but I think it does O a major disservice to believe that his voters will turn out in numbers for another young minority senator just because they’re a young minority senator. Obama was a phenomenon and a trailblazer, and capitalized on being seen as an antidote to the Bush year. Neither Booker nor Harris is likely to occupy anything like that same niche. Besides, Democrats will probably be hunting around for a Latino candidate to galvanize the faster-growing minority group — except that that bench is thin too, with Joaquin and Julian Castro (who?) probably the most prominent Democratic Latino pols right now. If the party can’t find anyone formidable to run against Trump, especially if Trump is popular, and if Hillary’s willing to put in the time and effort to recast herself as a — giggle — populist in the intervening four years, might they throw up their hands and give her another shot in 2020? I’m thinking … no, definitely not. But then, I would have told you the same thing about the likelihood of a Trump presidency a year ago. Or, er, a month ago.