Hmmm. Maybe Donald Trump’s re-election chances are pretty good after all. Longtime Clinton pollster and adviser Mark Penn writes in the Wall Street Journal, along with New York City Council president Andrew Stein, that voters need to “get ready for Hillary Clinton 4.0.” The fourth time will prove the charm, they predict, as Hillary v4 will easily win nomination for a rematch in 2020 against Trump.
That has to be music to Republican ears:
Get ready for Hillary Clinton 4.0. More than 30 years in the making, this new version of Mrs. Clinton, when she runs for president in 2020, will come full circle—back to the universal-health-care-promoting progressive firebrand of 1994. True to her name, Mrs. Clinton will fight this out until the last dog dies. She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House.
Penn and Stein then launch into a lengthy recap of Hillary Clinton’s political career and serial reinventions. Hillary 1.0 was a proud statist (they cite HillaryCare), but then she morphed into Hillary 2.0 in order to win her Senate seat as a copy of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but that fell apart when Barack Obama challenged her for the 2008 nomination. She then reinvented herself again (Hillary 3.0) as a progressive radical focused on out-Bernie-ing Bernie Sanders, which “cost her an easy win against Donald Trump.”
The fourth version of Hillary, Penn and Stein promise, will be “strong, partisan, left-leaning and all-Democrat,” which … sounds a lot like Hillary 3.0, actually. This time, though, she’ll have “the guts, experience and steely-eyed determination to defeat Mr. Trump,” which … also sounds a lot like her argument for 2016. Frankly, it’s almost impossible not to compare this argument with the sketch about the swamp castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
If this is going to be an actual argument for another presidential run, it’s precisely why Hillary has failed all along. Reinvention might work once, but it opens up the possibility of insincerity. Three reinventions forecloses all the other possibilities. It’s a cartoon of a career politician so desperate for power that they’ll literally say anything to get elected. Authenticity might be somewhat overrated as a deciding factor in politics today, but desperation’s potency as a turn-off is if anything underrated.
Besides, the plan Penn and Stein lay out make it sound like they’ve learned nothing at all from 2016:
Mrs. Clinton won’t travel the country in a van with Huma Abedin this time, doing small events and retail politics. Instead she will enter through the front door, mobilizing the army of professional women behind her, leveraging her social networks, and raking in donations. She will hope to emerge as an unstoppable force to undo Mr. Trump, running on the #MeToo movement, universal health care and gun control. Proud and independent, this time she will sideline Bill and Mr. Obama, limiting their role to fundraising.
And that’s different from Hillary’s general election strategy … how, exactly? Hillary lost three blue-wall states because she lost interest in retail politics after the 2016 Iowa primary. She ran on 30,000-foot messaging of the kind Penn and Stein describe here without bothering to deign to speak with voters or contextualize her agenda in any meaningfully specific way. All Hillary did was talk about how it was the turn of women in 2016, by which she meant it was her turn. Donald Trump may not have been very good at retail politics either (outside of rallies, which he’s still expert at staging), but at least he was talking about what concerned voters rather than lecturing them on how they should be more concerned about him getting his turn.
As for sidelining Bill, child please. Democrats just got done pulling out Brett Kavanaugh’s high-school yearbooks in an attempt to paint him as a sex offender. Bill Clinton has much more significant history and allegations made contemporaneously to his time in office, and Hillary has a significant history of dismissing their claims. Her party made Juanita Broaddrick’s allegation of rape newly relevant, and as Bill Clinton’s last book tour proved, those allegations won’t get sidelined again. If Democrats try to put the Clintons back in the White House, that #MeToo movement Hillary will supposedly leverage will get challenged to assert itself or commit suicide in service to her political ambitions.
“Don’t pay much attention to the ‘I won’t run’ declarations,” write Penn and Stein. If this is the quality of advice they’re giving Hillary, she’d be better off not paying much attention to the Hillary 4.0 argument.