It’s not hard to come up with explanations for liberals’ newfound acceptance. There is the fact that she and Obama reconciled and her (mostly) dutiful service as his secretary of state. There is the letdown that some (many?) Obama liberals have felt about their man and his high-flown aspirations for changing Washington, which has led to a reassessment of Clinton’s more Earth-bound approach. There is the simple reality that there is not a credible rival to assume Obama’s spot in the field as the more liberal, dynamic, and idealistic alternative—were Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run, she would quickly remind liberals of their misgivings about Clinton, but it really looks like she’s not running.
The result is a sort of collective amnesia among Obama supporters when it comes to their former estimation of Clinton—a reluctance to reckon fully with their aversion to her then and what has come of it since. This amnesia may seem harmless now, but one can’t help but wonder if it might come back to haunt Democrats in the general election if it is not confronted more fully before then. Democrats, including Obama’s diehard 2008 backers, may now seem willing to accept Clinton with a shrug or even a hug, and let bygones be bygones. But will that acceptance hold once they start seeing her out on the trail again—giving the stump speeches they found so dreadfully dull in contrast to those of their chosen guy in 2008, giving such hyper-cautious answers in debates, coming off as stumbling and disingenuous in her efforts to align herself with the mood of the moment? Better for Democrats to reckon with that prospect now than in the heat of the 2016 campaign, when they might suddenly find themselves feeling as unenthusiastic about her as they did about another Democrat running to succeed a two-term president with a stronger claim to the party’s emotional core.