For conservatives, policy matters above all: You can be Rick Perry or a Marco Rubio or a Scott Walker, but if you deviate from the true path on a single issue, we’ll cast you into the outer darkness as a phony conservative. Progressives invert that: Personnel is what really counts. They operate on the assumption (which turns out to be well founded) that as long as they get their people into positions of power, they’re going to get their way most of the time when it really counts. That’s why Barack Obama could run for the presidency to the right of Dick Cheney on gay marriage — twice, while citing the Bible for justification — without hearing a peep. And it’s why he could subsequently name to the Supreme Court Elena Kagan, who insisted that “there is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.” When the time came, Obama’s people were going to give Obama’s people what Obama’s people wanted, and everybody knew it.
But the Clintons aren’t Obama’s people. Bill Clinton thinks of Obama as his own political Stepin Fetchit, the guy who only a few years ago would have been “carrying our bags.” Herself was Obama’s main obstacle to power. (No, Senator McCain most certainly was not.) Obama did not build this machine to hand it over to the Clintons on a cold winter morning in 2017. That puts him in a double bind: He has to make it beyond question that he and his clique now own the Democratic party — that the Clintons are just weird sad old 1990s relics like those ancient AOL CDs that some youngsters ironically collect — but he also needs the Democrats to win the presidency in 2016 in order for the party to be worth owning. And of the candidates in the race, only Herself has a plausible shot at being elected president of these United States. Senator Sanders vs. Senator Rubio? Republicans would have their best year since 1988.