Accepted wisdom: the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination is Hers for the asking.
But what if it isn’t? Why should it be? What magic quality would She have to raise herself above all those who have hewed more wood and hauled more water than She, for many more years than She, and to much greater effect?
In other words — why Hillary?
Let’s start with the obvious: she is a senator. Senators of course get nominated (set the Wayback Machine far, far into the mists of the past, all the way back to 2004). But you must have noticed they don’t win. Only two candidates since 1900 have gone from the Senate, with no “higher” office (governor, vice president, conquering general) to the presidency: Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy. (By election, I mean; Gerald Ford is an anomaly.)
Both were heavier hitters than Hillary Rodham: Harding was a major force in Ohio politics for many years, serving in the state Senate and as Lt. Governor and running unsuccessfully for governor before being elected to the U.S. Senate; and Kennedy, of course, was the surviving scion of one of the most politically powerful and connected dynasties in Massachusetts and was a hero of World War II.
By contrast, Hillary’s resume is that she is married to the guy who used to be president, and she carpetbagged her way into the Senate with a lot of help from her husband’s political and fundraising machine. And she has a creepy brother. Every element of her earlier biography has that same asterisk attached: “oh, but of course she was the governor’s wife.”
Second, we no longer have a primary vote in this country; we have votefare, where warring factions each put up a candidate and then battle it out in mudslogging, muckraking trench warfare. And on the Democratic side, the votefare is quite asymmetrical: one very small but shrill tail wags the entire yellow dog.
This muscular faction is of course the left-liberal anti-Bush anti-Iraq pro-gay-marriage pro-abortion pro-tax pro-U.N. International ANSWER Move-On Soros-heads — oh, call them the Aggrieved, just for short. Since their guy lost the primary last year to the senator who went on to lose persuasively to George Bush, the Aggrieved have started foaming at the mouth. They insist that Kerry lost precisely because he did not articulate the tinfoil conspiracy campaign of the Fahrenheit 9/11 mob… and they are in no mood to settle once again for someone who tries to run away from her essenential liberalness.
I do not believe Hillary will be the candidate of the Aggrieved; whatever she may have done as president of the Legal Services Corporation (for which hold your nose and read David Brock’s the Seduction of Hillary Rodham), what has she done for the Left lately? She has tacked so far to starboard, she’s trying to right-flank George W. Bush on the Iraq war and on immigration.
I think they’ll want Dean again (slogan: if at first you don’t succeed, slime, slime again). The accepted wisdom (there it is again!) is that Dean cannot run for president because he is the chairman of the DNC. But why should anyone imagine that Dean, who is only slightly less meglomaniacal and narcissistic than that guy from Arizona, would be gentlemanly or even fair about it?
Besides, the way things are going, he may not even be chairman of the DNC come this November, let alone three years from now. If not Dean, the Aggrieved hyperfaction may pick a Barbara Boxer or even a hyperventilating Al Gore… he has certainly been auditioning for the role in every speech since December 2000. Or they could just cut out the middleman and pick Michael Moore. (Slogan: he won’t fight the world, he’ll swallow it!)
The candidate of the Aggrieved will self destruct, of course. He always does. But if he has the decency to self-destruct before the big primaries, the path will be opened for a nominee from one of the minifactions. But our heroine fares little better on this votefare front.
If Hillary won’t be the Soros-Wing candidate, neither will she be the candidate of the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, which is actually more of a moderate pinfeather: that honor still belongs to Joe Lieberman, or perhaps Joe Biden, if they insist upon a senator named “Joe.” If the pinfeather faction is smart, it will push a successful Southern Democratic governor instead — Phil Bredesen (TN), Mike Easley (NC), Mark Warner (VA), or Antonio Villaraigosa (governor of Southern California). The pinheads are certainly not going to hitch their little, blue wagons to a woman with negatives higher than Oliver Cromwell in 1661, when his deceased body was exhumed and posthumously executed.
Finally, there are the liberal stalwarts. Teddy Kennedy (of the liquifaction) is too old and pickled, of course; but there is still the senior senator from New York, Charles Schumer… and no way will Teddy diss Chuck by picking the junior senator from New York. Besides, she can’t hold her liquor.
So I don’t think I’m going as far out on a limb as the AW would indicate by predicting that Hillary Rodham Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee for president in 2008. Or ever, for that matter.