So yesterday (Sunday, April 12th), Hillary Rodham Clinton announced to the surprise of absolutely no one that she's running for President. I wonder if it took her so long to make that announcement because she just assumed everyone knew she was going to be President...er, running for President. Clinton's announcement of her run for the Presidency was about as shocking as finding out that the new season of Game of Thrones will have lots of violence.
The thing to remember is that none of this is a fait accompli which is Latin for "fat accomplice". Wait a moment, no, that's not it. It means, more or less, a done deal and I think we remember about 8 years ago when we thought it was a done deal that Hillary Clinton would win the Democratic nomination for President and had a really good shot at winning the whole thing. Hillary had already ordered her new Oval Office chair from A Sharper Image while Bill was reviewing White House diagrams for where he could put his secret "booty call closet".
Then a junior senator from Illinois named Barack Obama decided to get in the game. And all bets were off. Come November 2008, history was made not with the election of the United States' first female President but it's first African American President. (Unless you're Donald Trump; then Obama was our first African President.)
Is there anything on the horizon that similarly scuttle Hillary Clinton's coronation...I mean, election as President? 8 years ago, Obama was not completely off the radar. He had made a great impression with his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention and captivated the imagination of millions of Americans. Still, I imagine the expectation was that if Obama had any Presidential aspirations, those would come to the fore after a couple of terms in the Senate. The Clinton camp didn't anticipate Obama jumping so quickly to run for President. Or at least, they hoped not.
If Hillary Clinton represented something new by offering America a chance at its first female President, she was at the same time still a symbol of more of the same. If she had won the Democratic nomination in 2008 and won the Presidency that year and again in 2012, this would have established an uninterrupted line of executive leadership by 1 of 2 families going back to 1980.
- 1980 to 1992 - George H. W. Bush - 12 years (8 years as Vice President, 4 years)
- 1992 to 2000 - Bill Clinton - 8 years
- 2000 to 2008 - George W Bush - 8 years
- 2008 to 2016 - Hillary Clinton - 8 years
And imagine if Jeb Bush still ran for the 2016 Republican nomination after a Hillary Clinton presidency and he won the election and held office for 2 terms. That would potentially be 44 years of either a Bush or a Clinton being the President or at least a heartbeat away.
But in the run up to 2008, Barack Obama represented something totally new. Not just breaking a barrier of prejudice to obtain the highest office in the land but a completely new face, new name and new perspective. Of course, 8 years of unyielding recalcitrance from the Republican hard right has diminished if not outright destroyed any of that heady optimism anyone may have had for an Obama presidency. And Obama himself has made more than a few political missteps in his time in office reflecting his relative political inexperience and naivete.
Not that Hillary Clinton is above such mistakes herself, such as the recent debacle over her e-mails while serving as Secretary of State.
But in the launching of Hillary For President 2.0, there's no Obama on the horizon. There's no one in the Democratic Party who can make a significant challenge to Hillary Clinton. Except maybe Sen. Elizabeth Warren but she's made it clear she has no intentions of running for President.
The lack of a Democratic challenger can possibly be detrimental to Clinton's campaign. It's now approximately 17 months from the actual election in November 2016. That's a lot of time for an unchallenged Clinton campaign to get complacent and soft. On the other hand, that's 17 months Clinton can focus her attention on her Republican opponents.
And that's an opposition that is still in disarray. So far Ted Cruz and Paul Rand have not inspired much confidence as being ready the big leagues of a national campaign but that's not much of an issue as they toss red meat to their respective bases, keeping them engaged and energized. But as other candidates sign up for this ride, someone's going to have to step up and be the grown up.
However, in a political system where ideology trumps practical leadership, being a grown up AND winning the Republican nomination can be a bit tricky. For exhibit A, look no further than Mitt Romney who had to run against his own record as Massachusetts governor in order to win the primaries to secure the nomination. Forced to twist himself into a political pretzel to appeal to the baser elements of the right wing ideologues running the party undermined Romney. The extreme right he courted didn't trust him and more moderate voters were unsure of what he stood for.
I don't foresee there being much change on the Republican front heading into 2016. Jeb Bush is probably as close as the GOP has to a "grown up" but he's already feeling the right wing pressure. If Jeb does make it to the 2016 nomination, he may be as damaged as Romney was in 2012.
Which brings us back to Hillary Clinton. So maybe this time is her time and once more history will be made as we elect our first female President. So for 17 months, she has to stay above the fray but not be aloof. She needs to keep her supporters from getting bored but avoid scandals and missteps. She needs to be bold but avoid being stupid. She needs to be the "grown up" but avoid appearing dull.
It's going to be a really, really, really long 17 months.
Everyone be good to one another.
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You