Jonathan Chait thinks Hillary Clinton is vulnerable in 2016 because economic populism is suddenly going to flower all over the country, or at least in Democratic precincts. In general, I'd love to believe Americans are headed in that direction (though I'm not so crazy about the idea that the Democrats' one truly viable 2016 presidential candidate will be its first victim). But I just don't buy Chait's premise:
... The coming liberal backlash against Clinton has two broad sources.... The first is financial regulation. Too big to fail is the great sleeper issue of American politics....I don't buy it. By 2008, one entire political party was ready to say "Enough!" with regard to the Iraq War; Americans could realistically hope that their votes really would end the war. By contrast, no front-rank major-party politician seems above the financial squalor. As Americans, we've just given up on the notion that any of our politicians will have clean hands. We assume everyone in politics is at least somewhat corrupt, and somewhat pro-plutocrat. Our expectations are so low that the more liberal voters are grateful just not to be insulted for failing to achieve millionaire status. (That's why we don't vote Republican.)
What could give the financial regulation issue true destructive power is a narrative about money and corruption....
And here is where Clinton has exposed herself to a potentially glaring weakness. Two weeks ago, the Washington Post linked Clinton to Jeffrey Thompson, who financed secretive get-out-the-vote operations for D.C. mayor Vincent Gray and apparently played the same role for Clinton’s 2008 campaign. The New Republic's Alec MacGillis has an explosive profile of Doug Band, the Bill Clinton body man and consummate political sleazoid who insinuated himself in Clinton's inner circle and learned to monetize his own role.
There is no "Clinton scandal" arising from these revelations. But there is certainly an atmosphere conducive to one. Bill Clinton has surrounded himself with wealthy people and paid barely any attention to the money flowing all around him....
Wall Street will be to 2016 what Iraq was to 2008: both a policy liability and a lever for her opponent to wedge open broader doubts about her character, to paint her as a corrupt and feckless insider....
Democratic primaries always feature a liberal insurgent. But the liberal insurgency doesn't always rely on more liberal policy ideas. Liberal insurgent candidates instead appeal to an ideal of purity and good government. George McGovern in 1972, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Gary Hart in 1984, Jerry Brown in 1992, Bill Bradley in 2000, and Barack Obama in 2008 all presented themselves as cleaner and less compromised than the Establishment candidates.Yup -- and Hart, Brown and Bradley lost (as did Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, and Paul Tsongas in 1992). Obama won in 2008, but financial purity had little or nothing to do with that win. (And please recall that he beat Hillary by an eyelash.) I question how many of the candidates listed by Chait ran on financial purity -- Carter ran as a candidate unsullied by the Washington that had given us Vietnam and Watergate; Hart sold himself as the "new ideas" guy; et cetera.
Voters don't get angry about cronyism because they expect no less; they don't get angry about financiers' shady doings because no ambitious politician dares to talk about them, for fear of drying up the revenue stream for life. Yes, maybe there's one exception to that rule: Elizabeth Warren. But she's become all but invisible to the average American since she won her election.
Look, I'd love to think these issues would catch fire, and either Hillary Clinton would seize on them or a rival with formidable, heretofore unrecognized political skills would ride them to the White House. But I've lived for thirty-plus years in Reagan and post-Reagan America. I'm not getting my hopes up.