I'm not trying to turn this blog into a Hillary Clinton fan blog -- I didn't even back her in the '08 primaries -- but damn, some of what's being said about her these days is ridiculous. Here's Alex Seitz-Wald at National Journal:
Is Hillary Clinton Blocking a New Generation of Democratic Leaders?One problem with this argument jumps out immediately: Hillary Clinton was "inevitable" in 2008, and a younger candidate beat her anyway. Nothing's preventing potential challengers from doing in 2016 what Barack Obama did in 2008.
... her inevitability masks a potential weakness within the Democratic Party: the lack of a deep bench of future national leaders. For a coalition that prides itself on diversity, the list of presidential hopefuls is filled with white men: Vice President Joe Biden, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. With Clinton, the party that nominated Barack Obama in 2008 is now looking to the past for their presidential hopeful.
Furthermore, the Democratic dependence on Hillary Clinton hampers the development of a Democratic farm team. With Clinton expected to take up so much room in the post-Obama party, is there much room for anyone else?
But please recall what the 2008 field looked like: apart from Clinton and Obama, there was the (as we now know) ethically challenged John Edwards, there was the quirky Dennis Kucinich, and there were elder statesmen with inadequate star quality -- Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Chris Dodd. Obama aside, that year's field wasn't full of bright up-and-comers, either.
So was that Hillary's fault? No. It's the fault of a Democratic Party that has never developed a noise machine to create serious hype for its potential stars, and to persuade the Beltway that those people really are stars. The Democratic Party is so hapless in this effort that even though the blatant Republican skew on Sunday morning talk shows has been obvious for nearly a decade, Democrats have never done anything to reverse it.
Parties typically develop national leaders and future candidates through the primary process. This is especially true for Republicans, who have famously nominated the runner-up in the previous cycle's primary contests nearly every election since 1976.But then he contradicts himself:
By 2016, it will have been eight years since Democrats have had a contested primary, and if Clinton is effectively anointed the nominee and wins the presidency (still two big ifs), it will have been 16 years by the 2024 cycle. That's a long time without the incubation chamber for national leaders that primaries provide.
Republicans have developed a farm team of up-and-coming elected officials considering presidential bids. Just look at leaders in their 40s who, if not candidates themselves, can at least serve as national surrogates for the party. In the Congress there's Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, along with 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan. In the statehouses, there's Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Most have positioned themselves as part of a new generation of reformers.Right -- and please note that none of these guys have run for president (except Kasich, who briefly ran in the 2000 cycle, but dropped out in the summer of '99). Ryan was a VP candidate, but the others are considered stars because we've been told they're stars -- even Jindal, who's a joke to most rational observers, who has only a 42% approval rating in his own state, and who barely registers in 2016 presidential polls. A Beltway press that's wired for Republicans is wired to accept Republican hypesters' assessments of GOP politicians' star quality. Democrats are lousy at doing this for their own, and they don't even recognize that they have a problem in this area.
Barack Obama pretty much willed himself to stardom; so did Howard Dean in 2004. Elizabeth Warren has mostly done the same thing, as has Cory Booker. But people like Julian Castro and Kirsten Gillibrand and Martin O'Malley aren't managing that on their own -- and aren't getting much help from the party.
If I stick up for Hillary Clinton, it's because I don't think the Democratic Party knows how to turn anyone else on the party's bench into a winner for 2016. The party has allowed the likely nominee if Clinton doesn't run, Joe Biden, to become an Onion-defined laughingstock. The party isn't hyping anyone else. The party doesn't seem to know how. So if Hillary doesn't run, it's the Republicans' race to lose. And that's the Democratic Party's fault.