Hillary isn't Bill O'Reilly. She's Brian Williams. She travels in the same circles as elite-media superstars, so the elite media is paying attention to the allegations and giving them massive amounts of attention. Want to survive a problem like this? Be Scott Walker, or even Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney. Be someone who's not seen as part of the Social Register by the New York and D.C. press. Then you can do whatever furtive thing you want with electronic communications. They'll ignore you. They'll ignore most scandals if you live Out There Somewhere. (Bridgegate would have been a national nothingburger if Chris Christie had been governor of a flyover state.)
So if it's not Hillary for the Democrats in 2016, who's it going to be? I don't foresee anyone electable picking up the torch. It's going to be Joe Biden, folks -- and there hasn't much polling of Biden, but surveys suggest that Jeb Bush, at least, would beat him. The advantage Hillary Clinton has -- or has had until now -- is that she seems like a change candidate to people who are persuadable voters for the Democratic Party but are tired of Barack Obama, and she seems like a continuity candidate to voters who still like Obama. To put that cynically, she has appeal to white heartlanders who've had it with Obama, for whatever reasons. After a period of Obama fatigue, that's what Democrats need to win next time. With Biden, they won't have it. He's just a candidate of continuity.
But don't Democrats have a natural structural advantage in presidential elections? Maybe, maybe not. We don't know what Democratic voters will do if there isn't a superstar on the ballot. The last time that happened, in 2004, was the last time the Democrats lost the popular vote. Democrats can elect a rock star like Obama or Bill Clinton. If they run a less charismtic candidate, the results could be just like the midterms, when all those Democratic non-stars lost.
So Democrats need a Plan B, fast -- or we're going to need a Tea Party movement of our own when we're confronted with an all-GOP federal govenment. And we know that's not going to work -- it hasn't worked in Wisconsin or North Carolina, has it, admirable though those movements may be? You can have a successful Tea Party-style movement, one that really does push back on the party in power, only when you're bankrolled as lavishly as the teabaggers were.
So we're in trouble.
We need to start talking about precisely what kind of trouble we're facing. A Republican president and Congress are going to try to change everything, fast, starting on Day One in 2017. That was the plan last time, as Ed Kilgore notes:
In 2012, for example, Republicans were planning a post-election agenda based on implementing the audacious Paul Ryan budget and the repeal of Obamacare in one budget reconciliation bill -- even as Mitt Romney was on the campaign trail posing as the soul of moderation.But aren't Republicans backing away from those extreme budgets? Didn't Marco Rubio just announce his support for a "reform conservative" budget that benefits the middle class? In a word, no, as Jonathan Chait points out:
Last year, Rubio and [Senator Mike] Lee unveiled a tax-reform plan that their allies touted as a manifesto of reform conservatism, positioning the Republican Party on the side of hard-press working families rather than the rich. Lee’s plan “actually help[s] middle-class families rather than mostly cut taxes on the investor class,” gushed Ross Douthat, one of the most fervent and optimistic advocates of the reform-conservative faction.And that's the reform plan. Alternately, these guys may just go for a Ryan-style budget. What would stop them?
Eventually, the Tax Policy Center crunched the numbers on Lee’s plan and found that it did nothing of the sort.... the Lee-Rubio plan lavished far more benefits on the rich. The average earner in the lowest income quintile would save on average $79 a year, or 0.5 percent of her income, from the plan. An earner in the second-lowest quintile, the heart of the working class, would save $338 a year, or one percent of her income. The top one percent earner would see its income boosted by 2.8 percent on average, or more than $40,000 a year. The plan was simply a reprise of Bush-era debt-financed regressive tax cuts.
... Rubio and Lee have come out with a revised version of their plan. But it didn’t get better. It got much, much, much worse. The new Rubio-Lee plan keeps most of its old structure, with its stingy treatment of low-income workers. It layers on top of that two changes: a far more generous treatment of business income, and a complete elimination of all taxes on capital gains and dividends.... The plan would also, unbelievably, completely eliminate the tax on inherited estates.... The new Rubio-Lee plan would surpass anything George W. Bush or Mitt Romney ever proposed to do in its ambitions to relieve the richest Americans of their tax burdens.
And they may demand balanced budgets, which would require huge spending cuts, probably (because these are Republican we're talking about) limited to non-military programs. I see a lot of critiques of the right-wing push for mandatory federal balanced budgeting, but I never see this vivid one: It would have made the New Deal illegal. A national government has to be able to spend more when its revenues are less, as in an economic downturn, in order to keep money flowing into the economy, via programs such as unemployment insurance, and federal aid that helps municipalities keep teachers and cops employed. Otherwise, recessions worsen, or even turn into depressions, as unemployment reduces consumer spending, which drives shopkeepers out of business, and on and on in a vicious cycle.
Ohio governor John Kasich is out there these days promoting the idea of a constitutional convention to get a balanced budget amendment passed, under the provisions of Article V of the U.S. Constitution. This is a terrible idea, made worse by the fact that such a convention would not be limited to one issue -- anything could be proposed, and powerful interests would probably drive the agenda. Would we get an even more plutocrat-friendly tax structure? Would right-wing interest groups get amendments tailored to their wish lists? National gun laws based on the loosest laws in the most right-wing states? A total abortion ban? Or, for the richies, a national prohibition on local fracking restrictions?
I don't know if this would happen, and these amendments would have to be ratified by three-quarters of the state legislatures. (But, of course, Republicans control a hell of a lot of legislatures now, because Democratic turnout in 2014 was so low.) But even if we never have such a convention, terrible ideas that can be enacted without constitutional amendments will happen, and happen fast, if there's an all-GOP government -- on abortion, on energy, on voting rights (nationwide voter ID laws, perhaps?), and on a host of other issues.
This is why I've backed Hillary until now -- she's been the only person standing between us and a transformation of America to Kochistan.
Or, if not her, who?