Friday, March 06, 2015


I'm starting to think this is the end for Hillary Clinton -- the drip, drip of stories isn't stopping, and neither she nor the Democratic Party seems to have any idea how to push back. Even if voters can't figure out why this is a huge, disqualifying problem, they're simply going to respond to hearing that it's a huge problem day after day after day. They're going to agree that it must be a problem. That's how people are. Everyone's saying it, so it must be true.

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.

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 that's the reform plan. Alternately, these guys may just go for a Ryan-style budget. What would stop them?

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?


Victor said...

E-mail issues?
Democrats are always screwed, because we're held to a different standard.

And a liberal Tea Party Movement?
We had one, OWS, and it was labeled as a new generation of DFH's.

And now matter what we do to protest a GOP government, we will either be ignored, or labeled as DFH's.

As for who else?

I don't have a clue.

O'Malley's not charismatic enough.
The Castro brothers are too young.
Biden is too old.

Michelle Obama?

Thanks, Steve for this analysis.

The one thing I can be pretty sure of, is that if the GOP controls the government, there's a bridge abutment in my future...


Philo Vaihinger said...

I don't see a plan B and I DO see publicists working for Biden or others joining the right in attacking Hillary.

And I think you are correct in supposing no one else can be reasonably confident of winning the general election.

Danp said...

Celebrity isn't the issue. It has to be a candidate who is articulate with a clear and consistent stand on issues, and few distractions. Obama wasn't that much of a celebrity before running (OK, he gave a good speech once). Nor was Bill Clinton. But Kerry, Dukakis and Gore were incredibly indecisive and inarticulate (Why Gore became articulate after losing is beyond me.) And Howard Dean was taken down by a scream, but that was in a primary when like-minded people decided wrongly that Kerry would be a better general election candidate and accomplish the same things as Dean. I would argue that the media made Kerry the candidate and it tore him down, in large part by not fact checking. They will do the same to Hillary. Obama's scandals were limited to nonsense like pot smoking and occasionally going to a church with a crazy pastor.

ladyblug said...

We better do something or it's going to be President Scott Walker~ just fucking shoot me now!

Diane said...

I absolutely think this should be disqualifying for Hillary. It's a complete unforced error and shows not only her rejection of transparency in an official capacity, but also her refusal to recognize the problem, and her insularity. Remember the 2008 Hillary primary campaign? Want to do that again?

Why are all the supposed potential alternatives to Hillary in their sixties or above (Biden, Sanders, Warren)? Some of the "young blood" in the Republican party are idiots and ideologues, but as far as I can see the Democratic party doesn't even have any visible young blood. Time to figure out who might be alternatives and start promoting them. Bill Clinton emerged as an almost-unknown, and Obama did also.

If Hillary is the candidate I would vote for her, but I wouldn't donate money or do any outreach on her behalf. The enthusiasm level for a lot of people would be nonexistent.

mcfrank said...

I don't think it matters who the nominee is, the "drip, drip, drip" will still be part of the Republican strategy. They just have a head start on "research" with Hillary.

Think back to 2008 and those that argued that Obama would not as much of a Republican target as HRC!

Chris Andersen said...

Isn't this all a bit premature. I mean really, if you are going to start panicking now you might as well just light your hair on fire and get it over with.

Stop listening to what everyone in the media is saying and start looking at what the casual observers are saying about it.

The drip-drip-drip with regard to the Clintons have been going on since before 1992 and yet they (and us) seem to come out okay despite it. The last thing they need is Democrats starting to rush for the exits at the first sign of trouble.

If you do then you deserve to lose.

Chris Andersen said...

Oh, and Frank you have it exactly right. The Democrats don't have a Hillary problem. They have a Democrat problem. The Republicans (and many in the media) will pull the same crap on any candidate the party puts forward. We might as well just accept that now before we waste a year looking for the teflon candidate.

They don't exist.

Sweet Sue said...

Oh fergawdssake, just as Mailgate is fading from the Media as the big nothingburger that is, you decide that Hillary is finished?
Thank God, she's made of sterner stuff.

Moon Mulligan said...

At firs I thought the email story was overblown because there's no real suggestion of impropriety just wild speculation. However the more I think about it the more of a problem I see. Hillary (or any dem nominee) is going to need the support of the Obama coalition of young people, minorities and academics. Hillary spent the entire 08 campaign disrespecting and insulting these voters. Joining the administration should have put all that in the past. However if the whole time she was supposedly working for the president she was actually running her own show, avoiding oversight from the administration so she could protect her own interests that again raises troubling questions. As a primary voter, can I trust that she actually respects or has any loyalty for the Democratic Party or the president? Or does she still have contempt for the voters who supported the president? If so, how does she plan to win their votes?

Anonymous said...

I know our host tends toward the gloomy, but for fuck's sake, man.

Ken_L said...

Yawn. Let me know how things are going in 12 months.

Anonymous said...

Steve you are totally overestimating the attention span of the American public. Not to mention the majority of them don't follow politics enough to know or care why there might or might not be a problem here. Hillary will win or lose based on how good a job her campaign people get her out in front of the public. There are no viable Democratic primary challengers and the entire Republican field is a joke.

Drink a glass of water, take a chill pill and relax.

Never Ben Better said...

I'm not going to panic till I see what her campaign team looks like. If Mark Penn is in it, THEN I'll panic.