Sunday, October 12, 2014

What If Hillary Had Won in '08

Normally I don't engage in what if scenarios. Never saw any point to it. Unless of course we're talking about the 2000 election. That one's easy. What if Ralph Nader hadn't been such a dick and dropped out of the race. What if progressives hadn't thrown away their vote on him. I'll never get over either of those two what ifs. Sadly neither will the country.

But I've been thinking a lot about '08 lately and I think there's one what if scenario that deserves a fair hearing. What if Hillary Clinton had beaten Barack Obama in the Democratic primary and had gone on to beat John McCain in the general. Would Democrats be on the verge of losing the Senate this November? I think not.

It's a hard fact for Democrats to swallow but Obama is killing his party and not all of it is his fault. Don't get me wrong, he's made a number of blunders over the last two years. From the botched roll out of the healthcare law to his seemingly incoherent foreign policy that even his supporters don't quite understand, it hasn't been pretty. And I don't mean to beat a dead horse but the man simply can't draw a narrative to save his life. He's done more to advance the GOP's agenda than the Koch brothers could ever have done. If Obama were an NFL team he'd lead the league in unforced turnovers. Next to him, the New York Jets would look like the Green Bay Packers.

Can you imagine Hillary being this inept? Or Bill for that matter? No need to answer. They were rhetorical questions. Put simply, the Clintons don't fumble the ball on the one yard line. They ram it in for a touch down. Thirty years experience will do that for you.

But ineptitude notwithstanding, a lot of what has been going on comes down to one word: racism. When you look at the polls, especially the ones in red states, it's clear that the anti-Obama sentiment is off the charts. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Mark Pryor in Arkansas and Mark Begich in Alaska are all trailing their Republican opponents by considerable margins. If the election were held today all three would lose badly.

How is that relevant? Simple. In other states, Democratic fortunes are fairing much better. Kay Hagen is ahead by 3 points in North Carolina; Mark Udall is holding his own in Colorado, as is Bruce Braley in Iowa. Indeed the appearance of Sarah Palin on behalf of Joni Ernst might well end up hurting Ernst more than helping her. And in Kansas, Independent Greg Orman is making life a living hell for Republican Pat Roberts. The farther you get from the color red and the closer you get to blue, the less vitriol there is against this president and his party.

Republicans would have you believe this is about Obama's "failed" policies. Bullshit. Bill and Hillary recently stumped for Mark Pryor. They were met by throngs of people who cheered them like they were rock stars. Yes, I get it, Bill used to be governor of Arkansas; so was Mike Huckabee. I'll bet the ranch Huckabee doesn't pull near those numbers for Tom Cotton. It's been 150 years and the South is still fighting the Civil War.

None of this would be happening if Hillary were president. Yes, she would still be the target of every single conservative attack dog in the country from the Kochs to Sheldon Adelson. Let's not forget that it wasn't that long ago she was loathed by the Right. She still is. All these Benghazi hearings are nothing more than a smoke screen for her anticipated run in 2016. But one thing's for certain, she would not have the same handicap Obama has. It's an ugly truth, but a black man in power is simply not a welcomed sight to some people and a lot of those people reside in red states.

Let's be honest, none of us saw this coming in '08. All of us were wrapped up in the historical significance of the nation electing its first African American president. I still remember my eyes welling up with pride election night. But in some parts of the country, eyes were welling up for a different reason. All this "we're taking our country back" rhetoric, in my opinion, would never have gotten off the ground if a woman were in the Oval Office. If anything, Hillary would've likely done more to advance progressive causes in solid blue states, without being the lightning rod Obama is in red ones. And in purple states like North Carolina and Colorado, the incumbent Democrats wouldn't be running from him like frightened deer from a shot gun. Can you imagine a president Hillary Clinton with the first man and former president Bill at her side stumping in the South for Democratic Senators and governors? Can you imagine the GOP shitting its pants at that sight?

When you see the trouble incumbent Republican governors are having in Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Kansas, it's pretty damn hard to make the argument that any of this has to do with policy. Hillary supported universal healthcare, so did Bill. Indeed, Obama managed to get his bill passed, while Bill failed. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

I'm guessing on most policy matters, Hillary and Obama are a lot closer than you think. With the exception of Iraq, most of their differences are probably more semantic than anything else. The sticking point is the color of their skin, not their stances or gender for that matter. No other conclusion is possible given the facts.

Answer me this: Are Kay Hagen and Jeanne Shaheen really that much better than Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor?

Six points better?!

Actually, you could argue that both Pryor and Landrieu have had more distinguished careers as senators for their respective states than either Hagen or Shaheen. The truth is the big difference isn't so much the candidate on the ticket but the location of the election.  Face it, if you're a Democrat running in the deep south, you're in deep shit.

Obama keeps insisting he's not on the ballot this year. He's wrong. He's been on every ballot since he raised his right hand and took the oath of office in January '09. That's the price he's had to pay since he was sworn in as president. And it's the price his party keeps on paying year in and year out.

1 comment:

Prof. Walter Jameson said...


No, I respecfully disagree with your Ralph Nader scenario. Had Mr. Nader dropped out of the 2000 election, the people who ended up voting for him would've simply voted for another minor party candidate, written in a name, or not voted at all. Under any circumstances, they were not going to vote for Vice President Gore. So, you would've had the same result. Try a little harder to get over it.

I think it's safe to say that whoever the Democratic nominee was in 2008, that individual was going to win the White House. In that regard, it's fair to consider what a Ms. Rodham-Clinton presidency would've been like: not a heck of a lot different from what you see today. One major foreign policy difference is that, under her leadership, a substantial residual military presence may have been left in Iraq - which, remember, Nouri al-Maliki did not want. This certainly would've stemmed ISIL's advances in that country, but it wouldn't have done much to quell its growth among the civil strife in Syria.

Domestically, not much of a difference. Perhaps, there would not have been a major healthcare initiative. For certain, there would've been plenty of divisiveness and vitriol, and not a hell of a lot getting done. Instead of questions regarding her place of birth and her loyalty to the country, there would've been the nonsense about Vince Foster, the Rose law firm files, Mena (Arkansas) Airport, etc., all over again. They would've been questioning her marriage, and even her sexuality. C'mon, you know this to be true!

I believe that Ms. Rodham-Clinton would've been a better administrator and far more involved in the details of her own policies. I also think that she would've been more open to the give-and-take of negotiating that often exists in the operations of government. But to what end? The opposition would've denied her any chance of achieving policy victories every bit as much as they've been doing with President Obama.

So there you have it. As far as the study of alternate histories is concerned, in this particular case, not much there to ponder.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.