One of the most pronounced recent changes in the attitudes toward leadership and order of the two major American political parties is the reversal in affection for handing off the baton to the next in line. Republicans had long bestowed the party’s presidential nomination on last time’s runner-up, or a candidate who had put in his time and whose turn, it was believed, had come.
But the battle for the 2016 GOP nomination is looking wide open, and will likely consist of a cast of young, more conservative candidates competing to set the party’s new direction. The Democrats, on the other hand, nominated Barack Obama in 2008 with the rallying cry of striking out against political entitlement, embodied by Hillary Clinton. Next time, however, Democrats seem to want a coronation, not a nomination. And they would like the beneficiary of this appointment with history to be Hillary Clinton. Here’s James Carville yesterday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos”:
This is entirely different. Every Democrat I know says, “God, I hope she runs. We don’t need a primary. Let’s just go to post with this thing. We don’t want to fight with anybody over anything.”
The Republicans, they need a fight. Somebody’s got to beat somebody….
Yeah, you’ve got to beat somebody. And the Republicans know that they need a primary. We don’t want — we don’t want a primary. We don’t want to be slugging this thing out (inaudible) you know what? We’ve got a pretty good demographic deck. We kind of get — we like winning presidential elections. She’s popular. Let’s just go with it.
Aside from the obvious, there’s a key phrase Carville used here that went unnoticed on the show. The Democrats have “a pretty good demographic deck.” Not only do the Democrats want to avoid a primary election, they’d like to avoid a general election too. Though Carville probably didn’t have this in mind when he used the phrase, running a “historic” candidate like Clinton would basically be a replay of Obama’s two elections, in which the media coverage was fawning and devoid of any serious examination of the Democratic candidate, and in which opposition to the Democrats’ candidate can be chalked up to bigotry. “We don’t want to fight with anybody over anything,” says Carville. Expect that to be the case in 2016 if Clinton is their candidate.
Don’t believe me? Take a gander at the New York Times’s article on Clinton’s options going forward. It’s appallingly worshipful, but it’s only the beginning. The conceit of the piece is a question: What should Hillary do? It’s a clear indication that Clinton wants people to think she’s running, and buried in the article we finally get the reason why. The Times tells us that Clinton “may appear to be a figure of nearly limitless possibility.” There is nothing she can’t do, so what should she do? The Times asks another related question and then endeavors to answer it:
What is the most dignified way for her to make money?
Being a Clinton is expensive, and when the former secretary leaves office, she’ll want a staff and the ability to travel on private planes, friends say. The Clintons — who already own costly homes in Washington and Chappaqua, N.Y. — love renting in the Hamptons in the summer, according to friends, and buying their own home there could easily run well into the seven figures. Though friends say Mrs. Clinton could easily make a lot of money at a law firm, advising foreign countries on geopolitical risk, or at an investment bank or a private equity firm, none of those pursuits would be likely to wear well in a presidential campaign.
Wealth is her burden. “Being a Clinton is expensive,” after all. She is doomed to a post-State Department hiatus during which people will throw gobs and gobs of money at her, and her second burden is that she must decide how and where she’d like to accept all this money.
Another consideration for Clinton is when she should start her (purely theoretical!) presidential campaign. The Times’s three reporters (it takes a team to sufficiently praise Clinton) tell us that Clinton doesn’t seem to want to start the campaign early, like last time (why rush an anointing?), because it exhausted her. This time around, however, there’s another reason not to start the campaign early. The Times again:
The speculation is not without its advantages. If Mrs. Clinton is not running, she is a widely respected figure whose chief accomplishments are mostly behind her; if she may be running, she glows with White House and historic potential. “Nobody interacts with Hillary Clinton like she’s fading off into the sunset,” Mr. Reines said.
In other words, before she officially declares her campaign for president, she will be treated like she’s running anyway but still be able to keep those cushy jobs she’s being offered. It’s a win-win. Plus, stories like this one in the Times will presumably keep flowing in.