The Clinton Moment.
Now is her moment. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade creates the opening for Hillary Clinton to get out of stealth mode and start down the path toward declaring her candidacy for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination.
Conditions are favorable:
1. Joe Biden is too old to run for re-election. Everyone knows this. Virtually everyone in the Democratic Party is at their wit’s end over what to do about it. The most recent last straw was the cue card. Here’s what the cue card said:
- “YOU enter the Roosevelt Room and say hello to participants.”
- “YOU take YOUR seat. “
- “Press enters.”
- “YOU give brief comments […]” This note was partially blocked by Biden’s finger.
- “Press departs.”
- “YOU ask Liz Shuler, President, AFL-CIO, a question. Note: Liz is joining virtually.”
- “YOU thank participants.”
- “YOU depart.”
2. It isn’t going to get better. Everyone knows it isn’t going to get better. Which explains this:
A majority of Democratic voters want President Joe Biden off the party’s ticket for the 2024 presidential election, according to a recent poll.
The survey, conducted by Marist, found that among registered Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents, 44% (or 55% of those with an opinion) of respondents want another candidate to replace President Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2024.
Just 36% (45% among those who had an opinion) of registered Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents want Biden to run for reelection. Twenty percent of respondents did not have a clear preference.
3. There is no bench. I made this point in a subscriber note last December. Others did the same. Nothing has changed since then. If anything, veteran Democrats are even more pessimistic about Kamala Harris as a potential presidential nominee. As for the others, former Vice President Al Gore is probably the party’s best bet. He has indicated zero interest in running.
That leaves former Secretary of State John Kerry, Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, California Governor Gavin Newsom and….maybe….possibly….an outsider like Sheryl Sandberg (ex-Facebook COO) or Bob Iger (ex-Disney CEO).
That’s the field. When describing it, the word “formidable” does not spring to mind. Nor do the words “up to it.”
4. Say what you will about Hilary Clinton, she is formidable and “up to it.” And whatever else she might be, whatever baggage she carries, she is an enduring champion of women’s rights.
What the reversal of Roe v. Wade has put front and center, smack dab in the middle of the town square of American politics, is women’s rights. Justice Alito’s opinion has unleashed the fury of millions of American women, vast numbers of whom see it as judicial activism run amok and a brazen, unilateral attempt to reverse decades of hard-earned progress. That fury has yet to find its focus. Because it needs to, it will. I guarantee you that rallying behind Joe Biden will not be where it makes landfall.
The story of the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, for many politically active women, begins in the fall of 1991, with the confirmation hearings of Clarence Thomas, chaired by then-Sen. Joe Biden. To say that Biden did not cover himself in glory overseeing those proceedings would be an understatement. In the years that followed, the anti-abortion movement’s relentless march met feeble resistance from one male Democratic “leader” after the next.
Now that Dobbs has been handed down, the counterattack commences. It will not be led by Joe Biden or (Senators) Chuck Schumer or Dick Durbin or Congressman Steny Hoyer. The counterattack will be led by a woman. And there’s only one woman on the Democratic side of things who has the network and reach to underpin and underwrite a national movement. That woman is Hillary Clinton.
5. She can win the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. In 2020, Democratic primary voters and caucus-attenders nominated Joe Biden not because they saw Joe Biden as a strong leader or imaginative architect of “progressive” policies. They nominated Biden for one (and only one) reason: he was perceived as the candidate most likely to defeat Trump. In the event, he did beat Trump, barely. Since then he’s made a dog’s breakfast of things, to the point that his chances of winning re-election are widely regarded as slim to none.
In 2024, “electability” will be every bit as important to Democratic primary voters and caucus attenders as it was in 2020. It will matter not whether Trump or DeSantis or Tom Cotton is the nominee. The ability to defeat “the Republican” will be a necessary qualification, the ability to harness the furies another. Clinton, even at this stage of her political career, commands the respect of Democratic voters of every stripe. That by itself makes her a strong contender for the party’s presidential nomination. If she does indeed “harness the furies,” she’ll win the nomination going away. In that event, she would begin the general election campaign with ~48% of the vote. What will produce victory in the Electoral College is a fully mobilized base. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential candidate most capable of “optimizing” the Democratic base. In 2016, lest we forget, she defeated Donald Trump by nearly 3 million votes in the national popular vote count.
6. There’s a template for Clinton’s return from the wilderness of bitter defeat: the resurrection of Richard Nixon. “The Man and the Moment” was the overarching theme of Nixon’s image reinvention in 1967–1968; an admission that the man himself wasn’t compelling enough. What made him compelling and well-qualified was the peril of the moment. The Clinton parallel is self-evident.
It is true that the political talent involved in the 1968 Nixon campaign was singularly talented and shrewd. The talent around Mrs. Clinton is surely not. But that doesn’t mean it need be. Great talent is out there. It just has to be hired. The game plan — Nixon’s reinvention redux — has already been written.
7. Proverbs 11:29: He who brings trouble on his house will inherit the wind. The winds of the Dobbs decision are upon the Court and at Hillary Clinton’s back. The army is mobilizing. The nomination is there for the taking. For millions upon millions of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, Dobbs was a political act of war. Warfare requires war horses. Hillary Clinton, whatever else she might be, is a war horse. Fortune favors the bold.