If you’re fired up at the prospect of Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president and what it means for Democrats, you’ll want to skip this post. I don’t want to ruin your day with something none of us can do anything about. It’s not as if we can conjure up another Barack Obama or John F. Kennedy or even an Angela Merkel by closing our eyes and wishing.
We’re stuck with HRC, and here’s why I feel a sense of impending doom for our team:
No one loves Hillary.
O.K., clearly Chelsea and Bill and her dearest friends and some of the older female Democrats who refused to vote for Obama in 2008 because they agreed with the Clintons that he stole something from Hillary that was her due…they all love her. But when I talk to people who are blue dog Dems, I hear it over and over: “I’ll vote for Hillary but I’m not enthusiastic about it.”
Do we need to love her for her to win? We do.
Because here’s a little truism I’ve arrived at over recent elections:
Hating their guy (or gal) never makes up for not loving ours.
- Democrats really hated George W. Bush in 2004. But did we love John Kerry? Meh.
- Republicans hated Obama in 2008. But did they love the cranky old guy (McCain) and his bizarre running mate (Palin)? Not so much.
- The hatred that Republicans and the still new tea partiers felt for Obama in 2012 knew no bounds but did they love Mitt Romney? The guy tied a dog to the roof of his car. What do you think?
- And here in Florida — and if you’re not, you’ll have to trust me on this — Democrats could not have hated Gov. Rick Scott more in 2014. But did we love former Gov./former Republican/former independent/current Democrat Charlie Crist? Nah.
It’s going to take one of two things for Hillary Clinton to win in 2016. Either Republicans are going to have to nominate a candidate they feel even more tepid about than we feel about ours, or we’re going to have to fall madly in love with ours.
Early indications are that we will fail at the latter. Mike Pesca on Slate’s The Gist podcast, in an episode shortly after Clinton’s press conference about her deleted emails, nailed how most of us feel about HRC.
For a lot of Democrats, I think that Hillary Clinton, or the idea of a Hillary Clinton presidency, is a little like the required course in college that you don’t get around to until senior year. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m gonna get to it. Yeah, I know it’ll be good for me. I’ll probably learn a lot.” But instead, what you did, you took that fun elective, “Introduction to Hope and Change,” and now you’re stuck…You gotta elect Hillary but it’s not going to be fun.
Pesca floats a similar argument to mine, about hate for one candidate not outweighing lack of love for the other. Along those lines, Pesca notes that likability is required for a high-profile candidate to win.
I have noted that in my lifetime…the more likable candidate in the general election has always won…I will acknowledge when I’m talking about likability — extremely subjective.
…Can using the word “likability” just be cover for justifying racism? For justifying sexism? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
…But issue after issue, where Mrs. Clinton is defensive or seen as imperious, is going to be extremely off-putting to the still majority of voters who say that they would consider casting a ballot for her. It can’t help her.
And Hillary can’t seem to help herself when it comes to being defensive, imperious, insular, and even a little…touchy. You get the feeling that if she and John McCain had a few shots, you’d be hard-pressed to decide which one is nursing the bigger grudge that they didn’t win in 2008.
Clinton, however, comes by at least some of her siege mentality honestly. She was First Lady before she was a national elected or appointed official and had every right to protect herself, her daughter, and her family from runaway media intrusion. The Whitewater investigation was a travesty, and she was correct that it was the result of a vast rightwing conspiracy.
But anyone who has ever worked in a campaign knows there’s a huge difference between campaigning well and governing well, and that the person who might do the best job in office often misses the chance because they fail to sell themselves to voters. Clinton seems like she would just as soon skip this whole asking for votes thing and move directly into 1600 Penn. on Jan. 20, 2017.
That’s not going to happen, and HRC needs a reboot on her barely-launched campaign. She is already carrying heavy baggage with the ridiculous Benghazi questions and the self-inflicted email matter. We Democrats will need deep feelings if we’re going to get through her responses to these and the rest of the issues the other side conjures.
There’s an episode of the old Andy Griffith Show where Aunt Bea enters her homemade pickles in the contest at the fair. Andy and Barney are forced to try sample after sample as she perfects her recipe, but each new batch continues to taste, according to the guys, like kerosene. They would never tell it to Aunt Bea, but they look forward to the contest being over so they won’t have to eat any more of the blighted cucumbers. When she loses the contest but vows to keep right on making them the pickles they profess to love, they realize they will have to do what they should have done all along: Learn to love them.
We Democrats will need to do the same with Hillary, but it would help if she met us halfway and figured out how to connect with voters before November, 2016. So far, it’s not looking good.