Are We Ready for the Clinton Sequel? We Can Only Hope.

The recent congressional and gubernatorial elects have sent the Democrats and their supporters into a funk of introspection. They’ve lost the Senate as well as the more of the House, and key governorships in Republican hands have increased in number. The hopeful “silver lining” is 2016, the year of the presidential election, when Democrats believe that the “geography” will favor them.

The key to all of their hopes is the election of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the presidency. Ms. Clinton is a bona fide political superstar. She is universally recognized by the name “Hillary,” like “Oprah,” “Madonna,” and “Beyoncé.”  She is indisputably the one of the two Democrats (the other being Vice President Joe Biden) most qualified for the presidency.

As a supporter of progressive politics, I prefer any Democratic presidential candidate to any Republican.  And if Ms. Clinton is the candidate of the Democratic Party, I’ll support her, advocate for her election, and possibly make a small contribution to the campaign.

There is, of course, the question of whether Hillary Clinton is the best person to represent the party and provide the national leadership we need if our country is to avoid becoming a more entrenched and irreversible plutocracy.

There is a broad acceptance among “rank and file” Democrats and corporate media that Ms. Clinton is destined to become the next Democratic presidential candidate. It is justly argued that she has paid her dues and is well prepared for the job (attorney, first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the US, US Senator, strong presidential candidate, Secretary of State) and that she deserves it: it’s time for a woman President of the US and she’s the best choice, and, it’s her turn – she waited out the less experienced Barack Obama and was a loyal member of his cabinet.

But there is a faction of the Democratic Party and of the progressive movement that is wary of another president from the Republican branch of the Democratic Party. The Obama administration has largely been a betrayal of progressives. And a small, vocal, but powerless faction has centered its hopes and dreams on Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). She is indeed one of the leaders of the Democratic branch of the party, but, acknowledging political realities (including where she can be most effective) Sen. Warren has stated that she will not be a candidate. But Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has expressed an interest in running, and there are some Democrats who would like to see California Governor Jerry Brown run, as well.

I don’t expect any of the more progressive candidates to succeed at winning the nomination, and if one were to, to win the election. The big money will always be on the corporation-friendly conservative candidates, whether they fly the Democratic or Republican flag. So, as I said, I’ll support Ms. Clinton if she is the Democratic candidate.

But I don’t relish a return of the Clintons.  On the positive side, I think most of us will not be fooled – as we were in the case of Mr. Obama – into believing that we have a progressive administration waiting to take office. We will look with a skeptical eye at every presidential initiative.

And, for better or worse, we will get Bill Clinton back. Not as president, of course, but as “first gentleman.” And we will also get a retinue of “Clintonistas.” Some people will be happy. Bill Clinton, you’ll recall, is the popular Clinton, the one with the charm. So some Democrats want to believe that Hilary Clinton will return us to the glory days of her husband’s administration, when many Americans were mesmerized into the grand delusion of national wellbeing under President Bill Clinton.

This is the same Bill Clinton who helped to form the Democratic Leadership Conference as the permanent Republican branch of the Democratic Party, turning its back on economic populism and embracing the corporate agenda. Who began his presidential campaign by gratuitously attacking the black teenage mystic, poet, and activist known as Sister Souljah. Who conspired with Newt Gingrich to destroy “welfare as we know it,” denying poor women the right to stay home with their children, and setting the stage for mass impoverishment when the next economic crisis arose. Who approved tearing down the legal wall separating savings banks from speculative investment banks. Who ruthlessly bombed Serbia, but made sure that the word “genocide” was not used in the UN with reference to Rwanda, lest the US have to take action. Who promoted the NAFTA agreement that sent thousands of industrial jobs – one of the pillars of the middle class – overseas. Who rebranded the ‘90s tech bubble as a virtual reality federal budget surplus. That Bill Clinton.

President Clinton’s policies were designed to eviscerate the progressive elements within the Democratic Party, and he was extremely successful. Eight years of George W. Bush and his wars and financial disaster were not enough to guarantee Democrats electoral success. Republicans and their wealthy conservative supporters continued a barrage of right-wing reframing of American history, economics, and public policy and made steady inroads into political power at the state and local levels. Howard Dean’s “Fifty State Strategy” helped to elect Barack Obama to two presidential terms. But the conservative machine succeeded in bringing into office Republican governors, state legislators, and congressional representatives who blunted any progressive impulses that the Democratic administration might have had. But in fact, it had few, if any, progressive impulses.

A great many Americans voted for a progressive Barack Obama who only existed in their minds. Following the outrageous abuse heaped on the President by the Republicans and the Tea Party that arose in response to the Affordable Care Act, progressives rallied to Mr. Obama’s defense. And the newly reinvented populist Obama rose to soundly defeat the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, again raising the hopes of the progressive faction of the Democratic Party and their supporters.

The disillusionment of Democratic branch of the Democratic Party with the President’s old-school Republican policies on economics, the environment, and militarism has led them to seek out potential candidates with better progressive credentials than those of Ms. Clinton.

Meanwhile, Ms. Clinton seems to have a lock on the nomination, even though she, like all the other possible candidates, has yet to declare her candidacy. And, no, she doesn’t need to put on the mantle of faux populism. A recent CNBC poll of millionaires indicates that Hillary Clinton is the potential presidential candidate most preferred by that group, leading among both self-identified Democrats and Independents.

Meanwhile, for the duration of the presidential campaign, the Republicans will exploit their power at every level – 31 of 50 governorships, 66 of 99 state legislative houses, control of both the US Senate and House of Representatives, and their overwhelming control and influence over the corporate media – to completely marginalized the Democratic Party as a viable contender in US politics.

So, if we are lucky, we will get an eight-year sequel to the Clinton show. If we aren’t lucky, we – and the country as a whole – will be very unlucky indeed.


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