Sunday, July 31, 2005

Senator Clinton and SCEP ...


In an article in Slate, Jacob Weisberg tackles the pressing question: “But Why Can't Hillary Win?” He deflects several opinions about the cause of Senator Clinton's “electability problem,” or SCEP, but still comes to the conclusion that 2008 will not be her year. Whatever your politics, the article is a stimulating read.

“Political insiders mostly agree: Despite being an early front-runner for the 2008 Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton faces long odds of ever being elected president.”

Weisberg offers a few of the reasons currently being given for SCEP. “One facile argument, often voiced by Hillary-loathers on the right, is that she's too far to the left. An unhedged supporter of the war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton stands at the hawkish, interventionist extreme of her party on foreign policy. … and she's a confirmed free-trader and deficit hawk.”

In fact, Sen. Clinton's political positioning couldn't be better for 2008. Despite being a shrewdly triangulating centrist on the model of her husband, she remains wildly popular with the party's liberal core.

So that’s not it. Well what about the related objection, which one hears from various corners, that Hillary is "too polarizing" a figure to win? “But a disciplined centrist who can unify her side while leading her own base into furious battle—the way Ronald Reagan did—may be just the kind of polarizer who can win.” Did he just liken her to Reagan?

What, then, of the complaint that Hillary is “doomed by association with her husband, or perhaps by their marital issues?” Did you stand in line as long as some friends of mine to get Bill’s signature on his bloated and overpriced autobiography? Bill is still good at getting attention, and it’s not anywhere near being all negative. Weisberg weighs in with the opinion that “Swing voters feel positively about his presidency, and increasingly about his post-presidential role.”

Weisberg adds “Another theory that doesn't impress me is that misogyny would keep Hillary out of the White House. On what basis do we assume that the country wouldn't elect the right woman? the primitive misogynists would surely be outnumbered by those eager to smash the ultimate glass ceiling.”

Just as I began to thing Weisberg was going to declare her the winner, he winds up conceding that she “does face a genuine electability issue, one that has little to do with ideology, woman-hating, or her choice of life partner. Plainly put, it's her personality.”

“Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004 with candidates Main Street regarded as elitist and aloof, to a candidate voters related to personally. Hillary isn't as obnoxious as Gore or as off-putting as Kerry. But she's got the same damn problem, and it can't be fixed.”

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