Okay, I’ll get this Hillary Clinton thing over with.
I don’t usually go out on a limb with predictions this way, but I believe she will run in 2016, and that she has an excellent chance of winning. Here’s why (skip the rest if you don’t want to get depressed).
If you think Hillary is tired, think again. The prospect of becoming the first woman president will infuse her with energy like nothing else has before. Sixty-nine (in 2016) is not all that old for a woman in terms of life expectancy, and her parents lived to be 82 (father) and 92 (mother), a pretty good run for members of their generation.
She looks too old and worn out, you say? Ah, but she’s beyond fashion and into gravitas. She’s going for the dignified elder stateswoman look, and she’s nailed it (think Golda Meir, think Indira Gandhi). What’s more, she’s not trying to appeal to men to be elected. Her coalition will be the exact same one Obama assembled: the black vote in the 90-something percent range (which recent Democratic nominees have all received), the lion’s share of Hispanics, and women.
Ah, women. It’s women in particular who will vote for Hillary in even greater numbers than they did for Obama, and that’s saying a lot. To liberal and moderate women she is a role model, a hero(ine), an intrepid trailblazer (somewhat ironic, since her path to political prominence came through the traditional female route of linkage to a powerful male), and highly-respected star. Men would have to vote against her in a phalanx to overcome that advantage—and they won’t.
It was puzzling when Hillary agreed to become Obama’s Secretary of State after all the seeming bad blood between them back in 2008. But perhaps the explanation is that there was a “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours” agreement between them. Hillary would get to burnish her resume with one thing it seemed to lack, significant foreign policy experience (Secretary of State isn’t usually an entry-level job for that, but so be it). Now that it’s been sufficiently polished—and she has carefully stayed away from getting too caught up in the Benghazi fracas, leaving Susan Rice in the position of being the administration’s Benghazi shill rather than the more obviously responsible Hillary—she’s ready. After obediently doing his bidding as Secretary of State, as well as husband Bill going on the stump and lending his formidable campaign skills to help re-elect Obama, the bargain is that in 2016 Obama will return the favor by anointing her his successor and campaigning for her.
Obviously I don’t have any inside info; that’s all speculation on my part. But it’s the one thing that makes sense to me in terms of why Hillary agreed to be Secretary of State, and Obama’s lackey, in the first place. If so, it was a canny move.
Of course, even if that was the deal between them, there was never any guarantee that Obama wouldn’t renege on it. But why would he, and what else has he got to do? Being the elder (although younger-than-Hillary) statesman helping to elect the next Democratic president to carry on his legacy and glorify his reputation could be appealing to him at that point, and although there are those who think Michelle Obama might want the job of president instead of Hillary, he is probably too realistic to believe that a complete political neophyte who has never held any elective office could win, even if she is his wife.
As for Hillary’s other potential rivals on the Democratic side, is there anyone on the horizon with anything near her combination of White House experience, Senate experience, and foreign policy experience? Forget the question of what she’s actually accomplished during all those years. As we’ve learned from Obama’s election, first term, and re-election, a record of positive accomplishments is no longer necessary for the job.
Republicans could try to play the identity politics game in return. You bid one female? We’ll raise you a female and Hispanic–which would be Susana Martinez, Republican governor of New Mexico, up for re-election in 2014. Or of course we have Marco Rubio, a Hispanic but a male. There’s also Condi Rice, who would present the interesting prospect of a double-female-former-Sceretary-of-State contest, although it’s highly doubtful Rice would choose to run. Nikki Haley has a chance, too, but although she’s a woman, the idea of electing the first Sikh president is probably only slightly more compelling than the idea of the first Mormon president was in 2012. Same for Bobby Jindal (not a woman), who is also of Indian extraction but is a Christian convert.
The American electorate appears to be highly motivated to elect “firsts” these days. It’s very likely that the prospect of electing the first black president was responsible for at least some of Obama’s initial attraction, and that same “first” impulse would be operating strongly for Hillary in 2016. And speaking of firsts, she would also be the first former First Lady elected. What’s more, Bill is very popular right now, and I bet he would love being the first First Man, not to mention the first former president to hold the position.
Remember, though, that GOP women (or GOP Hispanics or blacks) aren’t real women (or real Hispanics or real blacks).