Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Case Against Obama/Clinton

Cross-posted at Taylor Marsh.

For many a Clintonista, the headline in yesterday's New York Times was disturbing:  Chance of an Obama-Clinton Ticket is Seen as Increasingly Unlikely.  But for this Clintonista, it was a relief.  An Obama-Clinton presidency would be a setback for Hillary, her supporters, and her agenda for changing America.

Diminishing Her Power

In the Democratic Party, save for the nominee, there is no politician more popular than Hillary Clinton.  Her primary fight not only expanded her support among Democrats, but it further endeared her to her loyal supporters.

She began the campaign as a second term senator and, let's face it, a former First Lady.  Democrats who knew her for nothing other than being a Clinton became enthusiastic supporters of Hillary.  She reached out to blue-collar Democrats, people long ignored by the "Let Them Eat Arugala" wing of the party. And she inspired millions of women.

Now Hillary is certainly not the only Democrat on Capital Hill with a large base of support.  Senator Kerry must certainly have a large database after his 2004 presidential bid, but how many of those people will pick up the phone or write emails for him?  The 3% who wanted him to run for the presidency in 2008?  The other 97% have moved on.  But for Hillary, the long primary battle only intensified the loyalty of her supporters.  How many people do you know who began the campaign fond of Hillary and by the end had become a passionate admirer?  The depth of Hillary's support--as demonstrated by the PUMA movement, if nothing else--is unrivaled.

What happens to this political capital if she would become vice-president?  It goes to waste.  A President Obama would not tolerate a second major power base in the West Wing.  HillPAC will fold, and she will be expected to use her database to further the goals of the administration (read:  President Obama).  How many of you are looking forward to the Action Alert email asking us to call our representatives and senators to urge them to support a President Obama's not-so universal health care bill?

Sacraficing Her Agenda

We all know Hillary's signature issue--universal health care.  It is the cause of her life.  Her work on health care dates back to her time as First Lady of Arkansas, when her husband asked her to chair a healthcare reform panel.  Even after the failure of the health care reform in 1993, she played a key role in the creation of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.  And who can forget the primary, when she was attacked by her opponent using right-wing talking points.

What happens to universal health care if Hillary is vice-president?  When Hillary runs for the presidency in 2016, her signature issue will again be universal health care.

If Senator Obama hasn't made it clear, allow me.  This is his party.  It's going to be his presidency.  It's going to be his agenda.  He made that very clear on May 31st when he stole four of Hillary's Michigan delegates at the meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee.  He talks a great game about being inclusive and party unity, but we've seen little more than "get over it" and running in "heels."

Hillary will be expected to adopt his agenda, including his plans for nearly universal health care.  If she were put in charge of health care--and as the foremost senate expert, she should be--and she pursued her own health care agenda, Senator Obama would be overshadowed.  The stories would be about the experienced Hillary Clinton's influence over the rookie Senator Obama.  And Senator Obama's ego could not take that.  She would have to pursue his agenda of universal health care lite.

Without Hillary, who will fight for universal health care?  From the Senate--and only from the Senate--Hillary Clinton can hold Obama's feet to the fire and push for truly universal health care.  Only a senator of her stature, with her base of support, can do that.

A Future Presidential Bid at Risk

Early in the campaign, Hillary Clinton was seen more as Clinton and less as Hillary.  Remember Obama's line from the South Carolina debate? "Well I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes." She didn't fully shed Hillary the Clinton until the run-up to the Texas and Ohio primaries when Hillary the Populist Warrior finally emerged.  I am fond of Bill Clinton, but let's face it.  He was a drag on her campaign and he will ultimately be part of the reason that Senator Obama does not offer the vice-presidency to Hillary.  Her opponents tied her to the less popular elements of Bill's legacy--such as NAFTA--and dismissed the role she played in its successes.

If Hillary becomes vice-president, Barack Obama will become her new Bill Clinton.  In 2016, she will be running as Barack Obama's vice-president.  Because she spent eight years championing his agenda, she won't be able to escape it.  Unless Senator Obama is wildly popular in 2016, she will be dogged by the mistakes of another president. 

In the Senate, Hillary can continue to improve her profile.  She will be the most sought-after fundraiser in the Democratic Party and co-sponsor in the Senate.  With her new base of support and public image, she can carve out her own agenda a la McCain.  In 2016, she will be ready for another run for the presidency, with a record and a public image independent of her husband and the sitting president.

This was a tough primary.  Hillary and her supporters were treated with disrespect and our support for the nominee has largely been taken for granted.  But the answer is not putting Hillary on the ticket.  Putting Hillary on the ticket will diminish her and silence her agenda.  She would make history, but for Hillary, this has never been about the history books.  This is about health care for poor families.  This is about peace in the Middle East and prosperity at home.  This is about those Americans who have been invisible to the ruling class for the last seven years.

The best scenario for all is for Senator Obama to offer Hillary the presidency and for her to respectfully decline.  This will give her the respect that she is due and Obama will be free to choose a vice-president that will shore up his foreign policy credentials (Biden), emphasizes his message of change (Kaine, Sebelius), or unites the party (Bayh). That Hillary satisfies all of these goals is not lost on me, but the best thing that we can do for Hillary--and I realize this is not easy--is rally behind the nominee and let Hillary get back to the Senate.


DCDemocrat said...

You write words that rings with truth, psychodrew.

Psychodrew said...

Every now and then, the blind squirrel gets the nut, no?

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