Monday, June 9, 2014

Bitter Little Pill

Shorter Ross Douthat yesterday in the New York Times: “The only way for the Republicans to win in 2016 is if Hillary Clinton doesn’t run.”

He’s so cute when he’s so bitter.  It’s a snarky little piece even for him, unloading on Ms. Clinton’s as-yet unpublished book Hard Choices, where he labels it “chloroform in print” and says the “author” (his use of quotes around “author” implies she staffed out the job) intends to lull the reader into a state of unconsciousness until — ta da! — “the first … female … president” is standing on the steps of the Capitol taking the oath of office and presiding over the last remnants of the Democratic empire just as Franz Joseph did over Austria-Hungary the day before World War I broke out.

I really have no idea what proposals Clinton will run on, what arguments she’ll make. But as with Franz Josef, it’s not her policies that make her formidable; it’s the multitudes that “Hillary” the brand and icon now contains. Academic liberalism and waitress-mom populism and Davos/Wall Street/Bloomberg centrism. Female empowerment and stand-by-your-man martyrdom. The old Clintonian bond with minority voters and her own 2008 primary-trail identification with Scots-Irish whites. And then the great trifecta: continuity with the Obama present, a restoration of the more prosperous Clintonian past and (as the first … female … president) a new “yes we can” progressive future.

Like the penultimate Hapsburg emperor with his motley empire, then, she has the potential to embody a political coalition — its identities and self-conceptions, its nostalgias and aspirations — in ways that might just keep the whole thing hanging together.

But without her, the deluge.

It tells us a lot more about the Republicans’ state of decrepitude if their only hope for success lies in the other party not showing up.