So the 2014 elections were a disaster for liberals. The electorate that bothered to show up was one that wanted to keep the brakes on the president's agenda. It revealed the constitutionally enhanced strength of the GOP's congressional electoral coalition.
Liberals are sorely tempted to give the president advice. Think of the non-voter, they say. Or double down and "wage war for real."
I'm sure nobody on the left wants the advice of an Adams-admiring reactionary like myself. But I'm going to give it anyway. If I were a liberal or a progressive, I wouldn't waste my time on Obama anymore. I'd be working full-time to derail Hillary Clinton. She is a mortal threat to the next generation of social democratic reform — and liberals should dump her now.
Hillary Clinton appears to be the most likely successor to Barack Obama. She's much more popular than the president, and seems to have the admiration of both parties. She is also a fundraising powerhouse who will certainly break all previous records for campaign fundraising and campaign spending. So why give her up?
First there are the lingering doubts about her electability. She's popular now, and looks likely to be coronated rather than opposed within her own party. But she is an awful campaigner. The only winning elections in her career were for a safe Democrat seat, when she faced down Rick Lazio and John Spencer, not exactly household names. She blew her 2008 lead to Obama and only made it a race when he gifted her the Hubert Humphrey mantle with his bitter clingers gaffe.
Then there is foreign policy. Obama beat Hillary by pointing out that he had been right on the most consequential foreign policy issue since the Vietnam War, and she had been wrong. Amazingly, he appointed her secretary of State, where she pushed hard for military engagement in Libya, which quickly turned into a stateless region dominated by terrorist gangs — a dumpster fire along the Mediterranean.
Hillary Clinton was molded by the Cold War liberal's fear of looking soft on foreign policy, and she has become the John McCain of the Democratic Party. Already smarting from Obama's failure to close Guantanamo Bay, his eager embrace of drone warfare, and his expansion of the surveillance state, do liberals really want to lock all that in under Madame Smart Power?
Hillary will likely meet a Republican Senate and House. What lessons will Clinton have internalized from close observation of her husband's interactions with the GOP and Obama's? Obama and Republicans have been locked into a standoff for years, and Obama's presidency and his approval ratings are suffering for it.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton was able to compromise with the Gingrich Congress on a balanced budget amendment, which the left viewed as a ceiling on social justice. They compromised on a welfare reform that was hated by the left, and on the repeal of Glass-Steagall, which the left blames in part for the financial collapse. Clinton and Gingrich got together on a number of tough-on-crime measures that the left viewed as a letter of marque against minorities. And for all that, Bill Clinton got credit as the guy who got things done and as a political genius, even while facilitating, in the left's view, the institutionalization of the neo-liberal revolution of Reagan and Thatcher.
Which way do you think Hillary is going to go? The Obama way? Or the Clinton way?
Finally there is the largest problem of a Clinton presidency for the left: the conflict of interest. Hillary Clinton is literally one of the last people in the Democratic Party to take on the wealthy. The entire post-presidency of her husband has consisted of a loot-collecting dash toward moneyed interests. Even the Clinton Global Initiative starts to look like a loss-leader for the Clinton Household Initiative, which has managed to make the family wealthier than the blue-blood Bushes. If Hillary Clinton were a judge on a panel investigating the dreaded 1 percent, the former Walmart board member would have to recuse herself.
Why in the world should the left resign itself to the role of discarded handmaiden, as Clinton completes her ascent to the top of the very class whose power they want to dethrone?
I don't get it. But then again, there's no reason to listen to me.