How Hillary Clinton could win in 2020

Hillary is (probably) not running for president again. But if she did ...

The Clintons.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Brian Ach/Getty Images for TIME, yopinco/istock)

Once more unto the breach, dear friends?

A Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump rematch in 2020 would be the most hyped political fight of all time. It would also be the most brutal, mind-numbing, soul-destroying election in our history. The amount of money raised by the DNC and assorted super PACs would topple all previous records. Billions of dollars would go up in flames. The media coverage would be relentless. It would monopolize everyone's time and attention. The World Series would be relegated to ESPN3 in favor of more debates. It would be the election to end all elections — almost literally, in the sense that both campaigns would be pitching their opponent's victory as the end of the republic itself.

For cynics like me it would be a joy to watch.

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How likely is it to happen? When it was announced last week that Hillary and Bill are embarking on a stadium tour, I couldn't help but be disappointed. To me this was evidence that the duo are finished with politics and desperately seeking more money. Heaven knows what they need it for.

What a shame.

I really do think it would be possible for Clinton to win in 2020. All she would have to do is run the campaign she is actually suited for instead of the one foisted on her by dim-witted consultants and woke staffers. I never understood why in 2016 Clinton decided to abandon decades of her and Bill's accumulated political wisdom, to say nothing of her own personality, by pitching herself as the candidate of Yelp marketing interns and Manhattan yoga moms. This is not her world or her politics, such as they are.

The real Hillary is the moderate New York senator who inherited her seat from Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the woman who ran a vicious race-baiting primary campaign against Barack Obama, the unwavering supporter of the Iraq war, the architect of our ill-fated Libyan excursion, the Osama-hunter, the would-be Assad-destroyer, the welfare queen shamer, the tough-on-crime denouncer of "superpredators." Clinton was at her most authentic in 1994 bemoaning the slow pace at which the Joe Biden-authored Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was working its way through the House and Senate:

There is something wrong when a crime bill takes six years to work its way through Congress and the average criminal serves only four. … We need more police. We need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets. [Hillary Clinton]

This is vile stuff. But it is also the way Clinton talked for most of her political career. It is the reason that Ann Coulter, among others, proudly announced that she would vote for Clinton over a RINO like John McCain.

I am not suggesting that Clinton should run a mere throwback campaign. Instead she should apply her instincts to the present political climate. The cornerstone of her campaign could be a promise to crack down on perpetrators of sexual assault, especially against children. She could promise, among other things, to bring back the death penalty for rapists. She could also come out hard against pornography, the sexualization of women in media, and the gender pay gap. She could hold Trump-style rallies where abusers were ritually shamed, where the chants are turned against the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with promises to "Lock him up!" The latent power of #MeToo could be the most transformative force in American politics if harnessed by the right person.

Instead of allowing her campaign to be run like a Refinery29 editorial meeting, Clinton could argue that the Democrats cannot just be the party of avocado IPA-sipping 20-something brocialist layabouts. She could employ against her primary opponents the same talking points she used against Obama in 2007 — namely that he lacked support among "hard-working Americans, white Americans." She could also, perhaps uniquely among Democrats with 2020 ambitions, speak with something approaching credibility about Russia, even going so far as to claim that Obama failed the country by leaving us open to election interference. She would be, as she was in 2016, the candidate of Wall Street, but she would also be the candidate of common sense, of toughness, of non-whining, of achievement, appealing to the suburbs with caricatures of Trump's base as a bunch of toothless entitled drug-addicted hicks the same way she slandered African-Americans in the '90s with her contemptuous remarks about those who have "known nothing but dependency all their lives."

How significant would the break with the Democratic base be if Clinton tried to run this kind of campaign? Not very, I think. If there is one thing the last few years have taught us it is that partisanship for its own sake is a better unifying force than any idea or policy. Besides, the stakes would be considered too high. The columns poo-pooing leftists who want to make the perfect the enemy of the good would write themselves. The nastiest rhetoric and the most craven concessions to finance and big business — rejecting single-payer health care out of hand, cozying up to corporate agriculture by promising to end Trump's trade war, keeping the 2017 tax cuts — would be excused. Earnest progressives would, rightly, be disgusted. But Clinton wouldn't need their votes to shave away at Trump's small margin in the handful of states that will be competitive in 2020.

It has already become clear that Democrats relish the opportunity to get tough in the next presidential election. Eric Holder spoke for millions when he said recently that Michelle Obama was wrong: "When they go low, we kick them." Clinton has been on the giving end of low blows for her entire career in politics. If Democrats are looking for someone who would rather kick Trump in the teeth than deliver another wimpy lecture about the importance of civility, she is their valkyrie.

Third time's the charm, Hillary.

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