She has won the debates. She has the most money. She has enormous institutional support. She has sewn up important voter blocs (especially unmarried women). She has been a brilliant tactician, outmaneuvering both her Democratic and Republican opponents at every turn.
I think this is causing a great depression in the minds of many Americans. On both sides of the aisle:
- Hillary Clinton represents incremental change.
- Hillary Clinton means we have to fight all the battles of the 1990s on into the indefinite future.
- Hillary Clinton can have a hectoring tone that's like rubbing a balloon.
As I've said many times before, Hillary Clinton is Nixon all over again. A liberal Nixon, a positive Nixon, a sunnier Nixon, a female Nixon, but Nixon nonetheless. She has even more history than Nixon did when he ran in 1968 -- at least three decades' worth. She has Nixon's reputation as an infighter, Nixon's reputation for ruthlessness. Her friends are loyal as Nixon's friends were, her enemies relentless as Nixon's enemies were.
For Democrats, it gets worse. In his domestic policy Nixon mainly leaned against the still-dominant liberal Thesis of his time. It was Nixon who passed the Clean Air Act, Nixon who launched the EPA. It was Nixon who gave us OSHA and the CPSC. It was Nixon who nominated Harry Blackmun, author of Roe vs. Wade, to the Supreme Court.
If Hilary Clinton is true to that part of the Nixon Legacy, liberals will find her the apotheosis of conservatism. President Clinton will see Roe vs. Wade overturned and dismantled. President Clinton will see a supremely-harsh immigration bill passed. President Clinton will cut domestic spending to the bone, and will give amnesty to all the criminals of this decade. This will not help her with conservatives, who will continue to hate her, even as she gives them their most cherished goals.
If President Hillary Clinton is true to the Nixon Legacy, she will deploy Vice President Obama as an attack dog against conservatives and their movement. He will hire writers who will eviscerate that movement in rhetoric, who will hang Iraq and their victory rhetoric on them as liberals got Vietnam and End the War rhetoric hung on them a generation ago. He will damn all the elements of the wingnut welfare machine, from the think tanks to the media, and he will destroy his own future electability in the process by becoming a lightning rod for conservative critics.
But if President Clinton is true to the Nixon legacy, we will get a new foreign policy. We will use fewer sticks and more carrots. We will be out of Iraq ASAP, we will be put back in the good graces of the UN and all other international treaties, and we will have an effort made toward peace-making the likes of which hasn't been seen since the Harding Administration. Chelsea will be First Lady, Bill will be Ambassador to the World.
Of course, by now you're wondering if President Hillary Clinton will also be true to Nixon's Watergate legacy. I have no doubt conservatives will do everything in their power to make it so, from her first day in office. There will be no honeymoon for President Clinton, no breathing space. Vince Foster will become her Alger Hiss, and if she can be persuaded to do it, Monica Lewinsky will become a conservative TV star.
Conservatives have reason to be depressed at this prospect. They will be fighting over ground they thought they had won. They will be on a constant rhetorical retreat, as the Confederacy was in 1864. Their party risks utter destruction, because Republicans will have to decide whether to deny her or try to lean into her wind, and create a new AntiThesis based on new views, as British Conservatives have.
But liberals may be more depressed. We're going to lose a lot of ground where the majority is with us. The real issues of our time, like The War Against Oil, will not be adequately addressed. We're going to be fighting in the past tense a lot, defending her personal integrity a lot, and biting our tongues a lot, knowing that only through her success can we hope to have the lasting policy changes needed by the country.
As we enter the fall of the year, a year before the 2008 election, the Clinton Depression has already begun. It's not a new beginning. It's a new middle. It's a collection of re-runs for a decade of falls to come.
And there seems nothing out there right now to prevent it.