In a great article in Salon about the danger of Alex Jones and his legion of conspiracy theorists who have infiltrated GOP thinking and exposed Obama’s vicious invasion of Texas, Bob Cesca ends with a conspiracy theory of his own by suggesting that Hillary Clinton is “widely favored to win in 2016.”
Bob isn’t alone in this conspiracy theory — which I know is actually a “hypothesis,” word nerds. Politico‘s media reporter Dylan Byers — who prides himself on being so unbiased that he doesn’t even allow his genitalia to lean in a specific direction — recently called the race Clinton’s “election to lose.”
I’ve heard some persuasive arguments why Clinton will probably win, and I’ve argued that her extraordinary background, near-immunity (from mass exposure) to fake scandals and incredible timing — as the first serious female contender for the presidency as we elect a chief executive who will decide the future of Roe v. Wade — will all be substantial advantages should she be the nominee.
But I wouldn’t call her the favorite. According to Nate Silver, as a nominee, she’s very likely to be the nominee but she’d only have a 50/50 shot at the White House. And even that is pretty good, considering that Americans almost never elect a president from the same party three times in a row. Democrats have only held the White House for three straight terms twice — and only once in the last century, thanks to the Supreme Court and Governor Jeb Bush’s voter purge.
We hate to admit these things because they make us feel powerless but even more important than a campaign a candidate runs is economic growth, which is largely reflected in the current president’s approval rating. Political scientist Alan I. Abramowitz has modeled the numbers and found that the popular vote the Democratic candidate will receive is relatively predictable:
So much depends on President Obama’s popularity that it’s possible the 2014 election might have turned out differently had the bump in his numbers from lower gas prices happened just a few weeks earlier.
But there are other things to worry about.
Unless Republicans nominate Rich Uncle Pennybags, they are going to have a better candidate than Mitt Romney. And if they nominate Jeb Bush, as I expect they will, they will have a candidate who speaks fluent Spanish with a enchanting Mexican-born wife from a family that has mastered both the dirty tricks — Willie Horton, John McCain’s black child, swiftboating — and the sort of strategic blurring of differences with Democrats that wins over independents and depresses the liberal vote.
There’s also evidence that Republicans are getting much better at playing the “long game.” They’re recruiting affable but doomed minority candidates in urban areas to rebuild their hollowed out support in cities, and part of the Koch-brothers’ effort to spend almost a billion dollars to elect a Republican in 2016 is LIBRE, a group that targets Latinos with general support for immigration reform while building up ties to the community with very practical services like drivers license test preparation. This should worry Democrats.
While the GOP is literally dying off, the party’s leaders remain better at winning and influencing policy than their liberal competitors. And they do it with unpopular policies and unlikable candidates. They do it because for five decades corporate America has systemically destroyed the power of working people by shrinking unions and elevating the role lobbyists play in lawmaking. And they do it by turning liberals against themselves.
There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
Pollster Stan Greenberg, who has worked with the Clintons for decades, sees a progressive majority brewing in America.
“A large majority of the country embraces a bold reform narrative that demands leaders confront the special interests’ hold on government and puts the problems of the middle class center-stage,” he wrote in the American Prospect.
He finds voters are excited by an agenda that focuses on raising wages, employment rights, the cost of college, infrastructure investment, taxing the rich fairly, fighting overcompensation of CEOs and reducing the role of money in politics, foundational progressive values that need to be paired inclusive agenda of ending the mass incarceration, immigration reform and a fierce defense of reproductive rights. We’re seeing all of these issues raised by Democratic candidates including Hillary Clinton.
Republicans may be stronger than they have ever been in our lifetime, but they’re also struggling for find a nominee who isn’t drowned out by swarm of capricious candidates who will do more to hurt the party than Democratic attack ad ever will.
We can’t count on having opponents who defeat themselves or a population that knows better than to retreat to the policies that cost us almost a million jobs a month. Democrats need to start working today to make sure we don’t end up with a Supreme Court that could repeal the twentieth century.
[Photo by Anne Savage.]