Monday, September 22, 2014

2016 Is Just Around the Corner

Seriously - 300 Million people and
this is the best we can do?
Pssst. Lemme clue you in to the secret. Hillary Clinton is running for President. The will she/won't she narrative is stupid and kind of embarrassing. She went to Iowa, the place that made her cry in 2008. She's running. So enough of that. What's it mean?

Well, we don't know what might happen over the next two years. But we can certainly take the pulse on current conditions, and some things are pretty obvious. Let's start with the view from 50,000 feet.

The Republican party has two very large problems standing between them and winning the White House. First, they have a large number of flawed, damaged and frankly ludicrous characters in competition for the nomination. There is no Republican candidate who stands out as charismatic, or somehow capable of turning their agenda into some kind of electable message. But even more challenging is the Republican purity test. The number of groups, ethnicities, religions and tribes they are required to hate in order to be considered legitimate Republican candidates is so great it puts them at a political disadvantage from the start. They keep trying to offset that advantage with voter suppression methods, but an interesting thing about people is the more you try to prevent them from doing something, the more they want to do it.

So barring some kind of massive economic collapse or a nuclear war, the Democratic nominee can be logically expected to win the 2016 election. And barring some kind of massive, unrecoverable mis-step, that nominee will be Hillary Clinton. And barring some kind of health crisis, Hillary Clinton will be the President of the United States until 2024, when she will be 77.  At the risk of sounding intentionally ironic, we don't get a vote in this. The Democratic nominee has an intrinsic and institutional advantage over the Republican nominee of somewhere between 3 and 8 percent, and will therefore win the popular vote (as they have in 5 of the last 6 elections) and should have no problem collecting the requisite electoral votes. The Democratic nominee will win, and at this point the Democratic nominee will certainly be Ms. Clinton.

What will a second Clinton Presidency look like? Well, first, you can't ignore the fact that we will continue to have divided government. No matter what happens with the Senate, the House of Representatives will continue to be firmly in the hands of the GOP, and therefore any Presidential legislative agenda is dead on arrival. It will be a two-term Presidency characterized by reactive actions and rhetoric. I expect her to be very good on social justice issues, mostly good on economic issues, and terrible on human rights, foreign policy and the surveillance state. I do think that the one area where she might surprise us is wealth and income inequality. She'll be very low key on 'class war' issues in the run up to the election because she'll want the bribes - sorry, contributions - from financial institutions who wish for a return to the '90s economy, but in the years during which she's President the inequality issue will become more prominent in political discourse, and she might just catch up and even lead. We can count on her to lead on Climate Change, but it will depend on economic, technology and political changes to permit any fundamental change in the US response.

Now, all that is said in the late summer of 2014. The world is in a precarious and unstable state, and any number of things could happen that might change the calculation. I don't think they will, because I just don't see any other players poised to throw their hat in the ring. It will be Clinton vs. Ryan, or maybe Clinton vs. Paul, but there's just nobody else even close to being an acceptable nominee.

Personally, I'm not excited about another Clinton. I've never been a fan of dynastic succession, and to whatever extent I was tolerant of the process in a democracy, Bush the Second put me off it forever. The incurious, stupid, impulsive frat boy President was just the lesson one needed to learn that the name doesn't come with the wherewithal to hold the office. I'd also pay very close attention to who she picks as her running mate. As a life expectancy matter, middle seventies isn't 'old' in any end-of-life sense of the word, but I kind of have an intuition that we might be due for some kind of chaos at the top, and even setting aside any health crisis, in the next ten years another Republican impeachment trial seems almost a certainty.

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