Will the Clinton Era come to a graceful end?

In Can Mrs. Clinton lose?, Peggy Noonan writes,

  We know she is smart. Is she wise? If it comes to it, down the road, can she give a nice speech, thank her supporters, wish Barack Obama well, and vow to campaign for him?

  It either gets very ugly now, or we will see unanticipated–and I suspect professionally saving–grace.

  I ruminate in this way because something is happening. Mrs. Clinton is losing this thing. It’s not one big primary, it’s a rolling loss, a daily one, an inch-by-inch deflation. The trends and indices are not in her favor. She is having trouble raising big money, she’s funding her campaign with her own wealth, her moral standing within her own party and among her own followers has been dragged down, and the legacy of Clintonism tarnished by what Bill Clinton did in South Carolina. Unfavorable primaries lie ahead. She doesn’t have the excitement, the great whoosh of feeling that accompanies a winning campaign. The guy from Chicago who was unknown a year ago continues to gain purchase, to move forward. For a soft little innocent, he’s played a tough and knowing inside/outside game.

  The day she admitted she’d written herself a check for $5 million, Obama’s people crowed they’d just raised $3 million. But then his staff is happy. They’re all getting paid.

  Political professionals are leery of saying, publicly, that she is losing, because they said it before New Hampshire and turned out to be wrong. Some of them signaled their personal weariness with Clintonism at that time, and fear now, as they report, to look as if they are carrying an agenda. One part of the Clinton mystique maintains: Deep down journalists think she’s a political Rasputin who will not be dispatched.

She concludes,

  The biggest problem for the Republicans will be that no matter what they say that is not issue oriented–”He’s too young, he’s never run anything, he’s not fully baked”–the mainstream media will tag them as dealing in racial overtones, or undertones. You can bet on this. Go to the bank on it.

  The Democrats continue not to recognize what they have in this guy. Believe me, Republican professionals know. They can tell.

I don’t know. Obama hasn’t had an embarrasing blow-up yet, as most campaigns eventually do. He’s not perfect. It’s going to happen.

And on the bus last week here near Boston, I overheard a lively political discussion among acquaintances that was all about the comfort they felt with Hillary, and even their affection for her. I’m reluctant to dismiss that.

But my gut says Peggy’s right. And I think it has to do with the matter of “change”. It’s hard to say “change” is what you’re about when you’re proposing a series of four presidents with just two surnames between them.

One thing I didn’t expect to see, going into this election, was how absolutely smart Hillary is, and how much she knows about pretty much everything that comes her way. I’ve never been a fan; but I’ve been truly impressed by her.

But it *is* time for a change. We all know that. Most of us want it. And there’s just one candidate that actually represents it, and is likely to make it happen.

9 comments

  1. Geld Lenen’s avatar

    It is nice to follow the elections as I will go to the USA for half a year. But now Obama just won… For me it is getting a more and more exciting election, even Dutch press does almost hourly coverage of the elections.

  2. Roland Hesz’s avatar

    I have to admit that all I saw far did not convince me that Obama would be any better, or would represent change.

    He is the same, saying one thing, doing another, avoiding to answer direct questions.
    I don’t say Hillary is better, I just say, Obama is not that different.

    Not that it matters what I think, I am not a US voter.

  3. Bob Boynton’s avatar

    If you are interested in change getting 61 votes in the senate is more important than which of the Democratic candidates wins. As long as the Republicans have 41 votes you will not get serious change — though you may get them all posturing about how they have brought you change — the word of the day. Politicians live to posture the word of the day.

  4. James Robertson’s avatar

    The problem with “it’s time for a change” is that it’s a meaningless statement. What kind of change? I rather expect that the kind of libertarian-ish changes I would be in favor of differ markedly from the liberal-ish changes Obama wants.

    “Change” is meaningless. It’s like deciding to pick a random direction on the highway, and hoping that it leads to a specific point.

  5. Keith Dick’s avatar

    Mr. Boynton hit the nail on the head. The system has tremendous inertia. The President can’t do much if he doesn’t receive the legislation to sign.

    The underlying problem is the control money has over the government, and by “money” I mostly mean large corporations. I may be lacking imagination, but I can’t see any way to break the control of the government that they hold today. The people, on the whole, are too comfortable to demand much change. If there were some way to motivate the electorate to turn ALL the incumbents out — not to vote for ANYONE who has held an office before — the resulting free-for-all might result in some real reforms, but it could just as easily end up with big money capturing more control by manipulating inexperienced legislators.

    Nobody is going to install me as Dictator, which is the only way I can imagine straightening things out, so I am reluctantly resigned to seeing the country slowly devolve into even more of a corporate dictatorship than it already has become (and which has been depicted in more than one science-fictional future).

  6. Bob Boynton’s avatar

    About the only way to do it is to do what Edwards threatened to do — go to the people. Presidents almost always understand their job as Washington D.C. rather than mobilizing the people who want change. If the president started campaigning for universal health care, for example, beginning on day one and in the districts and states of those who oppose it there is some chance of change. But not much chance when the president negotiates in D.C. The lobbyists have more clout than the president sitting in the oval office does.

    Campaigns never cease.

  7. Pauly’s avatar

    @Bob: “As long as the Republicans have 41 votes you will not get serious change” is true only insofar as the new executive branch continues to play the partisan polarization game. And I think that Obama is much much closer to being able to transcend that than Clinton is. I even think a President McCain would be more able to effectively bring about bipartisan change than Clinton would be.

    That said, while I agree with James that Obama’s apparently more-liberal-than-libertarian policy positions would *ordinarily* tend to nullify this belief, I still will contend that a decent amount of what I’ve heard from Obama over the past year or so tends to cut against the orthodoxy of both the Dems or Repubs to a greater extent than any other candidate excepting (the impractically unviable) Ron Paul.

    Heck, even *Bush* is able to occasionally get Democratic votes for his policies out of Congress…

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