If Hillary Clinton is inevitable, why are so many mice scurrying about under her feet? Hillary is supposed to be the juggernaut of the ages, awash in money, feminist adulation and nostalgia for the security and serenity of the Clinton years, when nothing much happened beyond Bubba’s Oval Office pantry.
Some Democrats, and not just the players on the fringe, are prowling the grass roots (or at least the roster of the party) now in search of an alternative to four more years with Bonnie and Clod. Some are willing to be that alternative themselves. If the Great Mentioner won’t mention them, they’ll do it themselves.
Hillary is still the overwhelming favorite, just as she was in the early weeks of 2008. She’s got the money, the knowledge of how to turn the taps to keep that money flowing, and she’s got Bubba, who may have the sharpest political mind in the game. But there’s a definite stir in those grass roots. “There’s a pining for someone else,” reports The Washington Post, the keeper of the seal of the Democratic Party, “and a medley of ambitious Democrats are making moves, many of them previously unreported, to position themselves to perhaps be that someone.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, for example, and there’s no “perhaps” about it, imagines she’s the superstar of the party and wants to finish what Barack Obama tried to do, and failed. Remembering Ronald Reagan’s famous advice to the Republicans, she vows to paint her party’s promise to give everyone a nanny in bright, bold colors, with no polite pastels. “The game is rigged,” she told the Netroots gathering of liberals and leftists early this month, “and it isn’t right.” And this: “We can whine about it, we can whimper about it, or we can fight back.” She punched the air with a tiny fist. “I’m fighting back.” Maybe the lady is the Indian brave she claims to be, after all.
The itch among this wide assortment of Democratic pols is as endemic as head lice on the Rio Grande, and nobody loves to scratch like Joe Biden. He can’t bear to be out of the news, and he walks among us with a certain confidence because he can leap back on the front page with one of his patented gaffes. The route to the White House has only rarely run through the vice president’s office, and the eccentric uncle in the attic, lovable as he may be, is guilty by association, as unfair as that may be. If it’s difficult for Hillary to unglue herself from Barack Obama, it’s nearly impossible for Joe Biden. He was there at the creation of the disaster, helping the president evolve.
Jerry Brown, the governor of a diminished California, is another golden oldie with dreams of resurrection. He’s no longer Governor Moonbeam, having learned up close and personal what happens when every citizen thinks he has a right to tap the public till until there’s nothing left in it. He has tried to tighten the ship from Sacramento, but it may be too late to sell a savior from the Left Coast to an American public that grows more skeptical of politicians every day.
The governor has the experience of running something that Hillary never has, and his place in the race might inadvertently help Hillary defuse the age issue. To those who think Hillary too old — she would be almost 70 on her inauguration day — she might appear to be an aging ingenue standing next to Mr. Brown, who would be bumping against 80 on his inauguration day.
Other ambitious Democrats are eager to sell themselves as fresh hopes from the heartland, or at least the heart. Some of them, such as Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand, senators from Minnesota and New York, are flogging books packed with trivia, flotsam and promises that they have the goods that others don’t. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York has a book coming, too. Most such books should have a “remaindered” table at their book parties because nobody but the careful political correspondents doomed to New Hampshire in February buy them.
Still others, such as Bernie Sanders, the senator from Vermont who is an authentic Socialist, calls himself an independent and caucuses with the Democrats, has no book coming, but has been to Iowa and New Hampshire, two early caucus and primary states, to put himself on view. A long shot like Mr. Sanders has never made it more than a few feet past the starting gate, but if no one has ever done it, he might as well figure that he could be the first.
The rap on Hillary, despite the fact that a lot of people just don’t like her, is that she is cautious and indecisive to a fatal flaw. That’s the lesson of Benghazi. She’s in constant search of the elusive center in all controversies. That could leave the prize to the bold.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.