Dissecting Republicans and their chances for regaining the White House next year is good, clean fun for most pundits and analysts, Democrats nearly all, because it distracts attention from what’s wrong in their own party. The conventional wisdom has been that the Democratic superstar would bury anyone unfortunate enough to be nominated by the Republicans. The only concern in Democratic ranks has been that Hillary Clinton would need a practice sprint in the primaries to tone and flex muscle in anticipation of November. If Hillary were a baseball team, her acolytes concede, she could still use a little spring training.
But nothing shook the conviction that she was the inevitable candidate and the inevitable president. Neither a lackluster performance as secretary of state nor the reception for her boring memoirs, which put readers to sleep from coast to coast, worried anyone. All the accumulating negatives were merely bumps in the road back to Pennsylvania Avenue. Wasn’t everyone “ready for Hillary?”
She’s still the overwhelming poll favorite among Democrats, but questions, for now just tiny butterflies in the tummy, are beginning to disturb the narrative so carefully nurtured by the party faithful. Is she the strongest Democratic prospect on the horizon because she’s so terrific, or because the other prospects are so dreadful? Some of them couldn’t make an interesting race against None of the Above. Bernie Sanders, the Socialist senator from Vermont and the grumpy grandfather of the American left, sounds like he wants to run but knows better. Joe Biden talks like he’s thinking about it, but he might be better suited to pursue a post-politics career as a clown with Ringling Bros. Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, passed up an opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, where a seat will be vacant in 2016, and if he runs for president he can avoid those who know him best and take his chances with those who don’t know him at all.
Liberals in the party have tried to coax Sen. Elizabeth Warren to save them from Hillary by running as a fiercely anti-war Democrat. George McGovern, a decent man with a fine record as a World War II bomber pilot, tried that and lost 49 states to Richard Nixon. Mzz Warren seems content, having traded tenure at Harvard for tenure in the Senate. Al Gore says he’ll soon go to Iowa to inspect possibilities. But he has tenure as the archbishop of global warming. Harold Stassen, being still dead, is not available and he was a Republican, anyway.
That’s quite a bench. The late assessment by senior Democrats follows a dreadful week for Mrs. Clinton. The New York Times and The Washington Post, counted on to cover her flanks, reported that the Clinton Foundation vacuumed millions of dollars from foreign governments when she was secretary of state, and then The New York Times revealed that she had set up a private email account where she had conducted nearly all of her official government business conveniently out of sight, ignoring the legal, ethical and security shortcomings that most federal employees knew were against precedent and expectation. Now they’re against the law.
The Clinton disdain for rules, arrogance in the face of criticism and tone deafness show in the way that she and her husband insist on living their lives. This disturbs savvy Democrats, who worry that the public might be weary at last of the endless Clinton soap opera. They’re reluctant to say so in public, though they fear that the public is not only not “ready for Hillary,” but may be ready to forget Hillary.