Littwin: Hillary, the relaunch

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]K, you’ve read by now all the Hillary-is-ready-and-running stories, and in each one we’re told how polarizing she is and how cold and suspicious she is and how she has to change if she is going to win this time.

And it might even make sense unless you actually think about it.

Because how can someone quite so polarizing be odds-on to win the Democratic nomination and also favored, according to the sports-betting sheets, to win the presidency? Doesn’t something have to be wrong? Maybe the whole polarizing Hillary thing is overstated. Or maybe her chances of winning are.

[pullquote]Clinton has been “polarizing” since long before it became the in thing to be for a U.S. politician.[/pullquote]

Or maybe it’s the fact that Clinton has been polarizing since long before it became the in thing to be. I mean, every politician today is polarizing. Once upon a time in America, there was the red-blue divide. That was around the time of the Bush v. Gore triple overtime race. Now there’s a red-blue abyss.

So, yes, Clinton will try to show a warmer side, the grandmotherly side, the van-riding human side. But it’s fair to note that Clinton was likable enough to give Barack Obama a much better race than John McCain or Mitt Romney ever could.

[youtube id=”0uY7gLZDmn4″ width=”620″ height=”360″]

Adding a Clinton to the political mix doesn’t change the level of polarization. You can blame cable TV news or the Twitter or Citizens United for the abyss. You can blame Obama or you can blame House Republicans for the present state of Washington dysfunction. You can blame the Big Dog and the re-emergence, briefly, of Monica Lewinsky for the ugly campaign to come. (Note, please, Bill’s absence from the Hillary campaign video).

The thing is, even if Clinton is not as unpopular as you’d imagine — and she’s not — we already know who she is, long before the TV ads hit in force. And, in any case, as the smart pundits tell you, the election is about the economy or about the third-term itch or about the emerging (or non-emerging) Democratic majority or about turning out the white vote or about turning out the minority vote or about the widening gap between the parties — on Obamacare, on Medicaid, on global warming, on oil vs. wind, on letters to the Mullahs, on, well, everything.

Everyone’s got a model in the Nate Silver era, but the models have little to do with Clinton’s polarization quotient or, for that matter, with the person likely to win the Republican nomination, so long as that person doesn’t turn out to be, say, a Rand Paul or a Ted Cruz.

According to a chart of polls since Jan. 15, cold and unpopular Clinton is barely above water, and yet with far higher favorables than both Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz. The gap is much closer between her and both Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, but most people are just getting to know them. What I mean is, the only Republican with higher favorables than Clinton is Ben Carson. Have we said enough?

OK, we haven’t said enough. There’s no way to sum up Clinton, except to say that in her decades in public view she has always seemed to push buttons, from the left and right, although mostly from the right, and certainly because she happens to be a woman. She has been made to stand in for far more than any one person should. You don’t have to be a Clinton fan — and there is ample reason not to be, as the erased emails remind us — to know that her critics have consistently overreached. And — see: Benghazi — that they’ll almost certainly do it again.

The expected attacks on Clinton will bring the base back to her. They always do. Liberals, like conservatives, are rarely happy with their party’s nominee. But Clinton, as John Cassidy points out in the New Yorker, has given liberals hope that she is prepared to do more about income inequality than husband Bill or the New Democrats ever did.

My guess is that if former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley runs to Clinton’s left, he’ll get more votes than people think. But I’d guess, too, from the evidence of her campaign rollout, that Clinton will be running on income inequality, climate change, glass ceilings and in defense of Obamacare. That won’t be a hard call in the end from the left.

It may be a coincidence, or maybe not, that the first three Republicans to officially announce are all young senators who can make the generational argument, like Kennedy did and like Obama did. Marco Rubio — the one of the three who has a real chance — hit Clinton and his mentor Jeb Bush with twin blows, suggesting one was a “leader from yesterday” and the other one of those “who come from power and privilege.” At first glance, it was difficult to tell which is which.

What won’t be difficult to tell by the time we get to 2016 is which candidate is from which party. And whether Hillary changes — or is thought to — may turn out to be far less important than whether, in this election, the voters do.


  1. The Democrats have no bench. Hillary is it, because there are no alternatives. I don’t think she is anymore polarizing than anyone else who has been in the public eye for decades.

    One statistic I would like to see is the average age of the Democratic registered voter, both in Colorado and in the entire country.

  2. “I still have trouble believing that Hillary Clinton, the wife of a former president, is the front-runner to succeed George Bush, the son of a former president. It sounds all too banana republic-ish. It also suggests a woeful lack of imagination.”

    Mike Littwin September, 2007 Rocky Mountain News

    Despite being eight-years old (or, as Mr. Littwin might characterize it, a different time) it’s possible (even probable) Mr. Littwin’s view of Mrs. Clinton’s presidential candidacy hasn’t changed but it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever admit it since, as we all know, politics trumps candor.

    Some things, of course, have changed. First of all, should Mrs. Clinton win (and that’s a big “if”) she would be succeeding a Democrat and secondly, eight years ago “banana republic” was a benign descriptive phrase which today has been transformed into an insensitive, racially charged and politically-incorrect term.

    What hasn’t changed is Mr. Littwin’s weak-kneed self-serving method of dealing with inconvenient truths. He’ll simply ignore the quote and hope everyone else does, too.

    Certainly no one from the Colorado Independent will mention it. The CI has its own double-standard. In January when Mr. Littwin gave readers his unbiased (insert laugh track here) assessment of possible 2016 Republican presidential candidates the column was headlined “Someone else, please, in 2016” because of the possibility, at the time, of another George Romney presidential run. No such headline today for Mrs. Clinton’s announcement, although “Someone else, please, in 2016” would be spot-on.

    “Because how can someone quite so polarizing be odds-on to win the Democratic nomination and also favored, according to the sports-betting sheets, to win the presidency?”

    It is ludicrous for anyone—even Mr. Littwin—to be talking betting odds at this point. Consider this from the Washington Times’ Robert W. Merry:

    “ Think back just about exactly eight years, when the same sense of inevitability was attached to the same candidate by the same political commentators and observers. Their weapon of choice: the polls. In January 2007, Real Clear Politics commingled a number of polls to arrive at a reading suggesting Mrs. Clinton was ahead of her nearest rival, Barack Obama, by 38 percent to 18 percent. Ten months later, the gap was 49 percent to 20 percent. A Washington Post-ABC News poll in October 2007 pegged Mrs. Clinton at 53 percent, compared with Mr. Obama’s 30 percent. The poll officials said she was up 12 points in three weeks, while he was down 7 points.”

    We all know how that turned out and so does Mr. Littwin. For him to attach any significance to today’s betting-odds is intellectually dishonest.

    Of course, so is ignoring his “lack of imagination” quote.

    “But it’s far from certain that a Ferguson City Council with more black members will change how the city is run. Black leaders may not necessarily mean better lives for black residents, a fact of life that anyone from Detroit or Newark could tell you about.”
    Daily Beast – April 07, 2015
    “An Indiana pizzeria under fire for saying it would refuse to cater a gay wedding shut down on Wednesday after its owners said they received threatening messages.”
    Huffington Post April 02, 2015
    “I marched with many people back in those days and I have reached out to some of my friends who marched with me, and all of them are shocked,” Rev. William Owens of the Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) told Breitbart News. “They never thought they would see this day that gay rights would be equated with civil rights. Not one agreed with this comparison.
    President Obama is a disgrace to the black community,” Owens said. “He is rewriting history. We didn’t suffer and die for gay marriage.”
    “It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”
    President Obama redefining “randomly”
    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner
    Folds of Honor
    Wounded Warrior Project

    Memorial Day – May 25, 2015

Comments are closed.