It is hard to know what to make of long time Clinton adviser Mark Penn's op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal this past weekend. Penn argues that Hillary Clinton is preparing to mount a challenge to Donald Trump in 2020, predicting that she is prepping a "Hillary 4.0" campaign to right the wrongs of her last two outings.
Co-written with former New York City politician Andrew Stein, the authors argue that Clinton will re-invent herself as a "progressive firebrand" and "fight this out until the last dog dies".
"She won’t let a little thing like two stunning defeats stand in the way of her claim to the White House," they assert confidently.
“You can expect her [Clinton] to run for president once again. Maybe not at first, when the legions of Senate Democrats make their announcements, but definitely by the time the primaries are in full swing.”
I hope, for the country's sake, that this is an attention grabbing ruse by two long time political hacks to sell a book somewhere down the line (and Wall Street Journal subscriptions given the article is locked behind a hard paywall). Because this is possibly the worst idea of all time.
The 2016 election was perhaps the most sordid, vicious, divisive presidential run off in American history. No one in their right mind would want to see a repeat of that, ever. It featured a lying con man accused of sexual assaulting multiple women and a politician who, let's be honest, came with a lot of baggage.
This is not to equate Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump, but as I have long maintained, she was far from being the ideal candidate. Clinton may well be a highly effective politician, but she is not the best campaigner and had no real vision for the country in either 2008 or 2016.
Clinton ran in 2016 on a completely undefinable platform -- she chopped and changed strategy from week to week, triangulated unnecessarily, and failed to campaign properly in key states. While Clinton won the popular vote handily and should be given a lot of credit for that, she ultimately lost to someone she should have beaten very, very easily. For that reason alone she should not be considering running.
Whether people like it or not, Hillary Clinton also has a Bill Clinton problem -- a politician with his own history of sexual assault, lying, and shamelessness (who could forget his racist dogwhistles against Obama in the 2008 election for example). We know what kind of strategy Trump and the GOP would use against her in 2020, because we've seen it before. They would drag her and her husband through the dirt, and we would be forced to live through every fake Clinton scandal the GOP has ever conjured up again, and again, and again. Nothing would delight Trump more than squaring off with Hillary Clinton for a second time, because he relishes dog fights and knows Clinton would bring the best (or worst) out of him.
If we have learned anything from the 2018 midterms, it is that the Republican Party is now fully the party of Trump. It is a fascistic cesspool of hatred, xenophobia, and lies, and can be mobilized extremely effectively to vote against brown people, women, and foreigners in an instant. While they lost handily to the Democrats in the House, they kept the Senate proving that a sizable portion of the country will support them no matter what. Republican voters responded to Trump's race baiting and fear mongering, coming out in droves to beat back marauding immigrants and liberals who wanted to turn the country into Venezuela. If Hillary Clinton runs in 2020, these people are not going to stay at home.
I always thought that Hillary Clinton would have made a good President. I am no fan of her more hawkish foreign policy positions (I supported Obama in 2008 because of this), but I believe the world would be a much safer place had she won in 2016. According to those who have worked closely with her (and I know some personally), she is kind, generous, incredibly efficient, and very, very smart. She may have been the most qualified candidate to have ever run for public office, and it is a great shame she did not win. But she failed, and her time has passed.
Clinton has been an effective critic of Donald Trump and has spoken out extremely forcefully about the danger he represents. She calls herself part of the "resistance" and is committed to holding the president to account. As a political candidate, she would turn this into a personal vendetta and put the country through an election cycle it would likely never recover from.