By Charles C.W. Cooke
I’ll say it, happily: Democrats should be worried about Hillary Clinton, and moderately panicked about the immediate future of both their party and their cause.
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This is not, of course, because Hillary’s latest scandale du jour is in any practical way going to “disqualify” her; and nor is it because leftward-leaning voters are likely to recall anything more from this rather awkward period in time than that the Clintons are as perennially sleazy as they ever were. Rather, it is because the last few days have underscored just how tenuous the Left’s grip on power and influence truly is in the waning days of the once-buoyant Obama era. At present, Republicans control the House of Representatives, they lead the Senate, and they enjoy pole position within a vast majority of the states. The Democratic party, by contrast, has been all but wiped out, its great historical hope having relegated himself by his obstinacy to the role of MVP on a team of just a few. For the next couple of years, Obama will dig in where he can, blocking here, usurping there, and seeking to provide for the Left a source of energy and of authority. But then . . . what?
After last year’s midterm elections, New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait contended grimly that the sheer scale of the Republican wave had rendered Hillary Clinton “the only thing standing between a Republican Party even more radical than George W. Bush’s version and unfettered control of American government.” The customary rhetorical hysterics to one side, this estimation appears to be sound. On the surface, the knowledge that Clinton is ready to consolidate the gains of the Obama project should be a matter of considerable comfort to progressivism and its champions. Indeed, as it stands today, I’d still bet that Hillary will eventually make a somewhat formidable candidate, and that, despite her many, many flaws, she retains a better than 50 percent chance of winning the presidency in 2016. In part, this is because she is a woman, yes, and because she will play ad nauseam upon this fact between now and November of next year; in part this is because she has been distressingly effective at selling herself as a moderate, and because her husband is remembered as a solid caretaker and remains popular across partisan lines; in part this is because the Democratic party is currently benefitting from a number of structural advantages that Republicans will struggle to overcome, whomever they choose to be their standard bearer; and in part this is because the economy will almost certainly be doing well enough by next year that the “Obama saved us all” narratives will seem plausible to a good number of voters.