Alex Pareene suggests the one thing we most need to know about a potential Hilary Clinton candidacy:
The question for someone considering whether or not to support Clinton in 2016 is, will a Clinton 2016 campaign pass the Mark Penn Test? The Mark Penn Test, which I just invented, determines whether or not a person should be trusted with the presidency, based solely on one criterion: Whether or not they pay Mark Penn to do anything for their campaign. Paying Mark Penn means you’ve failed the Mark Penn Test.
I really hope Clinton runs for President in 2016. She’s not a progressive, but I don’t know of any progressive who can win the primary in the current Democratic Party. (Although I really hope that Oregon’s Ron Wyden has presidential ambitions). I don’t think it much matters which centrist Democrat capable of winning the primary is in the White House; given institutional limitations on the President, any Democrat elected to the White House will pursue broadly similar policies.
Furthermore, it seems likely that Clinton will be the only viable female candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2012. And I really, really want there to be a female President. The all-male slate of American Presidents is, as far as I’m concerned, a blight on our history and on our national honor.
However, the most important task of any Democratic primary winner is to beat the GOP nominee in the presidential election. If you can’t get elected, then everything else you believe in becomes irrelevant. And although Clinton was very successful as Secretary of State, she doesn’t seem to be very good at running a presidential campaign.
In particular, Clinton didn’t appreciate how much proportional representation matters in a Democratic primary. Worst, the people she hired to understand this stuff, she didn’t listen to. Instead, she allowed Mark Penn – who seemingly refused to believe that you can win lots of big states and still lose the delegate campaign – to dictate her campaign’s strategy until it was too late to recover.
Morale was at a low ebb in the Clinton campaign by early March. Incredibly, the campaign had been caught by surprise by Obama’s tortoise-and-hare strategy. While Hillary won some big states on Super Tuesday, including New York, California, New Jersey and—take that, Ted Kennedy!—Massachusetts, Obama had been racking up delegates in smaller states, particularly caucus states, where he was organized and Clinton was not. Given the way delegates were apportioned, Obama had amassed a nearly insurmountable lead by the time of the Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4. At one meeting around the time of Super Tuesday, Ickes tried—for the umpteenth time, it seemed—to explain the mechanics of proportional representation. When President Clinton said, “Oh, hell, we didn’t have this stuff in 1992,” Ickes nearly “fell off his chair,” as he later put it, because the system had been essentially the same back then. Ickes grumbled to reporters that Penn didn’t even know that California wasn’t winner-take-all; Penn denied it.
I want Clinton to run, and (barring the entry of a much more progressive candidate into the race) to win. But I also want her assurance that if we vote for Hilary Clinton, we won’t see a repeat of the incompetence, public infighting, and lack of discipline that characterized her 2008 campaign.
If and when Clinton moves back into the White House, this time as President, I don’t care if she stacks her appointments with Clinton loyalists instead of Obama people – by and large, they’re all cut from the same material. But before she gets to that point, I hope Clinton puts pragmatism above pride and loyalty, and fills her staff from bottom to top with Obama campaign people. Because they, unlike Mark Penn and the other Clinton people, actually seem to be good at conducting a presidential campaign.
That said, Clinton would have a big advantage as a candidate: Her presence at the top of the ticket would galvanize some leading Republicans to say even more stupid things about women than usual, which would increase the Democrats already existing advantage among female voters.