How Hillary Can Be Beaten

UnknownNot in recent memory has one presidential prospect, so far in advance, been so pre-emptive a front-runner. To be exact, not since Hoover in 1928.

But the presidency has been called “the greased pig of American politics,” and there’s many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip. So Hillary Clinton’s coronation could be derailed faster than I can sling metaphors. (Five in the last two sentences, if you’re counting.)images-1

Her candidacy’s vulnerability is that she doesn’t really stand for anything, apart from the novelty of being a woman. That was trumped in 2008 by the novelty of a black man. But by now we’ve had so long to get used to the idea of a woman president that we can just as well move on without actually electing her.



And the woman thing could be neutralized this time by Elizabeth Warren – many Democrats would prefer a woman who does stand for something.* Remember, this is party primaries, dominated by activists. Warren’s populism, and bashing their favorite bogeymen, make them swoon as boring old Hillary cannot. She’s also cuter.

And if Warren fails to grasp her opportunity, how about Bill de Blasio? He’s built his political ethos on a single word – using it like some people use the F-word in every sentence – “effin’ this and effin’ that” – for de Blasio the word is “progressive.” Apparently just mouthing the word diddles the erogenous zones of lefty voters. images-3Why not try that shtick in presidential primaries? (Bill’s a white guy, but his wife’s a black ex-lesbian. And a last name beginning with a lower case letter – that’s sure a novelty.)

Remember, it’s not about qualifications, and not about issues, it’s about atmospherics. Obama didn’t beat Hillary in ’08 because his healthcare plan was better. (She favored mandates; he was opposed!) He beat her by thrumming Democrats’ heart-strings, not their dendrites. It was romance, not policy. Cotton candy, not green beans.

images-4And what about the Republicans? Conventional wisdom says guys like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio just aren’t in Hillary’s league; or are too right-wing. Maybe; but maybe not.

Realize that 40-45% of the electorate is locked in to voting for the Democrat, and 40-45% against. Presidential elections are decided by the remaining 10-20% — many of them the least ideological, engaged, or informed. They don’t really know Paul or Rubio or the others, haven’t formed solid views of them. Effectively, these candidates can write on a blank slate, and create a persona in the minds of impressionable swing voters. And for those, even more than for the activist partisans, it’s atmospherics rather than issues that count most.Unknown-1

But I do think there is a role for issues. Issues can shape atmospherics. And I believe a Republican can win the next election through unpopular issue stands.

Let me explain.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has said Republicans must stop being the “stupid party.” They come across like a bunch of frat boys. But a Republican can defeat Hillary by rising above Hillary. By making her seem just another typical tired old pol, the type of politician who has gotten us nowhere lately.** The Republican must instead exude gravitas; leadership; vision; statesmanship.

This is where unpopular stands come in. It’s not just a matter of appearing refreshingly “courageous.” It’s acting grown-up, and treating the American people as grown-ups. That means being serious and telling them the truth; telling them taxes must rise, and popular programs must be cut (no, not for the needy; for the coddled affluent). You may say that’s political suicide. I don’t think so. I think Americans are smarter than they’re given credit for, and will know a true leader when they see one.



I keep coming back to Ross Perot in 1992. He ran something like the campaign I envision, showing voters what an unsustainable path we were on. And even though he was a very flawed candidate, with an even more flawed running mate, on a third party, he got a substantial 19% of the vote. Today, of course, the kinds of issues Perot stressed are far more grave.

Today, American politics and government are broken, preventing us from tackling the problems we must face for our future. We have to get out of this cul-de-sac of partisan gridlock. I think many people realize this, even if the zealots responsible for it do not. I see a real market for a presidential candidate who shows he understands the situation, and credibly offers a way out. (Obama had postured as such but unfortunately as president funked it completely). Obviously, Hillary can’t be that candidate either; she’s the total antithesis of that. This is the opening for a non-Hillary.

images-5Of course, the kind of candidate I’m talking about would have to get through the Republican primary gauntlet. The 2012 experience was not encouraging. Can the GOP grow up?

* I make no comment here on the pros or cons of Warren’s stances.

** Anyone remember John Lindsay’s 1965 NY mayoral slogan? “He’s fresh and everyone else is tired.”


5 Responses to “How Hillary Can Be Beaten”

  1. Andrew Semeiks Says:

    I agree 100% with your position on Hillary Clinton and do not believe that there is any conviction in the polls showing huge support for her.

    I see Rand Paul as the freshest Republican face with a message of more domestic liberty and less involvement on the world stage as one that could resonate with a country weary of repeated crisis. Many intuitively know that we are overregulated in ways that stifle local entrepreneurship while allowing the wealthy to exploit the same regulations to increase their rentier overlay on the economy.

    Many also know that we are overextended in our foreign involvement in ways that we cannot afford. We are broke.

    I am watching to see if Rand Paul can channel the past presidents like Washington and Eisenhower who warned of foreign entanglements and of the dangers of the military industrial complex; now complicated by the growth of multinationals, sovereign wealth funds, and mercantilism. A message of it’s time to take care of our own internal matters will be supported by the public.

    Does Paul have a good grasp of history to know and be able to explain how the USA ascended to greatness and economic dominance and why we risk losing it now?

    I was disappointed when a few years ago he seemed to suddenly become aware that the Republican party of Lincoln was the moving force of abolition and civil rights until the parties switched. Was his talk at the black college a ham handed gambit or did he truly not know? Similarly he has some further explaining to do on his stand on civil/equal rights and private property ownership.

    Rand Paul vs Elizabeth Warren would be a good match but much first needs be done on redistricting and de-polarizing the primary process.

  2. rationaloptimist Says:

    Thanks. Rand Paul would be smeared as an extreme right-wing kook but I agree with you that he could nevertheless resonate with the electorate. I see a lot in him that a like. But some that I don’t — see this past blog post! — about the isolationism thing —

  3. EriK Says:

    “Can the GOP grow up?”
    If only. McCain, who could be clinically insane, and Romney, who was never going to be accepted by much of the base or the MSM, were doomed for failure. I’ve seen lots of comments about how “the establishment” picked these guys, but the fact is they won the primaries. Who in their right mind really wanted a President Newt, or Cain, or Santorum? Not me.

    Now for 2016 I like Paul, but the other potential candidates are hard to support. Palin (for goodness sake), Rubio (lightweight), Ben Carson (really?), Rick Perry, Romney again (!), Christie, Scott Walker (may not even get reelected). Jeb frigging Bush. Good grief. I’ve gotta stop thinking about this.

    Good post Frank even though in the end it upset me.

  4. rationaloptimist Says:

    EriK, I’m gratified to have upset you. Phrases like “clinically insane” are the kind of over-the-top hyperbole that poisons our politics. For the record, I consider John McCain extremely sane and I admire him greatly. And you seem to forget that, for all that we’re told Obama won the last election “decisively,” in fact he won it by 3 percentage points.

  5. DAN FAREK Says:


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