Let’s face it, the vaunted Clinton machine has shown complete fecklessness in the face of Obamania. The ways in which she has failed to make headway against this force of nature–the rhetoric of Obama–are countless. Its actually staggering the missed opportunities and the inability of her campaign to find weak points to harp on, especially considering the willingness of the Clintons to play dirty.
A new thought occurred to me this afternoon, though. Did Hillary just get unlucky? What if Obama had decided to wait until the next go ’round in ’12? How would the “inevitable candidate” fared in a race without the Illinois senator-cum-rock star/hope-monger/Presidential candidate?
For starters, she would have dispatched all the second-tier candidates with ease. John Edwards would have remained as her chief rival. I suspect that she would have become at some point the clear establishment candidate, meaning all the endorsements and money flowing to Obama would instead have been hers. She would in that case have been able to play by her own rules. She could have hit Edwards with more traditional attacks, since he would be a more symmetrical opponent. Without Obama, it is highly likely she would have all but wrapped up the nomination by now.
Then what? She would face McCain in the general election. Theoretically, she should win, because she would be the “change candidate.” In the general election, her more centrist foreign policy would dilute McCain’s biggest selling point, and she could probably demagogue her way to victory on domestic issues.
But this is 2008. Would the voters really go for the old Clinton tricks this time around? Cynicism directed toward Washington is high, as shown by not only President Bush’s perennially dreadful approval ratings but also the even worse approval rating for the Democratic Congress (which somehow has managed to do worse than the shamefully useless Repubican Congress before it). The Clintons of ’92 and ’96 got away with all manner of semantic gymnastics and fallacy, and developed evasion of tough questions into an art form. They played dirty but never got mud on their clothes. And somehow, they could connect with Americans, who were all too happy to overlook the closets in Arkansas bulging with skeletons.
Methinks today’s voter would be less apt to let them get away with it. The Clinton machine is a 20th century dinosaur that has proven itself inferior to better evolved species. Perhaps she was unlucky in that in her year to shine, Obama also rose. Perhaps, however, she was doomed anyway.
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