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The Hillary Coalition

The 2016 presidential race having begun the day after the Republicans decisively won the Midterm elections, commentators have asked how Hillary Clinton will rebuild the Obama coalition so that she can win the Presidency because being “inevitable” isn’t enough. Ted Kennedy taught that lesson to everyone. The problem, however, is that Hillary doesn’t have to reignite the energies that allowed Obama to win the Presidency twice. Each of those victories was a one time thing. The first time, American voters liked the idea of showing how liberal they were by voting for a Black man who promised domestic harmony and a dovish foreign policy. The voters wanted health care reform, didn’t they? After all, Republican Mitt Romney had gotten in through in Massachusetts. The second time around, Obama still had a technological edge that allowed him to identify and get out voters not expected to vote, but it turned out that what seemed technological was rather a willingness of black voters to turn out for a black candidate for President. Obama has not been able to cultivate a heightened sense of political consciousness among black voters, and so there was a return, during the just past Midterms, to the usual pattern: minorities and the young and the poor vote in far lower percentages than people in other ethnic, age and income groups. So the two Obama elections were not a political account that has ever replenished resources. Yes, there are Hispanic voters in our future-- if they ever get around to voting, that is.

The idea of an Obama coalition also harkens back to a yesterday when one could legitimately speak of a stable coalition of demographic groups that would deliver time and again for their candidate. There was the GOP of the nineteenth century, ever able to wrap itself in the bloody flag of Union. And, most famously, there was the FDR coalition of the working class and city minorities and family farmers and Catholics and Jews that was able to hold together through the Fair Deal of Harry Truman and get John Kennedy elected and very nearly get Hubert Humphrey over the top in 1968. The touted Reagan coalition of Southerners and Democrats alienated from their old party by cultural issues and their own success in becoming members of the middle class, and so craving the respectability awarded to being a Republican, lasted only long enough to get Reagan a third term in the person of George H. W. Bush. Since then, it has been personality politics, each politician building his own financial base and collection of interest groups.

Hillary will have to construct her own coalition. She has a good head start. Working white people like her and black people do too-- remember when Bill Clinton was called the first black President? Obama managed to get them to shift sides through a number of clever maneuvers, but that was bound to happen when Obama became credible as a candidate. She also has Wall Street and hawks on her side. But the Republicans really hate her, and will lather up again. They said, among other things, that she had killed a close friend. This time it will be with innuendos about a female being President. I don’t think it will be about hot flashes because I think she is beyond those, but some other issues surrounding the female constitution will surely arise.

The only way to combat the lingering sexism that will stalk her campaign and try to rattle her into saying something untoward--which is very unlikely given how attacked she has been in the past, however much the media is already on the lookout for her slightest flub--is for her to drum up the woman’s vote. Some gender gap is not enough. It has to be very large and she has to bring out vast numbers of women who have not voted very much or at all in the past. They should be reminded that it is past time to elect as President a person who is eminently well qualified and also happens to be one of their own sex. Everyone knows that is pandering, but who cares? Certainly not the men who support her. And contrary to a time when women were expected to vote the way their husbands told them to, this may be a time when young men vote for Hillary because it is a way to support their girlfriends. Obama got the feel good vote; maybe Hillary will too.

But there has to be more than that to get her campaign going. The American voter is skittish and their fall-back position is always a Republican. Remember that Clinton had to accept a low cost welfare reform program because he couldn’t let Bob Dole outflank him on the right. And Mitt Romney despite a well deserved reputation as an opportunist came closer than there was reason for him to. And so Democratic candidates also become skittish and say anything or nothing to get themselves elected. Hillary does not have that option because then her long exposure to the public light will work against her. She will be just another politician and the Republicans will be able to sell anybody-- probably Romney again. There has to be something behind that smugness, doesn’t there?

I suggest that Hillary clear the minds of the voters about her political past. She doesn’t need name recognition and her positive vibrations will linger on anyway. She needs to take stands on a number of fresh issues or give a fresh twist to some old issues. You can accomplish a lot, the Parables remind us, by putting old issues into new bottles. Raising the minimum wage substantially is a way to alleviate the need of fast food and box store workers to unionize. Less focus on a curb on global warming and more focus on a war on asthma wins over people skeptical of Al Gore histrionics. Financing student debt reduction with the money that now goes to the for-profit schools that just about always turn out to be a disappointment for their students would get out young people just graduated from college. You get the idea.

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Issue No. 77
December 22, 2013

"The Moonstone" as an Aesopian Novel- Part I
"The Moonstone" as an Aesopian Novel-Part II
Earlier Issues

List Articles by Topic

The Political Ticker
The Hillary Coalition
  - November 19, 2014
Obama's Win in the Ukraine
  - April 5, 2014
"House of Cards" Politics
  - February 14, 2014
Birenbaum: The Day the President Struck Out
  - January 29, 2014
The Debate Over Inequality
  - January 27, 2014
Temporary Issues: "Stop and Frisk", Climate Change, Inequality
  - January 21, 2014

Previous Political Tickers

The Administrative President
  -January 12, 2014
Three Chronic Problems
  -December 19, 2013
Obama the Transformational President
  -December 13, 2013
"Homeland", "Alpha House" and the Tea Party
  -November 27, 2013
Off Year Election Post-mortem
  -November 7, 2013
Kathleen Sibelius and the Iliad
  -October 31, 2013
Political Impasses: 2013 and 1936
  -October 7, 2013
Birenbaum on The Tea Party
  -October 6, 2013
Fifty Years Later: The Anniversary of the March on Washington
  -September 18, 2013
The Principled Obama
  -September 10, 2013
Obama Thinks About Syria Freshly
  -September 5, 2013
Syria and the Falklands
  -August 30, 2013
Public Opinion on Syria
  -August 24, 2013
Upward Mobility Through Educational Innovation
  -August 12, 2013
The Anthony Wiener Bubble
  -July 30, 2013
Racial Issues in 2013
  -June 29, 2013
The David Brinkley Era of Journalism
  -June 5, 2013
Republican Scandal Mongering
  -May 23, 2013
Benghazi and Two Other "Scandals"
  -May 14, 2013
Lackluster Politics
  -May 7, 2013

The Cultural Ticker
A Dour Cultural Week
  - February 4, 2014
Colonial Virginia
  - January 15, 2014
Birenbaum: The Joy of Middle European Posters
  - January 6, 2014
A Jewish Nipple
  - November 28, 2013
Birenbaum: My Oral Comprehensive Examination and the JFK Assassination
  - November 27, 2013
"12 Years a Slave"
  - November 12, 2013

Previous Cultural Tickers

Pinter and Shakespeare
  -November 8, 2013
Birenbaum on "I Am Divine"
  -November 3, 2013
The Hearing Impaired Student
  -August 17, 2013
Ideas and People
  -August 10, 2013
The Weekly Roundup of Morning Joe and Chris Matthews
  -August 8, 2013
The Zen of Dishwashers
  -August 5, 2013
The Profundity of the Second World War
  -August 2, 2013
The Trayvon Martin Bubble
  -July 20, 2013
Eliot Spitzer
  -July 9, 2013
The Study of Everyday Life
  -July 5, 2013
The Zimmerman Trial
  -July 3, 2013
Le Carre's "A Delicate Truth"
  -July 1, 2013
Zucker: A Madeleine (A Memoir)
  -June 23, 2013
Von Trotta's "Hannah Arendt"
  -June 7, 2013
The Armchair View of War and Disability
  -May 30, 2013
Birenbaum's Summers
  -May 24, 2013
Old Neighborhoods
  -May 21, 2013
Jackie Robinson
  -May 20, 2013
Barbara Spun's Catskill Vacations
  -May 16, 2013
An Old Friend in Her Eighties
  -May 11, 2013


A new issue of “w. end ave.: an e-journal of culture and politics” is published once every three weeks or so. It is edited, owned, and where not indicated as otherwise, written by Martin Wenglinsky. The rights to all materials published here are copyright © 2008 by Martin Wenglinsky