The latest controversy over Hillary Clinton’s email use at the State Department isn’t a definitive “kill-shot” to her presumptive campaign, but its ramifications will linger deep into the 2016 election. Worse for Democrats, though, is the emerging realization that, beyond Hillary, the party has few viable options to contest the White House in 2016. The Clintons have again sucked all the political oxygen out of their party.
Political hatchet men and pundits will debate whether or not Hillary’s use of a private email system violated federal law. Democrat allies in the media will cloud the issue by trying to divine an equivalency with some Republican officials’ use of email. The problem for Hillary, and the Democrat party, is that this latest scandal taps into the exact concerns voters have with the Clintons.
This morning, on a local Washington, DC news program, Virginia Governor and former Clinton bagman Terry McAuliffe tried to dismiss the controversy by saying Hillary “fully complied with the spirit of the law.” This is just a slightly different tint of the “depends on what the meaning of is, is” argument used by Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal last century.
Like many issues surrounding the Clinton family, the email flap is “too cute by half.” It is another example of their longstanding habit of playing the legal angles very close and always in ways that benefit them personally.
That personal angle is important. This isn’t a case of playing fast with the law or operating in total secrecy for some greater political end. There is no important policy goal at the end of this tale. Rather, the actions are intended to maximize their personal gain or power.
Remember, in just one week, the public has learned that Hillary’s family foundation received millions from foreign governments while she was Secretary of State. At the same time these donations were occurring, Hillary was using a private email system in her job as Secretary of State that protected her against any future public disclosure.
Try to imagine the political fallout for any politician who isn’t named Clinton with the same set of facts.
This episode is simply the most recent reminder that a Clinton campaign for the White House would not be the formidable juggernaut many assume. While there are literally dozens of reasons why a Hillary candidacy would likely end in tears, she seems sustained by an unchangeable conviction that it is simply her turn to assume the nomination.
The Democrat party is confronted with a worse thought; there is nobody else to run.
The Obama campaign and presidency has been a political phenomenon. Unfortunately for the Democrat Party, it is a very singular phenomenon, with more than a tinge of a personality cult. Many Democrats with national stature have receded or been defeated in the Obama Era. The struggles of Obama’s former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, in Chicago’s mayoral race show the sharp limits of Obama’s political touch.
Under President Obama, the Democrat party has been reduced to a political position it hasn’t held in almost a century. The Democrat governors that do exist are barely statewide names, never mind national figures. Many that had political promise a decade ago have been swept from the scene.
Currently, there are four Democrats who can make a claim to be a viable national candidate or have received some favorable coverage in the political press. Joe Biden, as the sitting Vice President, obviously has some national standing. America is not looking to put the crazy, funny uncle in the Oval Office.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sets progressive hearts aflutter, but another liberal from the Bay State is not the medicine for the Democrat Party’s ills. Her candidacy would further alienate her party from a large segment of the electorate.
Former one-term Senator and novelist Jim Webb from Virginia is considering a run for the White House. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is openly exploring a run.
Both of these politicians are interesting individuals, but more suited to rounding out a crowded field of candidates rather than being the titular frontrunners. It isn’t even clear that either of them would have won reelection in their own states.
For Democrats, the real nightmare of the Clinton email fiasco is the realization that they have no other options in 2016. The Clintons are the original American reality show. They can still garner ratings, countless headlines and attention, but not always for the best reasons.
Eventually, though, the music always stops. The Clintons seem to be entering the final bars of their 4th movement.
Throughout the political challenges of the Obama second-term, the Democrat party has consoled itself that soon the Clintons would return and repair the heavy damage it has sustained. The hopes were so robust that no other contenders were groomed or vetted. The GOP, by contrast, has an embarrassment of riches with potential presidential candidates.
By its own choice, the Democrat Party is again the party of the Clintons. It needs to again start thinking about tomorrow.