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Why Clinton, and Why Now?

Conservatives, long used to the media protecting the Clintons at all costs, are puzzled by the fact that journalists seem to be pouncing on the latest scandal involving Hillary Clinton’s offsite email server. As Clinton scandals go, this hardly seems the worst. It seems that federal laws may have been broken–but they may not have been. (The Wall Street Journal concluded, bizarrely, that the private email system “was legal while she served as the nation’s top diplomat.”) Why the sudden interest?

One obvious reason is that there is growing interest on the left–and hence in the media–in alternatives to Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party’s next presidential contender. The Clintons have shifted left over the years, but they still symbolize compromise and triangulation. The “progressive” base wants a candidate who will consummate the unfulfilled promise of Barack Obama. And for journalists, the prospect of a contested primary is not only more satisfying but also more lucrative.

Another reason, perhaps, is that the aura of invincibility that once surrounded the Clintons has evaporated. They suffered a bitter loss to Barack Obama in 2008–but the impact of that loss was blunted by the fact that the Clinton camp acquiesced in his victory, after winning more overall votes. The Clintons gained back some of their swagger in 2012, when Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte helped put a weakened, wayward Obama back on his pedestal.

They lost, however–and lost big–in the 2014 midterm elections. Most of the candidates that Bill and Hillary supported fell short. That was not their fault, but Obama’s. Still, it was a sign that the Clinton charisma had worn off, and that much of the Clintons’ base had been lost to the Democratic Party–driven away by Obamacare, by a bungled foreign policy, and by a sense that the party catered to the very rich and very poor.

Journalists fear and respect power. The Clintons have less of it.

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