Monday, March 19, 2007

Hillary's Problem and the Problem with Hillary

Some thoughts which have been rattling around in my aged head for several weeks and probably not ready for prime time . . . .

If History is any indication, 2008 should be a banner year for the Democrats on the National level. Granting that History may be as irrelevant to the outcome of Presidential elections as to Baseball's All-Star game, the same History which bodes well for the Democrats might have an asterisk named Hillary.

When public opinion of a sitting President falls to the miserable failure level, one often sees a switch of the political Party in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania. Some examples include when FDR (D) wasted Hoover (R), in the early 30s; twenty years later when Ike (R) spanked Stevenson following Truman's second term (when, as the Dubya gang likes to point out, Truman's job-approval were Bushian low-20s); in the 70s it happened twice, first when Carter (D) took over from Ford/Nixon and then four years later, when Reagan sent Carter to early retirement.

But, looking at the men who occupied the White House on Election Day and the men who replaced them on Inauguration Day suggests that the electorate might have been looking for more than a change of Party.

By '32, Hoover was seen as weak-minded and incompetent, FDR as strong, capable, dependable. Truman was perceived as stubborn and irascible, hard to get along with -- taking over the steel mills, recalling MacArthur. Ike, well, EVERYone Liked Ike. Carter was the nuclear-engineer-smart, calm, trustworthy gentleman from the South, taking over from the decidedly untrustworthy, ungentlemently, Nixon regime, with his unelected Veep, Ford, viewed as less than smart and perhaps a little untrustworthy himself. And, finally, the in-control, clear-eyed Reagan taking over for a Carter Administration adept at fumbling domestic policy and international relations.

These caricatures of the day suggest that, in response to what is largely perceived as a "failure presidency", the voters may have been looking as much for someone perceived as offering an opposite set of characteristics, as for an opposite party.

There need be little breath spent on arguing that the Bush Administration is widely-perceived as a decidedly failed Presidency. While the ultimate historical judgment might, as it did with Truman, change given time and distance (yeah, right), today Bush struggles to avoid setting new lows in approval and performance.

So, looking to 2008, what are the popular-perceptions about why Bush is such a miserable failure?

Seems too easy, but a list of some of the problems that most would probably say contribute to the failure of this Administration would have to include the Iraq Invasion, Bush's seemingly endless ability to create divisions and generate impassioned detractors, and his, if not dishonesty, then at least the lack of candor, or political posturing, informing all he does or says.

Recognizing that the deck becomes stacked by which elements one lists, but the Hillary Problem, and the problem WITH Hillary, is that she might not be stacking up very well on the electorate's unconscious lists of the "problems with George" -- she might not offer the great unwashed enough of a change in character to lead to a change in Party in the White House. She was a supporter of the war then, and is insufficiently repentant. Is she divisive? If you have to ask, you haven't been paying attention. Is she perceived to lack candor, as being political and calculating? Did you see her in Selma? Does she root for the Mets or the Yankees?

Just looking at it this way, if it is even close to something real, doesn't it help explain Obama's popularity? Hillary may not be enough the un-Bush to give the Democrats what History suggests may be theirs in 2008 as long as they don't screw it up.

Obama's big negative in all of this -- experience. Another biggie on the unconscious list of Bush problems is the lack of relevant experience the guy had coming into the job. (And, that is Hillary's big, very big, plus.) But, and this is at a just wondering stage right now, but what would a Democratic ticket with Obama and Bill Richarson be able to do?




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2 comments:

Daddy Democrat said...

I'll make my formal prediction now: Hillary will NOT be the Democratic nominee in 2008.

I'd vote for her if she were, but she doesn't have any mo. Even now, when she supposedly leads the Democratic field, she totally lacks any big mo. Too many settled minds, too many people expecting her to prove them right in their assumptions about her. Candidates like that have no place to go but down.

A Big Fat Slob said...

daddy dem makes a great point.

When you have nearly 100% name recognition it not only means that people know who you are -- it also means that people believe that they Know you.

That means two things -- (i)people already feel they know enough about Hillary and don't care to/want to/ need to hear any more; and (ii) no where to go but down.

Hillary, just shy of a year out from the first contest, leads the pack with about 35+% Dem support. Unless one presumes that none of the others will improve their standings as they become better known, Hillary has no where to go but down.