Hillary Clinton can say "no" to the pesky pleas for her to run for president in 2012 until she's blue in the face. It won't make any difference. There will be yet another poll that shows she's far more popular than President Obama as the Democratic presidential standard bearer. And that in a head to head race she'd shellac any one of the pack of GOP presidential contenders, and that includes the presumptive frontrunner, Mitt Romney. A Time Magazine poll is the latest to feed the Hillary clamor. A Clinton presidential run won't happen. But the persistent romantic pining away for it is and never has been about putting another Clinton in the White House. It's about the supposed shortcomings, risk, dislike, and betrayal of Obama. The alleged shortcomings have been stated so often that they've become a mantra. He's too weak, vacillating, and conciliatory to the GOP. He broke his campaign pledges for a swift Iraq war withdrawal, caved in to Wall Street, the banks, and major corporations, bungled the economy, and dithered on shutting down Guantanamo, and put Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block. The risk is that he could lose with his approval rating continuing to slip into the danger zone for presidents in their reelection bid.
This is all based on gross negative exaggerations, distortions, and the deliberate downplay of Obama's record and positive accomplishments. It also ignores the recent history of presidential politics. In 1982 polls showed that a majority of voters said that Reagan should not run for re-election because of his supposed political failures. That included high unemployment, double digit inflation, and inexperience in dealing with these problems. His approval numbers at that point were even lower than Obama's. The sentiment against a Reagan rerun was off base. He won a smash reelection victory in 1984. Reagan was hardly the first to hear talk that they were damaged political goods and could not possibly win reelection, Truman and Clinton heard that said about them after popularity plunges, legislative reversals, or midterm party losses. They won reelection.
The dislike of Obama is even easier to pinpoint. It comes to down to a mix of race, unrealistic expectations and fear. The seed of that was planted not by the relentless subtle and not so subtle race tinged assault on Obama by some GOP and Tea Party leaders and followers, but in the Democratic primaries in 2008. Polls showed that a significant percentage of conservative, rural, and blue collar Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky flatly said that they would not vote for Obama, based on color. Clinton subsequently won primary victories in each of these states. The great fear was that the racial divide was not between the GOP and Democrats, but among Democrats and that would derail Obama's drive for the White House. It was a false fear. Obama won Pennsylvania and Ohio in the general election. And he won it with considerable white voter support.
The question for 2012 is whether the racial fears that could have imperiled Obama in 2008, but didn't could imperil his presidential reelection bid this go round. There's no hard and fast answer to that. Race is always a tricky commodity in any election contest between a black and white candidate. But the evidence is clear on one point, the economy trumps all. If voters perceive that the economy is improving, will continue to improve, and that the incumbent has a firm grasp on how to insure that that will be the case, then the odds are always good for his reelection. This will be the case in 2012 as in all other presidential elections.
The shout from some for Hillary to muscle out Obama ignores another hard political reality. The GOP's goal has never been solely to drive Obama from office. The war would have been waged against Hillary or any other Democrat that won the presidency, but especially Hillary with the same down and dirty vehemence that they have waged it against Obama. The GOP war is about regaining power, control, political dominance, protecting its corporate and financial interests, its strict construction definition and enforcement of the laws, and more broadly imposing its philosophical view of how government should be run. The presidency is the grand prize that pulls the political, economic and philosophical threads on how government and power will be exercised together for the GOP.
Hillary experienced that relentless down and dirty lust for power and dominance first hand during her years in the Clinton White House. She was just as much the prime target for the campaign of GOP slander, vilification and lies as Bill. The notion sprang from this that she is more savvy and tougher than Obama and would make much more formidable foe for the GOP as a candidate and as president. That's wishful thinking, and easy to indulge in since she holds no elected office, and has not had to battle with GOP legislators across the negotiating table on any of the major issues that Obama has.
None of this talk about Hillary as the Democratic candidate will go anywhere. Not just because she won't allow it to go anywhere, but because it's just another nasty way to slam Obama.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is host of the weekly Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on KTYM Radio Los Angeles streamed on ktym.com podcast on blogtalkradio.com and on thehutchinsonreportnews.com
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