Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ in-law who won’t leave and can’t take a hint. Clinton’s book and tour is the equivalent of Aunt Hillary taking her shoes off and putting her feet up in her party’s living room. She is making herself quite comfortable and Democrat leaders understandably uncomfortable. Worst of all, the longer she stays, the harder it will be to get her out.
The cover of Hillary’s new book should come with its own “spoiler alert,” because in five words it tells her 2016 general election’s story: “What Happened” and “Hillary Rodham Clinton.” The casual reader is left to wonder what purpose the 512 pages inside serve. However, close followers of Clinton’s unending career will not be surprised to find those redundant pages shift blame elsewhere.
When First Lady Clinton was holding White House séances, she should have put Eleanor Roosevelt on hold occasionally, in order to dial up Cleopatra. Today’s Queen of Denial and history’s Queen of the Nile would have had much to discuss.
While Hillary’s book answers its own question, it does not answer Democrat leaders’ most pressing one: Will Clinton ever leave? To their consternation the book and tour appear to answer “No.”
For Democrat leaders, Clinton’s timing is terrible. They believe Trump and Republicans on the ropes. Trump only won the White House with 46% of the popular vote. National polls show Trump’s precarious position eroding. And with nine months of his first year gone — when Trump and Republicans historically had their best shot — there have been minimal accomplishments.
Democrats’ own history gives them even more optimism. In their first midterms, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama lost enormous numbers in Congress. Clinton cost Democrats the House and Senate in 1994, and Obama lost the House in 2010.
With such good signs, Democrat leaders look forward to relaxing a bit in their den and awaiting good fortune to knock. Instead, the doorbell rings and it is none other than their uninvited aunt, who always comes with baggage, and the political equivalent of slides from her recent vacation.
The last thing Democrat leaders need now is for the American people to remember why they elected Trump last year. Yet there she is — someone even more unpopular than Trump. Clinton was the personification of the elitism America spent last year rejecting and her recent book and tour only underscore it anew.
At the very least, Clinton diverts some spotlight away from Trump and Republicans at a time when Democrat leaders want it shining brightest. Worse is the worry that Hillary has no intention of leaving. And worst of all that she may even harbor delusions of running again — that she actually believes her self-spun fantasy about 2016.
Could she seriously believe that her third time is the charm? More realistic is the question for Democrat leaders: Could there be any doubt if Clinton thought there was any conceivable way she could win in 2020?
Democrat leaders also have good reason to worry that Hillary’s 2016 amnesia is contagious. A recent Rasmussen poll (conducted 9/10-11, 1,000 Likely Voters, MOE +/- 3%) showed that while 61% (up from 55% just after the election) of all respondents believe Clinton should leave politics and 49% believe her continued presence is bad for Democrats, 54% of Democrats still think she has a political future.
Despite majorities among Republicans and Independents who believe Hillary was responsible for her loss, 65% of Democrats blame other factors. For Democrat leaders, this makes Clinton’s book and tour not simply delusional but dangerous.
Democratic unity is more tenuous than it currently appears. As last year’s nomination fight showed, the Party establishment’s grasp is seriously challenged by a growing and increasingly hostile far left that strongly backed Bernie Sanders over Clinton. Only by rigging the rules did the establishment and Hillary prevail.
Trump has been beneficial to Democrat leaders — not just because of the electoral potential they imagine he offers — but because he has united their Party far more than Democrats could on their own. Clinton’s continued presence threatens both. And that threat only grows if she and Democrats believe Clinton remains politically viable.
Another Clinton run could block other establishment Democrats — dissuading them from running, soaking up the resources to do so, or beating them outright. It could thereby also open the door wider to an even more viable far left run in 2020 — something Democrat leaders barely survived in 2016, even when they sold Clinton as “a sure thing.”
It is great irony that Democrat leaders’ problem is largely of their own making. Throughout her career they stoked the Hillary myth well beyond the reality of accomplishments. Now their myth could be their mistake.
With Democrat leaders feeling their future is bright because Trump’s present is dark, the last thing they need is Clinton eclipsing both with her past. The more it does, the more they have themselves to blame. Their attempt to move Hillary into the White House now means they cannot get her out of their own.