Baggage and Pressure Will Decide Outcome
With faith in government at an all time low, the party that prefers more of it rather than less is at the beginning of a tortured 65-week process designed to choose its standard bearer.
Four cataclysmic forces, two of which include actual people, will clash between now and the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, and the result of the collisions will be the Democratic nominees for President and Vice President.
The two forces involving actual people are Hillary Clinton and the other six who are Nosing Around. The former First Lady is one force all by herself and the six Nosers Around are the other.
The Nosers Around once included 16 additional candidates who have been mentioned, but not recently, and 31 others who have declined. One of the 31 is Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts and former Harvard Law Professor. Nobody really believes her and, depending on the two non-human cataclysmic forces, they might be correct.
The non-human forces likely to shape the outcome are baggage and pressure.
Hillary Clinton (a.k.a. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Hillary! or H with the cross bar depicted as an arrow) has been on the political scene for almost 30 years and is well known to all. 62% of Democratic voters favor her but 54% believe she is neither honest nor trustworthy. She is 68 years old and, along with her husband, Bill, and daughter, Chelsea, is in charge of a web of foundations generally known as the Clinton Global Initiative. Hillary, Bill and Chelsea make a great deal of money from doing good works or at least talking about them.
The Nosers Around in order of popularity among Democratic voters are:
- Senator Elizabeth Warren favored by 13% despite saying she won’t run. Hates Wall Street and all things money.
- Vice President Joe Biden favored by 10%. Gaffe master.
- Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders favored by 6%. Socialist.
- Former Baltimore Mayor and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley favored by 2%. Pressuring the others to the left.
- Former Virginia Senator, former Secretary of the Navy and former Assistant Secretary of Defense Jim Webb favored by 1%. Much decorated Marine Corps officer, who later called the invasion of Iraq “the greatest strategic blunder in modern memory.”
- Former Rhode Island Senator and Governor as well as a former Republican Lincoln Chafee favored by just north of nobody. In addition to graduating from Andover and Brown, he has a degree in horseshoeing from Montana State University at Bozeman and seven years’ experience as a farrier.
If viewed from left to right on the political spectrum, the order would probably be Sanders, Warren, O’Malley, Biden, Webb and Chafee, but nobody really knows what any of the candidates would do when the talking points become real decisions.
The Nosers Around do not, as they say at the end of regular seasons in pro sports, “control their own destiny.” The baggage does and maybe the pressure. Unless the baggage or the pressure delivers a timely assist, the Nosers are losers. But, if the two non-human factors do emerge, the Nosers Around and perhaps some of the 47 others who have said or been told “no” could spring back to life.
Every candidate has political baggage and it is not necessarily bad. Sometimes, for example, political baggage results from making a decision in the best interest of the country despite its unpopularity. Okay, not very often. Mostly political baggage is gathered by making the best decision for yourself even if it is far from the best interest of the country. Sometimes political baggage results from finding large stacks of cash wrapped in aluminum foil in your freezer.
Among today’s candidates, Hillary Clinton is the league leader in the baggage category, especially when measured by the lifetime body of work. No listing is ever complete, and students of political baggage become apoplectic if their favorite is omitted. The Rose Law Firm billing records and Whitewater are unlikely to reappear. Bill’s “trouser issues” are always a threat. The biggest current problems for Hillary’s baggage handlers are probably the private email server she used while Secretary of State and the increasing pungency of the family foundations and their donors.
Defending yourself from scandal usually means resorting to a legalistic defense (“in compliance with existing legal requirements” or, if dudgeon is high, “full compliance”), but the mere absence of criminality might not be the best standard to apply to the leader of the free world. Voters sometimes notice that difference though baggage handlers rarely do.
Baggage can also be misused as endless repetition of Benghazi without any new news to report has amply demonstrated. The best measure for assessing baggage is probably the “other team” test. If an issue is raised against your side, ask yourself if you would believe it if it were raised by your side against the other. If your side raises it, ask yourself if you would find it important if the roles were reversed. For more than 90% of voters, who have already made up their minds, the “other team” test might as well be quantum mechanics.
The fourth factor is pressure. Athletes recognize the value of pressuring their opponents into mistakes. If your opponent’s fitness is in question, run him from side to side until the rest of his game breaks down. If your opponent has a tendency to lose heart or get down on himself, give him many reasons to do so. At age 68 and in possession of a brittle demeanor, Hillary Clinton is vulnerable to both.
The most important forces that will determine the Democratic nominee for 2016 are most likely not the human ones.