For a generation, American political reformers have been obsessed with the idea of ‘money in politics.’ According to reformers, political organizations that bundle money and donate it to campaigns are corrupting politicians. So, the theories go, campaign finance reform would ‘get the money’ out of politics so politicians wouldn’t be bound to special interest groups and be free to vote their conscience. In this case, politicians voting their conscience coincides with the wish list of campaign finance reformers who are almost universally on the political left.
For all the talk of campaign finance reform, perhaps the biggest flaw in American politics today is the primary system by which the two parties select their candidates. The party primary campaigns unofficially begin after the midterm elections, more than a year before the New Hampshire Primary and Iowa Caucus. The system is easily manipulated by a candidate with money and organization. Such a candidate can portray themselves as the frontrunner and the inevitable nominee. George W. Bush, the GOP establishment’s pick in 2000, did this. Hillary Clinton did so as well, though Obama beat her anyway in 2008 and Sanders would have won the nomination if the Democratic National Committee hadn’t rigged the system in Clinton’s favor.
But this year, after nearly a year of campaigning, there is no obvious Democrat frontrunner. According to the latest Morning Consult Poll, taken the first week of November, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the race at 31%. Composed of African American voters and what moderates remain among the Democrat party base, Biden’s support is broad but not deep. Trailing Biden are Socialist Bernie Sanders (20%), Senator Elizabeth Warren (18%), Mayor Pete Buttigieg (8%), and Senator Kamala Harris (6%). None of these candidates has appeal wide enough to lock up the Democrat Party nomination. Were they operating in the Westminster system, the Democrats would have a hung parliament.
Which brings us to Hillary Clinton. Since her husband announced his candidacy in 1991, Hillary has plotted her own path to the White House. Hillary took her first step in 2000 with her successful senate bid. She easily won reelection in 2006. In 2008, Hillary was the Democrat frontrunner. No one could stop her, except for the junior senator from Illinois, Barrack Obama. Hillary had no answer for Obama’s youth, charisma, and biography, and she lost the close and bitterly contested nomination. At least Hillary was able to pad her resume by serving as Obama’s Secretary of State. In 2016, no serious potential candidate dared enter the race, the field was cleared and the process rigged by DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Even so, insurgent candidate Bernie Sanders almost beat Hillary. Then came Donald Trump and Hillary went home at the end of another bruising campaign.
Usually when losing an election, the nominee returns to his old political job, like Senator John Kerry in 2004 or John McCain in 2008, or retire from politics altogether, as Jimmy Carter did after 1980 and Walter Mondale after 1984. Not Hillary. Since 2016, Hillary Clinton has remained very much in the public eye. She published What Happened, her self-serving and whiney account of the 2016 campaign in which she blames everyone for her loss but herself. Hillary’s long list of grievances includes the press, the FBI, even the Russians. She has since toured the United States and the west slamming President Trump and repeating her conspiracy theories about Russian collusion, refusing to move on or let go.
In fact, even at this late date, Hillary refuses to rule out a third presidential run. In an interview with the BBC this week, Clinton claimed that ‘a lot of people are pushing hard’ for her to run again. She also said, “I, as I say never, never, never say never. I will certainly tell you. I’m under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it.’ Given her two failed presidential bids, this is unlikely. But, it is very likely that Hillary wants to run for president a third time.
And why not? Hillary won the popular vote in 2016. In the eyes of the Democrat party faithful Trump is an illegitimate president and Hillary should sit in the Oval Office. Besides, the Democrat Party field is weak. Elizabeth Warren is a product of the elite, a college professor with a lot of ideas that appeal to affluent, coastal liberals. Bernie Sanders is an elderly socialist. Joe Biden is a relic. None of these candidates appeal to Midwestern working class voters that voted for Trump and gave him the election.
Hillary has been part of American political life longer than Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Everything she’s touched from the beginning of her political career to the end she has mess up, Arkansas land development, healthcare reform, Benghazi and Libya. Yet still the woman refuses to retire quietly and enjoy her fortune. We’ll never be rid of her.