According to a recent Gallup poll, 61% of Americans would like to see future presidential campaigns limited to five weeks. Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton is going to make sure that we suffer her drive for the White House for the next three and a half years.
The Clinton 2016 campaign is well underway. The “Ready for Hillary” super-PAC is already teaming with Obama campaign veterans to begin building Mrs. Clinton’s field force. The PAC is also marketing pins, tote-bags and t-shirts featuring a slightly creepy, disembodied visage of Mrs. Clinton in outline, floating benevolently over the word “Ready.” Whether this ghostly image is supposed to garner support or frighten away potential opponents is unclear. There are also periodic reminders that Hillary is out there like the “selfie” that Chelsea Clinton tweeted out during the June meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative. This otherwise unremarkable photo generated the most Twitter-picture-related press coverage since Anthony Weiner shared a bit too much selfie a few years back.
A lot of money is going into these efforts, though since Mrs. Clinton is not a declared candidate we will probably never know how much, or where it came from. Campaign financing in general has become as bloated and opaque as the Clinton family fortune. There will be no similar long-term effort underway by a comparable Republican. Most of the likely GOP candidates have to work for a living, while Mrs. Clinton lives only to run.
The main objective of the Clinton campaign at this point should be to prevent any serious challengers from getting into the race. Remember that Mrs. Clinton’s coronation was supposed to have taken place back in 2009. She was the front runner in every Democratic poll from November 2004 to February 2008. Everyone thought she would get it. Everyone but Barack Obama. The young, articulate, inexperienced, do-nothing Senator from Illinois swooped in and stole the nomination from under Mrs. Clinton. She won the popular vote but incredibly lost the delegate count, and lacked the will to mount a floor fight at the convention. That type of surprise attack will not happen again. The Clinton campaign will seek to sign on – and thus nullify – any potential challenger, especially among the more capable Democratic women and minorities. Maybe Hillary will let a few white guys run against her just for show, like Joe Biden, who could never be a threat.
The campaign will also spend four years building a sense of inevitability that the next president must be a woman. Mrs. Clinton said last month that electing a woman would “send exactly the right historic signal,” whatever that means. Liberals like to talk about themselves being historic in almost everything they do. In theory this notion of epochal affirmative action could also benefit a Republican woman candidate. But we know that to the press and pundits the title “first woman president” is already reserved for Hillary.
So get ready for the second Clinton presidency? Well maybe not. Hillary’s unending campaign runs the risk of overselling the product. Americans like to believe they have a choice in a president. Much of Barack Obama’s appeal in the 2008 primary was that he was not the nominee Democrats had been told they would have to vote for. They wanted actually to have a choice, and voting for Mr. Obama allowed them to make just as much history as they would have with Mrs. Clinton, probably more. Mrs. Clinton wants to have the 2016 race sewed up before it begins, but this is certain to dampen enthusiasm in the Democratic base, and among the general electorate. Four years of hearing Clinton surrogates and the mainstream media telling Americans how they are required to vote could easily backfire. Sure, Mrs. Clinton is popular now, it is easy to be popular when you have no responsibilities and spent the last four years appearing presidential at the State Department without actually doing anything. But Mrs. Clinton was popular going into the 2008 race as well. And her numbers have sagged in the past six months, whether because of the Benghazi scandal or simply not being in the limelight as much.
Still, with the campaign just starting, over three years to go and untold millions yet to be spent, there is certainly time to recover. Hillary Clinton is doing everything in her power to make sure you have no choice but to have her as your next president. But Americans like choices, and her ambition may be her greatest vulnerability.
James S. Robbins is Deputy Editor of Rare and author of Native Americans: Patriotism, Exceptionalism, and the New American Identity. Follow him on Twitter @James_Robbins