With a mere 576 days to go until the 2016 presidential election, it’s now all but official that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic contender. (After all, no Democrat has any chance of beating her in the primary.) The news that Clinton is running is in no way surprising, but it is a little bit depressing for those of us who are going to have to live through every one of those 576 days.
Politicians are very important in terms of how countries change, and are governed. They’re the ones who make the laws, after all. Political campaigns, on the other hand, are best when they’re short, and when they mirror a vibrant national debate about policies and priorities. Which means that this particular political campaign is going to be gruesome indeed.
It’s not Clinton’s fault, in particular, but she is going to exacerbate matters, precisely because she is such a known quantity. Attacking Clinton on a personal level is going to be an easy win for any and all of the Republican candidates, who well know how much she is hated by the Republican faithful. That in turn means the Clinton campaign is going to have to spend a vast amount of its time responding to those attacks. At the same time, the gulf between Red America and Blue America is now so large that they're not even debating any more, they're just attacking each other. It’s a recipe for a lot of heat and very little light.
The country is more divided along partisan political lines than ever. By an overwhelming margin, the vast majority of people who vote for Clinton in the presidential election are going to vote for her simply because she is a Democrat and not a Republican. Assuming she wins, she will essentially provide a continuation of the Obama administration’s policies: any differences between the two will be de minimis in comparison with the gulf that will separate Clinton’s policies and her Republican opponent’s.
Democrats, then, who have seen the Obama administration stymied at every conceivable turn by Congressional Republicans, will find precious little to get excited about in the prospect of four more years of gridlock. Indeed, Clinton is going to have even less ability to actually pass laws than Obama did. (At least Obama had two years at the start of his first administration during which two major bills—around financial regulation and healthcare reform—managed to get passed.)
The result is that Clinton can’t credibly run on any kind of “hope and change” campaign. When it comes to the economy, in particular, she has precious little room for maneuver: the best thing she can do, in terms of getting the middle classes working again, is simply to nominate Janet Yellen to run the Federal Reserve. And Barack Obama has already done that.
For the next 576 days, then, we’re going to suffer through a campaign of tired talking points, symbolism (Clinton is a woman!), and an enormous amount of negativity. That makes sense: by far the best argument for electing her is that she won’t do any of the bad and harmful and stupid things that the Republican would do.
It’s just not something that anybody in America can really rationally look forward to. (Except, of course, the local TV stations that, once again, are going to rake in billions from airing a cacophony of political ads). Maybe it’s time to just turn off your TV and move to New Zealand for the next 19 months.