Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MAIN: Finding an Alternative to Hillary Before 2016

There’s no more loathsome practice in political journalism than speculation about possible candidates for elections two, even four, years in advance. Bland, meaningless statements by important politicians are opined on endlessly, and every trip to Iowa or New Hampshire is considered a bid for the presidency.

This view of politics is far from harmless conjecture; it treats the political process as a horse race, rather than a series of actions with real consequences. It regards legislation like the Affordable Care Act more as something that could affect the partisan balance of Congress than something that will change the lives of millions of Americans. Nevertheless, I’m going to speculate anyway.

This being my final column, it makes sense to look toward the future of the Democratic Party — more specifically, its choice of a figurehead and de facto party leader, the 2016 nominee for president. The liberal wing of the party, as well as those on the left who see it as the only viable means of representation, should be dreading the next two years, as the Democrats will likely seek to entrench the gutless centrism that contributed to their drubbing on Election Day earlier this month.

In 2008, it appeared as though liberals scored a major coup by choosing to nominate Barack Obama over the more moderate Hillary Clinton — though time has shown that the political distinctions between the two are superficial at best. In 2016, there is barely even the illusion of pressure from the left on Clinton, again the perceived frontrunner; Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is unlikely to abandon her newly earned position in Senate Democratic leadership, while it is unclear whether Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will run as a Democrat or a third-party candidate.

Without this pressure, few of Clinton’s policies will energize a disheartened left. Yes, her ascendance as a female leader in a society where women are automatically assumed to be less forceful, authoritative and capable than men is admirable, and her positions on most social issues are acceptable — and in the case of certain issues, such as reproductive rights and gun control, necessary. Electing a staunchly and unapologetically establishment candidate, however, is a tricky proposition for both those wary of the change promised by Obama in 2008 and those still waiting for it.

The second Clinton White House, based on Hillary’s previous choices of advisers and aides, will closely resemble the first; think of how pollster Mark Penn, an integral strategist for the first Clinton White House, ran her 2008 campaign into the ground. Her foreign policy, if anything, will eliminate the meager strides away from neoconservatism made by President Obama; a staunch interventionist, Clinton will likely greatly strengthen our ties with our autocratic allies in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, and take an unduly antagonistic approach toward Russia. Her 2003 vote for the Iraq War as a senator from New York was a main point of opposition deployed by the Obama campaign, and it should not be forgotten in 2016.

Clinton’s most likely play to the left will be an increase in populist economic rhetoric, a strategy that the Democratic Party would take heed to adapt as a unifying issue if wishes to be seen as more than the not-GOP. Given Clinton’s past and present as a Wall-Street-favoring Third Way Democrat — a supporter of financial deregulation and other neoliberal economic policies — such rhetoric will likely fall flat.

Moreover, would Clinton risk isolating her longtime financial-industry allies, as well as their deep pockets and powerful influence, for a play at voters who may be not be convinced of her newfound embrace of economic justice? It’s doubtful; she has already walked back on a statement she made decrying trickle-down economics.

The party has been readying itself for Hillary even before Obama was elected for a second term, and it shows in the alternatives — or, rather, the lack thereof. Vice President Joe Biden, vocally frustrated by the constraints of his current job, is essentially a male version of Clinton, complete with similar foreign policy bona fides from being the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, similarly moderate, has done little to present himself as a real alternative to Clinton’s vision of the party; his strategy seems to be to wait in silence, hoping for Clinton’s campaign to implode as it did in 2008.

Given that both houses of Congress seem to be in a Republican stranglehold for the near future, the presidency is the only way for a down-and-out Democratic Party to assert and define itself on a national level. Its choice to rally behind Hillary Clinton reflects the problem of the party as a whole: its decision to define itself as the alternative to the GOP, not as its own party with an independent agenda; its reliance on the inevitability of demographic change, which will somehow lead to an assured Democratic majority; and, most importantly, its failure to wield the power of idealism, dissatisfaction and enthusiasm.

Hunter MainHunter Main is a senior in the College. This is the final appearance of Left Behind this semester.
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