Conservatives who think the country dodged a bullet in the 2016 election better keep their Kevlar handy, because odds are Hillary Clinton is going to take another shot.
How can this happen, you might ask. Wasn’t her humiliating defeat in 2016 enough? Does she really think she can win against Donald Trump after throwing everything she had against him the first time and losing? Well, remember that in her mind she didn’t lose, the election was stolen from her. And this is someone who has believed herself to be a woman of destiny from childhood, who spent hours dancing in the sun imagining “the sunlight was intended for her” and was “beamed down by God, ‘with heavenly movie cameras watching my every move.’” If Hillary is breathing in 2020, she will be running.
The evidence is slowly mounting. We haven’t seen the kind of activity you would expect among the potential Democratic challengers. Sure, there are some stirrings by Elizabeth Warren, Terry McAuliffe and some others. And Bernie Sanders could be expected to run again. But even this early in the game you would think there would be a host of Democrats openly declaring their intention to challenge the president they call a usurper, a tyrant, a dictator, and so forth. But the Democratic first string is not running onto the field until they get the signal that the presumptive nominee is staying on the bench. Until we see large numbers of these Democrats enlarging their public profiles, floating rumors that generate coy responses, making pilgrimages to New Hampshire and Iowa, setting up exploratory committees and the like, we can assume that a Hillary 2020 run is still part of their calculations.
There is some evidence that Democrats want her to try again. She came in second in the Harvard CAPS/Harris’s June poll of Democratic presidential preferences with 18 percent support, behind Joe Biden with 32 percent and two points ahead of Bernie Sanders. It’s not a strong showing, but the fact that she placed at all says something. On the other hand, pollsters assured us she had a 90% chance of victory in 2016 so take it for what it’s worth.
Hillary spent the first year of her non-presidency developing a lengthy blame list for her upset 2016 loss, including James Comey, Vladimir Putin, the media, white women, Bernie Sanders, sexism, Barack Obama, voter suppression, the DNC, the Deplorables, white resentment, her campaign staff, Anthony Weiner, and Russia Russia Russia! She even blamed herself in a self-pitying way, for being too polarizing in pursuing her place in history. But as she recently reminded us, they said that about Winston Churchill between the wars (i.e., before he became Prime Minister). No ego problems there, though three-time loser Democrat William Jennings Bryan might be a better analogy.
Unlike most previously defeated presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton has not kept a low profile on policy issues. She has a ready comment for every perceived outrage committed by the Trump administration. Michael Goodwin points out that Hillary has a robust fundraising operation already in action; her front group “Onward Together” is “a Clinton 2020 campaign vehicle in waiting.” The Onward Together home page says the group “is dedicated to advancing the vision that earned nearly 66 million votes in the last election,” which highlights how much it grates Hillary that she won the popular vote to Donald Trump but lost in the electoral college that many progressives now want to abolish.
Mrs. Clinton’s bitter sense that she was robbed is probably the most important motivator for a Hillary 3.0 campaign. Barack Obama came out of nowhere to hijack her first shot at the White House in 2008, and Donald Trump – whose candidacy her campaign actually promoted early-on, thinking it would be a disaster – humiliated her sure-thing campaign in 2016. The 2020 race could be her last chance to realize her historic destiny. Until 2024 anyway.
James S. Robbins is the author of Erasing America: Losing Our Future by Destroying Our Past (Regnery, 2018).
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