I’m a bit late to this, but this David Frum column is a studied lesson in why you shouldn’t force people to write too many columns. The thesis is that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t run for president in 2016, despite polls showing her to be as strong as United Russia the last time they nominated Putin. Before dealing with the killer conceptual problem, let’s deal with this factoid, shall we?
Hillary Clinton is 14 years older than Barack Obama. A party has never nominated a leader that much older than his immediate predecessor. (The previous record-holder was James Buchanan, 13 years older than Franklin Pierce when the Democrats chose him in 1856. Runner-up: Dwight Eisenhower, 12 years older than his predecessor, Thomas Dewey.)
Both Buchanan and Eisenhower were elected president. Eisenhower was re-elected after having a stroke. Bob Dole and John McCain were both 1) old and 2) lost, but one of them ran against an incumbent during an economic boom and one ran as the representative of the party in power as the economy was collapsing.
But that’s not the conceptual problem of the piece. Here it is: Frum explaining why the Democrats deserve a fight over their meaning and future.
One candidate could seek the Democratic nomination on a platform of keeping faith with the ideals of the pre-presidential Obama: closing Guantanamo, ending targeted killings, and so on.
Another Democrat could run to represent those Democrats who supported Bill Clinton back in the 1990s, and who worry that the Obama administration has drifted too far to the left: spending too much, ignoring budget deficits, getting into too many fights with business.
Yet another could run as a full-throated defender of the Obama legacy, updating the 1988 George H.W. Bush “stay the course” message.
Well, one, that’s a pretty narrow spectrum of political differences. In the GOP, you’ve got people who want Arizona-style “self-deportation” to thin out the illegal (sorry, AP) immigrant population, and you’ve got people who want a streamlined visa system for those immigrants. In the Democratic Party you have people who want to kill all terrorists with drones, and people who want to kill all terrorists with drones unless those people have some claim to American citizenship, in which case we should have a FISA-style process in place before killing them. Two: If you want a paladin for “those Democrats who supported Bill Clinton back in the 1990s,” why not the person who was married to Bill Clinton back in the 1990s? The whole piece grows out of a false equivalence, because there’s simply not as much division among the Democrats right now as there is among Republicans. There hasn’t been, for some time. The Democrats debated their differences throughout 2007, and the only ones that came up were whether to apologize for the Iraq War and whether to meet in person with Hugo Chavez.