‘Hillary 2016’ Has Never Made Sense for Democrats

Why haven’t more challengers entered the race to defeat the Iraq War hawk, Patriot Act supporter, and close friend of big finance?

Craig Lassig / Reuters

As Hillary Clinton loses ground to Bernie Sanders in Iowa, where her lead shrinks by the day, it’s worth noticing that she has never made particular sense as the Democratic Party’s nominee. She may be more electable than her social-democratic rival from Vermont, but plenty of Democrats are better positioned to represent the center-left coalition. Why have they let the former secretary of state keep them out of the race? If Clinton makes it to the general election, I understand why most Democrats will support her. She shares their views on issues as varied as preserving Obamacare, abortion rights, extending legal status to undocumented workers, strengthening labor unions, and imposing a carbon tax to slow climate change.

But most Democrats hold similar positions on those issues. So why are Democrats supporting her in a primary bid? She’s awful on other issues they’ve deemed hugely important.

Most Democrats regard the Iraq War as a historic disaster. Clinton voted for that conflict. That hawkishness wasn’t a fluke. She pushed for U.S. intervention in Libya without Congressional approval and without anticipating all that has gone wrong in that country. She favored U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war as well. Why haven’t Democrats concluded that she has dangerously bad judgment on foreign policy? She certainly hasn’t done anything to distinguish herself in that realm.

Along with the Iraq War, Democrats disdained George W. Bush for the Patriot Act, his expansive views on executive power, and his awful record on transparency. Clinton voted for the Patriot Act. She shows every sign of embracing a similarly expansive view of executive power. And she took extraordinary steps to shield her emails from federal public-records and freedom of information laws.

Then there are her financial backers.

Many Democrats are sympathetic to Occupy Wall Street and to the notion that wealthy special interests on Wall Street are rigging the system by buying off politicians. Who is more bought off than Clinton? It isn’t just her campaign coffers and her family’s foundation that benefit from Wall Street money. Her family’s private accounts are flush with funds from big banks, including at least one that benefitted from her tenure at State and paid her husband seven figures for a speaking gig. It is naive to think that she won’t look out for the interests of Big Finance in Washington.

And on social issues like gay marriage and police misconduct her approach has been to lag public opinion rather than to lead it toward an embrace of progressive reforms.

These are significant flaws.

Nothing costs more in blood and treasure than dubious wars of choice. In an era of terrorism, it is more important than ever to elevate reliable guardians of civil liberties. Wall Street malfeasance contributed to a painful financial crisis in recent memory. So long as Clinton maintains a big lead over all rivals in national polls one has got to wonder, why are so many Democrats willing to overlook them?

Many have spent months regarding her as inevitable. They’ve resigned themselves to holding their noses and voting for her to stave off Donald Trump or Ben Carson or Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. With months to draft electable alternatives, though, the Democratic Party establishment, rife with Clinton loyalists, has failed its base.

But it isn’t too late to change course. Bernie Sanders has exposed Clinton’s electoral weakness. Her response to the email scandal has reminded voters how willing she is to dissemble. At the very least, Clinton’s weaknesses suggest that a coronation would be a folly––and one without any apparent upside. After all, both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama won general elections after competitive primaries against multiple rivals. By urging more candidates to get into the race, there’s nothing for Democrats to fear but the alleged vindictiveness of the Clinton machine.

What are they waiting for?