Step No. 1: Secure Your Left Flank?

by Michael Potemra

I got an interesting e-mail today encouraging me to endorse Hillary early, for 2016:

Hillary Clinton has a big decision to make, and what we do today could impact her thinking entirely.

Hillary needs to know that if she decides to run for president, there will be an army of supporters behind her.

Will you pledge to support Hillary Clinton for president in 2016? . . .

Hillary had to give up her entire political operation when she became Secretary of State. That’s why we’re building a new grassroots organization that can propel her into the White House.

Nearly 500,000 people have already pledged their support for Hillary in 2016. That’s huge! But we need your help to continue growing.

What’s interesting to me about this e-mail is not the text – line-up-early boilerplate – but its provenance. This message was sent (by a group called Ready for Hillary) via The Nation magazine, which is not exactly a hotbed of Hillaryism: It came out early for Obama in 2008, and was less than restrained in some of its language about Hillary in that campaign. Hillary’s team is clearly internalizing the lesson of 2008: Don’t get outflanked to the left. I’m sure the recent media boomlet for Elizabeth Warren added some urgency to this particular effort. 

It’s ironic that people focus so much on the GOP’s dysfunctional beholdenness to extremism, when — in both 2008 and 2012 — GOP presidential-primary voters chose “electable” sober moderates over fire-breathing ideological crowd-pleasers. The Democrats, meanwhile, in 2008 chose the ideologue their hearts desired over the more qualified, more middle-of-the-road alternative . . . and ended up winning the whole shebang. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that nominating a harder-right ticket in 2016 is necessarily a prescription for victory (what happens then will depend less on the identity of the GOP nominees than on how sick the electorate is of Obamacare and other aspects of the economic status quo). I just think it’s rather unfair for “movement conservatives,” who largely opposed the nomination of both McCain and Romney, to take the rap for the GOP defeats in 2008 and 2012.