Politics & Policy

Hillary Clinton’s Coronation by Default Kicks Off

(Joe Raedle/Getty)

Last night the party of youth and diversity rolled out the five relics bidding to be its standard-bearer in 2016. It was a night in which the Democratic front-runner — on a stage inside a Las Vegas casino, of all places — declared her desire to “save capitalism from itself.”

Democrats may have lost majorities in both chambers of Congress and perhaps an entire generation of young representatives, but they certainly haven’t lost their sense of irony.

One thing became immediately self-evident: This was not what a post–Barack Obama Democratic party was supposed to resemble. There was an introductory video message that looked more like the campaign ad for a third Obama term, a throwback to the golden days of hope and change. And then the camera panned to the stage, revealing . . . Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, who, as comedian Patton Oswalt observed, looked like a prospector if you scrubbed and shaved him.

This is not a healthy party. They are relying on carbon-dated, pre-Obama candidates to hold onto his White House. There were more bathroom breaks at this debate than there were candidates of color and youth.

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Jim Webb is a good man and a patriot with outdated ideas from a long-gone, more moderate party. He should pack away his suit, throw on a Tommy Bahama shirt, and enjoy the slot machines and prime rib in Vegas for a little while longer. Like, say, the next five years or so.

#share#Martin O’Malley had the opportunity to bring some much-needed energy to the bridge party, and would have been better served tearing his shirt off and doing one-armed push-ups as proof of his endurance than attempting to explain mass incarceration. In the end, Lis Smith, the former Obama staffer who is O’Malley’s deputy campaign director, went after Hillary Clinton harder on Twitter than her boss did on stage. Maybe she should be running instead? She would certainly add some much-needed youth and vitality to the retirement home.

This is not a healthy party. They are relying on carbon-dated, pre-Obama candidates to hold onto his White House.

But in a town known for main events and early-bird buffets, this was still all about Hillary and Bernie, who twice seemed to fall asleep before having questions repeated back to him. Sanders’s most apparent flaw isn’t his socialist ideology. It’s simply his personality. Historically, successful socialists depend on having some kind of vibrant and magnanimous charisma. Otherwise, they tend to come off like your crazy uncle yelling about the weather, and no one wants him leading us for the next four years. When Anderson Cooper pointed out to him that the “middle class is collapsing” under a Democratic president, Sanders defaulted to blaming Bush and “the past 40 years,” which made the Obama administration seem even more incompetent by comparison and him seem even more of an archaic blatherskite.

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The party’s youth base is lining up behind Sanders for one simple reason: They don’t want a coronation, and they don’t want Hillary Clinton. But they are going to come to learn, just as we all did last night, that they are stuck with her. The coronation became evident the second Sanders leapt to defend Clinton from Cooper’s questions about her ongoing e-mail scandal and Wall Street donors. Clinton’s statement that she “represented Wall Street in the Senate” should have sent shivers down every post-Obama progressive voter’s spine, and Sanders’s refusal to call her on it should have been even more terrifying.

#related#On last night’s evidence, the coronation is in full swing. The candidates refused to test Clinton’s shatter-resistance for fear of cracking her, as if she were the party’s antique China doll. Democrats thus find themselves stuck with an oligarch who voted for the war in Iraq and was once “adamantly against illegal immigrants” and gay marriage. An oligarch whose biggest donors are Wall Street’s largest banks. Progressives are either going to have to abandon their populist egos of the past seven years and suck it up, or hope that Biden, not exactly a portrait of vigorous adolescence, comes riding in to save them.

— Stephen L. Miller is a writer living in Brooklyn, N.Y. He publishes The Wilderness, which focuses on viral politics and social media​.

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