If Hillary Runs, What Exactly Will She Run On?

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Hillary Clinton may be the 800-pound gorilla among Democratic presidential candidates for 2016, but Andrew Sullivan thinks she has two big weaknesses:

What are her defining issues? Will she run on Obamacare—ensuring its success? Will she run on climate change? Or protection of entitlements? How would her foreign policy differ from Obama’s? Until we get a sense of where she is headed as far as policy is concerned, she runs the risk of appearing as some kind of large juggernaut that simply has to be elected, well, just because. Maybe being the first woman president would render all these other issues moot. But at some point, she will have to enter the fray. I’m not sure she’s actually fully prepped for that. Her campaigning and speaking skills are not as impressive as Obama’s.

But more importantly for me is the inability of her supporters to answer a simple question. I was having dinner with a real Clinton fan the other night, and I actually stumped him (and he’s not easily stumped). What have been Hillary Clinton’s major, signature accomplishments in her long career in public life? What did she achieve in her eight years as First Lady exactly? What stamp did she put on national policy in her time as Senator from New York? What were her defining and singular achievements as secretary-of-state?

I count myself as an admirer of Hillary Clinton, but I agree about this. As first lady, she was the driving force behind health care reform, but that failed miserably. And now that Obamacare has been passed, it’s not an issue big enough to base a campaign on. As senator, she was known for working well across the aisle and being an effective representative for New York, but there are no big legislative victories to her name. And as secretary of state, she once again gained a reputation as diligent and effective, but not as a game changer. John Kerry may or may not end up accomplishing any more than Hillary did, but at least he’s showing some ambition.

And Hillary has another problem too: By 2016 she will have been in the public eye for 24 years. That’s unprecedented. In the modern era, Richard Nixon holds the record for longest time in the public eye—about 20 years—before being elected president.1 The sweet spot is a little less than a decade. Longer than that and people just get tired of you. They want a fresh face. That’s largely what happened to Hillary in 2008, and it could happen again in 2016.

But hey: Records are made to be broken, and presidential candidates don’t always have a big signature issue to run on. Most of them don’t, in fact. For now, Hillary is still the clear front-runner. Until she isn’t, anyway.

1In the political arena, that is. Ronald Reagan was famous for 40 years before he was elected president, but he only became prominent as a national political figure in the early ’60s.

 

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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