Earl Ofari Hutchinson
The Clintons are far from dead and forgotten politically. They announced that they are hitting the road on a multi-city tour later this year and through 2019 that will take them through several states. The timing is no accident. The tour is in part an in your face refutation of the notion that the Clintons are spent political goods at best, and horribly damaged and polarizing political goods, at worst. It’s in part an effort to energize Democrats to get to the polls in big numbers in November and 2020.
And the tour is in part their effort to dispel some of the bitterness that the 2016 presidential campaign left in the mouths of a lot of voters. This makes a lot of sense. The Clintons do have a lot of fence mending to make especially with progressives. This is where the Clintons can be most useful. There is a potentially damaging split within the Democratic party that’s a direct carryover from the way Bernie Sanders’s backers claim Hillary mugged Bernie within and without the 2016 Democratic primary campaign and the DNC. A divided Democratic party with progressives refusing to back a less than progressive Democratic candidate in a head to head showdown with a GOP candidate in one of the must win two dozen congressional districts that the Democrats must in to take back the House would be catastrophic.
At the same time, the Clintons must walk the same tightrope that Hillary tried badly to walk in 2016. That’s to ensure that the big money donors who are squarely in the centrist part of the party stay on board and shell out the cash no matter which side of the Democratic party spectrum a candidate is on.
It’s an odd, maybe uncomfortable position, for the Clintons to be a party matchmaker. But it must be that way. They have the name, clout, and party connections to command the attention of throngs of real and potential Democratic voters.
The Clintons are stepping back into the political minefield at a crucial time in the party’s history. The great debate in the wake of the Kavanaugh ascension to the SCOTUS is whether the bitter fight over his confirmation lit a fire under the GOP base that many claimed wasn’t there. And what that means for the Democrats. Trump rammed that point home with his crowing and victory lap after getting Kavanaugh shoved on the court. He saw this as the wake-up call that the GOP needed. He might be right.
If so, that makes the other part of the debate even more important for the Clinton’s to take the stage. That’s whether Democrats will really storm the barricades in November in big enough numbers to bag those must win congressional districts to seize back the House, and with some luck the Senate. There’s already lots of talk that a Democratic blue wave was a given. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are just too many things that a crafty, canny, eternally scheming and manipulating GOP could do to upset that little political applecart. The GOP’s counter weapons include everything from voter suppression ploys to gerrymandering districts to a president who with one tweet or rally can suck up the media and public attention oxygen at any time in the political scene.
This is where the Clinton’s name identification and the still considerable media fascination with them come into play. They can get headlines, and that means attention to the Democrats. They can use that to tell what the Democrats have to offer that’s a direct counter to Trump and Trumpism. There’s also the question of money. The Clintons are cash cows when it comes to pulling hard dollars into the campaign coffers of the party. This is not a small matter. The GOP as always will have a king’s ransom to spread around in the races that they know are must win for the party to lock down its grip on Congress through 2020. This is a prelude to the presidential contest 2020.
There’s still no consensus among Democrats on who can best go toe to toe with Trump and beat him. It won’t be Hillary. However, Hillary and Bill will be in a good position to aid whomever the party finally thinks can beat him. The Clintons will need to be front and center in speaking, cajoling, and fundraising for whichever the candidate is.
The great lesson of 2016 was that just piling up a majority of vote numbers isn’t enough to beat Trump. It’s going to take wins in the handful of states whose electoral votes decide the White House. This will take a well-oiled ground game in those states. This takes resources and party unity. The Clinton’s can help with both.
To right them off as washed up has beens who have nothing to offer the Democratic party is a mistake. From here out the party is going to need all hands-on board, and that includes the Clintons.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Kavanaugh Court (Amazon). He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.