Hillary Clinton has been in public office for the better part of 30 years. As a first lady, senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate, she served with a level of efficiency and strength that is all too rare in the nation’s capital. In 2016, Clinton became the first female nominee for president of a major U.S. political party, breaking a glass ceiling and inspiring women across the country — like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York — to run for office and win. With the midterms largely wrapped up, all eyes have turned to the 2020 presidential election. According to an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by Andrew Stein and longtime adviser Mark Penn, Clinton will be among the crop of Democrats vying for the nomination — but such a move would be a historic disservice from one of our nation’s most prolific public servants.
Speaking broadly about the 2020 election, Democrats have reason to be optimistic about their chances. In 2018, they made major inroads in dismantling the conservative stranglehold on the federal government. As of Nov. 26, the Democrats flipped 38 House seats with three races still outstanding. The Democrats did what they were supposed to do in 2018 by taking control of the House; it wasn’t a home run, but it was a welcome sight. But clear visions of greener pastures and a Trump-free White House become muddied the moment Clinton enters the race.
According to a Gallup poll in September 2018, Clinton’s favorability rating is at 36 percent — lower than her would-be opponent, President Trump, whose favorability sits at 44 percent. However, 2020 hopeful and former Vice President Joe Biden has recorded favorability as high as 57 percent. The country seems to be growing tired of Trump’s circus given the midterm results, but based on this data, they would rather keep those circus tents upright than call Clinton Madam President. Her inability to connect with the public, along with her politics, ties to money and the sexism she endures from the public and her colleagues all contribute to her record low favorability ratings.
Clinton will simply not be able to galvanize voters and create enough energy to stall the Trump train. Early voting for 18–21 year olds increased 188 percent from the 2014 midterm elections. During the 2016 presidential election, primary candidate Bernie Sanders garnered 2 million votes from people under the age of 30 from the 21 states that voted by June 1, 2016. Trump and Clinton combined won just 1.6 million votes from people under the age of 30 at the same point in the race. Issues of climate change, gender equality, healthcare and gun control have mobilized youth to make them a powerful voting bloc. We need a candidate who can tap into a frustrated and gunned down generation of youth to secure victory at the polls. Hillary “Chillin’ in Cedar Rapids” Clinton is simply not that candidate.
Stein and Penn’s attempt to forge a new path to victory for Clinton, as described in the Wall Street Journal op-ed, is unrealistic. They tell the nation to get ready for “Hillary Clinton 4.0,” a new and improved version of the politician — and guess what? She’s a progressive now. They paint Clinton as a woman on an unstoppable mission to the White House. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been told time and time again. Her breeze to the nomination in 2008 was thwarted by a young upstart named Barack Obama, and a disheveled 75-year-old socialist from Brooklyn gave her a fight during the 2016 primary before a combination of Trump and Russia beat her on election night.
But alas! She has found the magic formula. She will be likable, yet firm. She will be progressive and unapologetic. She will have guts and determination. She will avenge her defeats. Except we all know, she won’t and she can’t. The real problem with a Clinton candidacy is not with Clinton but with America. If she tries to be likable, they’ll say she’s pandering and disingenuous; if she tries to be firm, they’ll say she bossy; if she tries to attack, they’ll say she’s out for revenge.
Democratic voters and the Democratic Party need to keep it simple. The strategy for 2020 should be described by one word: win. Clinton is not a candidate the Democrats can win with, but someone like Biden is. A recent CNN poll showed that 33 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents preferred Biden to be the nominee in 2020. Presidential hopefuls like Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, Sanders and Biden were all shown to be able to defeat Trump in a recent poll.
Democrats picked up big wins in Midwestern governors races during the 2018 midterms because they ran likable, moderate, issue-focused candidates who connected with the voters. Biden has the name recognition, the experience and the charisma to flip vital states like Wisconsin and Michigan back to the Democrats in 2020.
The window for Clinton has simply passed. America does not need a new and improved version of Clinton. They need to her to be the advocate, trailblazer and role model she has been for so long — but this time, just from the sidelines.
Matt Reagan is an undeclared sophomore. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.