Why Hillary Clinton Will Win in 2016

Why Hillary Clinton Will Win in 2016

By Carl M. Cannon - June 22, 2014

At the end of the Civil War, but before the pernicious reach of Jim Crow undermined the Union Army’s battlefield victory, former slaves and free blacks found themselves in possession of a most precious right -- the right to vote.

It didn’t matter if a man had been a war hero in the famed, all-black 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment or a house servant on a Southern plantation. All that mattered was that he was a man.

To say that this development didn’t sit well with the progressive-minded women of this country is an understatement. Before the war, the abolitionist movement and the suffragist movement had been fused at the hip -- or so women believed. They weren’t allied causes so much as they were the same cause, demanded in the same lecture halls by the same people in the same speeches.

After four years of burying their husbands, fathers, and sons -- the Union men who’d donned their country’s blue uniforms and sang John Brown’s Hymn as they marched to the killing fields -- American women thought they had earned some consideration. They thought they had earned the right to be heard, the right to vote, and the right to hold political office.

When this assumption was proven wrong -- when Frederick Douglass, of all people -- figuratively patted them on their heads and said in essence, “Not now, little lady, not yet. Your time will come,” they couldn’t have felt more disillusioned.

Betrayal by the men who had made “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” the unofficial national song -- its lyrics written by a woman -- had lasting repercussions in the nation’s collective female consciousness. One of them was the idea that war is rarely the answer, and to this day American women are more pacifist than men. Politically aware women also came to realize that racism and sexism were not identical maladies. A big part of their problem was men -- of all races.

Your time will come? They wondered: when, exactly? Women didn’t get the vote nationally, and only after a great struggle, until 1920. The first female governors came five years later, in Wyoming and Texas, but only on the heels of deceased husbands. The next one, Lurleen Wallace, also the spouse of a former governor, didn’t assume office until 1967. So change was slow in coming.

Exactly 40 years later, it seemed, women’s time had come. As the presidential field formed up in 2007, the best-funded, best-known, and most widely admired potential candidate in the Democratic Party was New York’s junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Then, it was stolen from her -- at least that’s how it seemed to many Democratic women -- by a man. He was a freshman senator from Illinois with far less national experience, but an even better storyline than Hillary. And women had to stand behind a man again. They don’t want to wait any longer.

In a nutshell, that’s my theory of the upcoming presidential campaign. There has been much speculation in recent days, some of it in my own newspaper, to the effect that Hillary Clinton won’t run for president a second time; that if she does run, the Democratic Party’s nomination will not necessarily be easily obtained; and that if she is nominated, she won’t necessarily be too tough an opponent in November 2016.

I believe all this is wrong. I think she’s already running for president, that it will be impossible to deny her the nomination, and that it will be exceedingly difficult for the Republicans to stop her in November 2016, no matter who they put on their ticket.

Political scientists and pollsters like to talk about election “fundamentals.” This refers to such factors as party registration, how long one party has been in power, and the state of the economy. Some of these dynamics are knowable at this point, and some aren’t. We do know that the Democrats will be trying to hold the presidency for a third term, which the historical record suggests is difficult. And polls show that the Obama mystique has faded somewhat -- and Clinton served in his administration. But I believe all those factors are secondary.

With his paltry Senate record, Barack Obama’s 2007-2008 candidacy wouldn’t have merited serious consideration except for two things. First, he was the only prominent Democrat in the field who questioned the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. (The other top-tier contenders, including Clinton and Joe Biden, had actually voted to authorize it.) Second, his candidacy afforded Americans the chance to atone. Not to put the legacy of slavery behind us -- no single election could ever do that -- but to touch, as Lincoln asked of his countrymen, “the better angels of our nature.”

He ran against a genuine American hero in November of 2008, in a partisan campaign in polarized times. Yet after the votes were counted, it was hard to avoid getting caught up in the good feeling of this African-American president-elect and his beautiful family coming to Washington to redeem the hopes of so many. George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush felt it, as did Brit Hume, who anchored the inauguration for Fox News. So did I.

Eight years later, voters will have the chance to put another iniquitous legacy behind them. I think they will take it. The polls show Hillary leading all the likely Republican nominees, and I think that support is solid, particularly among women. Millions will demur to their husbands or more conservative colleagues, fib to pollsters and quietly fill out their ballots. America will find that its women have long memories.

It was in 1897 that Susan B. Anthony wrote, “There never will be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” More than a century later, Nancy Pelosi had those words -- and the words of others -- in her mind when she became the first female House speaker.

In a story she has told many times, Pelosi recalls going to the White House as speaker for the first time. She felt her chair “getting crowded” as though others were sitting in it with her.

“I swear this happened,” she said. “And then I realized Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth -- you name it -- they were all in that chair…and I could hear them say: ‘At last we have a seat at the table.’”

Some conservatives made fun of Pelosi’s ghost story. I don’t think this was a good idea. I think Pelosi’s allegory means that American women have unfinished business in politics, along with the right flesh-and-blood candidate to complete their dream. 

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.

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