Both Parties Are Nervous About 2016

3/21/15
 
   < < Go Back
 

by Peggy Noonan,

from The Wall Street Journal,
3/20/15:

Hillary is the only thing holding Democrats together, and Bushes always break the Republican Party.

The 2016 presidential campaign is here, pushed up prematurely by the Hillary Clinton email controversy. When a major candidate of a major party has major trouble, the election moves more sharply into focus.

Apart from Mrs. Clinton, small stories have begun to shoot up like flares.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker shied away from the accomplished and interesting Liz Mair, who had agreed to be digital strategist in his social media operation.

Mike Huckabee has, amazingly, been revealed by the New York Times as hawking, for money, an unorthodox diabetes cure in an Internet infomercial.

The president has jumped into the strangeness fray by musing aloud that mandatory voting in the United States would be a good idea. “It would be transformative if everybody voted,” he told an audience in Cleveland. Yes, it would. It would mean a lot of people who aren’t interested in public policy and choose not to follow it would suddenly be deciding it.

The way it is now, if you aren’t interested—and you have the right not to be interested—you don’t have to vote. If you are interested, you pay attention, develop political views, and vote. Making those who don’t care about voting vote will only dilute the votes of those who are serious and have done their democratic homework.

Most of us are moved by the sight of citizens lined up at the polls on Election Day. We should urge everyone to care enough to stand in that line. But we should not harass or bother those who, with modesty and even generosity, say they are happy to leave the privilege of the ballot to those who are engaged. Mandatory voting is, so far, the worst and most mischievous political idea of the year, and deeply eccentric.

I detect more than the usual amount of uncertainty and angst among the leadership of both parties this year, and it is due to doubts about their putative front-runners.

Democratic establishment angst is composed of obvious and less obvious elements. Obvious: They worry Mrs. Clinton’s email-gate will linger, and they’re afraid of more scandals tumbling out of the Clinton Foundation closet. They fear the constant regurgitation of old scandals. They’re afraid they’ll have no sway when future embarrassments and controversies come. She’s Hillary, she does it her way, she keeps it close, it’s a tight circle.

Less obvious: She’s all they have.

By that I don’t mean there is no one else who can run. It’s a shallow bench, but a bench. I mean that for all her flaws Hillary Clinton is the only major Democrat who can keep the Democratic Party together in this cycle.

Without Hillary the party will probably lurch left. And if it lurches left it’ll probably lose the general election. Democrats will break up into left-progressives, way-left-progressives, populists of different stripe, older moderates and centrists.

Hillary, to the general public, comes across as centrist. In part this is because she is associated with her husband’s ultimate moderation, and in part because she has grown more moderate over the years, at least in the sense of playing ball with various entrenched powers. She is certainly hawkish. Her popularity and persona will keep her party seeming centrist, even if she inches to the left to appease sizable parts of the base, and to show her heart is still with them.

But I think an untold story of 2016 is that the Democratic establishment is desperate when Mrs. Clinton is in trouble because without her they see a fracturing of their party.

We focus on the GOP and its dramas with what is called the far right. We pay no heed to the Democrats and their dramas and challenges from what is never called their far left.

There’s a balancing angst among many Republicans. It is connected to the fact that Jeb Bush is broadly considered a front-runner, if not the front-runner. And at the end of the day Bushes always break the party.

But what’s different about Jeb Bush is this: His father and brother surprised the base with their decisions after they had won the presidency. Jeb is declaring before he wins that he will take particular stands at odds with many in the base—for comprehensive immigration reform, for the Common Core.

He said the other day he’s doing it because he has “a backbone.” That’s a strut, not an argument. It will be interesting to hear the argument. He should meet—publicly—with anti-Common-Core parents, take every question, answer every criticism, and make his case with data and through the prism of experience.

Same with immigration. Take all comers.

That would show backbone. That will get others, not just him, saying he has it.

More From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):