Another Clinton, another Bush

From across the Atlantic, Hillary Clinton versus Jeb Bush is not only plausible, it now seems to me to be becoming inevitable. It is not so very far away to 2016 in calendar time – though it could be an eternity in political time.

But all those who harbour any pretensions to standing for President of the US in 2016 must already be planning their campaigns – at least in the confines of their own minds. But the crucial need for financing means that they have probably confided their ambitions to a very small and select group who are already sounding out potential donors for a potential campaign.

The energised campaign of 2008 was exciting (to an observer) but it has proven to be extremely divisive for the country. Perhaps campaign energy – if it is at too high a level – actually leads to divisions. But a lack of energy does not correlate with unity or a removal of divisions. This energy of 2008 was certainly missing in 2012 but the parties remain just as far apart and divisions among the electorate are not being bridged. Perhaps there is some optimum level of energy which is desirable for a campaign. It remains to be seen how the legacy of Obama’s Presidency will be seen but I think there is a large risk that the divisiveness during his two terms will mean that he is remembered primarily as the first “black” President. Any other achievements will seem quite mundane. He has proven to very risk-averse and so it is unlikely he will be remembered for any catastrophic blunders either. A Hillary Clinton – Jeb Bush race may actually get the balance right; an energised campaign which captures the imagination of the bulk of the electorate but does not drive them to the extreme positions of the fanatics.

I cannot see Jeb Bush bringing an Obama-style energy into either the Primaries or the Presidential Campaigns but he will not be devoid of energy. From the splinters of the Tea Party and the depths to which the Republicans have sunk, having another Bush scion to call on may seem to provide a “safe”, low-energy, compromise choice for the GOP. But Jeb Bush may actually be the brightest of all the Bushes.

NPR: The former two-term governor of Florida has not run for office since 2002, and has up to now refused to get caught up in public presidential speculation. Widely acknowledged as a power behind the scenes, he is seen as politically savvy and astute. It’s long been thought that had he won his 1994 gubernatorial campaign against Lawton Chiles in Florida, it would have been Jeb — not brother George W. — whom the GOP turned to in 2000. What he says carries great weight, and when he criticized his party last year for its approach to overhauling the nation’s immigration laws, people sat up and paid attention. You’re not going to win over the hearts of Latino voters, Bush said over and over, by talking about self-deportation and blocking paths to citizenship for those who are here illegally.

But in his new book, Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution (co-authored with Clint Bolick), Bush is no longer focusing on a path to citizenship. Let’s talk instead about residency rights. “A grant of citizenship,” Bush now says, “is an undeserving reward for conduct we cannot afford to encourage.” Pay a fee, he says of those 11 million people here illegally. Pay back taxes. Do community service. Learn English. But the end would be residency, not citizenship. For many, however, the headline was about 2016.

Hillary Clinton is the heir apparent.  She is uniquely qualified of course. If  her health is up to it and she runs, it is unlikely that any other Democratic candidate will challenge her seriously except to get some exposure and her attention. She cannot any longer be held responsible for any blunders the administration now makes. As potentially the first woman President she will arouse much of the same energy that Obama did in 2008 but perhaps without the same divisiveness and with a reach that – unlike Obama’s – could cut across party lines.

Politico: The ranks of Democratic governors are filled with ambitious politicians boasting records that would probably play well with primary voters in 2016.

But even as they eye a move from the statehouse to the White House, there’s broad recognition among the chief executives that the next generation of Democrats may have to wait longer than four more years to take their place as President Barack Obama’s heir.

Nowhere is The Hillary Factor felt more acutely, and painfully, than in the same elite club of policy innovators and budget balancers that vaulted her husband onto the national political scene in the 1980s. ….

“It’s just a very unique situation in which an extremely qualified candidate with a long history of public service who has been fully vetted is considering running for the presidency,” noted Nixon, who easily won reelection last year to his second term in conservative-leaning Missouri. “She’s entitled to her time of analysis. It does, I think, in many ways freeze the field until she more clearly states what she wants to do with the rest of her life”. ….

So Clinton-Bush in 2016 may not be such a bad thing. Bush may actually be able to bring the Republican Party together again and repair the self-inflicted damage wrought by the loony right. Clinton would energise – for or against – every woman in the US and that energy will spread to others. The winner would have a much less divided country to contend with. I think Hillary Clinton would win such a race but with Jeb Bush as her opponent it will not be a walk-over. She will provide the US – at long-last – with a female head of state. And the Democrats will have been in power for 16 years in 2024 when she leaves office after her second term.

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