Picture from The New York Times
Here’s an interesting speculation; reader comments welcome. What if the Democratic party comes to realize that Hillary Clinton is an albatross? Polls indicate that Bernie Sanders would do better against Donald Trump. If he is not the nominee, a few of his supporters will switch to Trump or Clinton, but many of them will stay home. Clinton, SLL recently argued, is a perfect set up for Trump’s unpredictability and personal attacks. She lacks natural political skills and is vulnerable on both issues and scandals. She is establishment and an ardent foreign interventionist. Trump made mince meat of a slew of establishment, ardent foreign interventionist Republicans. He’s narrowing the gap with her in national polls, and has caught up with her in key states Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.
The email scandal hangs over Clinton’s head. The FBI has interviewed her close associates and will probably interview her. Bryan Pagliano, who designed her private email server, has received immunity from prosecution in return for his testimony. The cynical assumption, and still the betting favorite, is an FBI recommendation to seek an indictment against Clinton will be quashed by President Obama’s Justice Department. Even that outcome cannot be regarded as favorable for Clinton. Many will conclude that it’s the establishment taking care of its own, a key issue propelling both Trump’s and Sanders’ campaigns. There is also the strong possibility that someone in the FBI leaks damaging material that was the basis of the rejected recommendation, compounding the damage to Clinton.
For argument’s sake, assume Obama and the Democrat’s movers and shakers conclude that Hillary is a liability. Say they let the primaries play out and Clinton has a majority of delegates and committed super delegates. However, suppose a subtle message goes out to the FBI: the administration will follow whatever the FBI recommends and would not be overly upset if that was indictment. Were it to happen, Clinton would presumably have to abandon her candidacy.
Does that clear the way for Bernie Sanders? Not if the movers and shakers have their way. He is about as popular with them as Donald Trump is with his party’s establishment. Joseph Biden made a couple of interesting comments recently. He said he thought he would have been the best presidential candidate had he chosen to run, and he also said he and Elizabeth Warren discussed her as his running mate. Trial balloons? What if Clinton, upon announcing her withdrawal, released her delegates to vote for Joseph Biden and Elizabeth Warren, who had agreed, for the good of the party and the nation, to accept a last-minute draft?
The key is Obama. For him this would be the best possible outcome. His vice president is far more likely to preserve his tattered legacy than Clinton, who would want to carve out her own historical niche. Biden is not a polarizing figure, like Clinton, and does not have her scandalous baggage. His long string of goofy statements will be ignored by the press, as they always do for Democrats. He is a centrist Democrat and would champion mainstream Democratic policies. Having Warren on the ticket as his vice president would keep the gender-based vote on board. It would make her the automatic favorite for the Democratic nomination in 2020 (when Biden will be seventy-eight years old) or 2024. She’s very liberal and has been a strident critic of Wall Street and the banks, which will help with disgruntled Sanders supporters.
It might make the Democratic convention messier, it might take more than one ballot, and there would be those disgruntled Sanders supporters, but a Biden-Warren ticket stands a better chance against Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton. Sanders supporters would have three months to get over it. They are more ideologically aligned with the Democrats than the Republicans. Not to say that Biden and Warren aren’t establishment tools, but they haven’t been as blatant about it as Clinton, making them more palatable to the Sanders crowd.
Biden and Warren are much less vulnerable to Trump’s attacks than Clinton. Biden has been the vice president for eight years and was a senator for thirty-six, with stints as chairman of the Foreign Relations and Judiciary Committees. On paper he’s qualified. He has a genial personality and is a known, safe, quantity. Warren has made a name for herself and attracts substantial support from the party’s far left wing. Biden and Warren give the Democrats a much better chance of winning the election—with a coat tail effect for Democratic Congressional candidates—than Clinton. Were this scenario to play out, the election would have to be rated a toss-up and not, as SLL said in the recent article, “Trump’s to lose.”
There is one final consideration. Obama loathes the Clintons and the feeling is mutual. If Clinton is indicted, he will showcase the indictment as proof that his Justice Department does not politicize investigations. Hillary will be in a heap of expensive, lengthy, and risky legal trouble. Wouldn’t Obama relish the prospect of the Clintons groveling for a prospective pardon like Gerald Ford granted Richard Nixon? He would extract from Hillary a promise to release her delegates (and campaign contributors) to the Biden-Warren ticket and from both of them a promise to give it their heartfelt support. Assuming Obama held up his end of the bargain (not a safe assumption), he would issue the pardon after the election to minimize the political fallout. Democrats would be happy to put the matter behind them. Only Republicans would complain and for Obama, that’s the cherry on the sundae.
Something to think about.
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