Via Powerline, I am directed to "Hillary Clinton: Too Much of a Clinton Democrat?" by Markos Moulitsas of The Daily Kos in Sunday's Washington Post. There were two elements of his non-endorsement that struck me as very relevant to 2008.
The first is that the more left-wing elements of the Democratic base don't seem to be all that concerned about how far to the right they can extend their coalition. I got some personal experience with this when the Nonpartisan Social Security plan was released--the most extreme criticism was directed at Jeff Liebman, the co-author who had served in the Clinton administration, for being too far to the right. Here's an example from the op-ed:
Dean lost, but the point was made. No longer would D.C. insiders impose their candidates on us without our input; those of us in the netroots could demand a say in our political fortunes. Today, however, Hillary Clinton seems unable to recognize this new reality. She seems ill-equipped to tap into the Net-energized wing of her party (or perhaps is simply uninterested in doing so) and incapable of appealing to this newly mobilized swath of voters. She may be the establishment's choice, but real power in the party has shifted.I don't know if the second sentence is an accurate statement. Kos got to vote for John Kerry in a losing candidacy. What success is he claiming?
But let's suppose that Kos is right in the last statement, that the real power in the party has shifted. That means he gets to dictate the Democrats' agenda, but that doesn't mean the Democrats win in 2008. That only happens if the candidate he backs can capture enough of the national vote, the one that includes the Independents and Republicans. The Clinton strategy is to start in the middle (the muddle?) and move to the extreme only as needed to pick up the win. It worked for Bill. Perhaps Hillary thinks it can work for her, too. Kos offers no strategy for capturing a majority. He seems disdainful of even having to try. That doesn't seem like a recipe for electoral success.
The second element of his op-ed that stands out is his accurate assessment of the danger of nominating candidates who cannot run on their recent accomplishments. He writes:
Yet staying away from big ideas seems to come naturally to Hillary Clinton. Perhaps first lady Clinton was so scarred by her failed health-care reform in the early 1990s that now Sen. Clinton shows no proclivity for real leadership as a lawmaker.In 2004, John Kerry could not point to a single, substantive piece of legislation that existed because of his leadership, after a legislative career of nearly two decades. Had there not been such a gaping hole in his resume, I think he would have run a more successful campaign. I don't see how a one-and-a-third term Senator Clinton stands a better chance on this dimension. It is not surprising that sitting members of the House and Senate are very infrequently elected to the Presidency. Governors, with records as heads of state-level executive branches, make for more compelling candidates.
Afraid to offend, she has limited her policy proposals to minor, symbolic issues -- such as co-sponsoring legislation to ban flag burning. She doesn't have a single memorable policy or legislative accomplishment to her name. Meanwhile, she remains behind the curve or downright incoherent on pressing issues such as the war in Iraq.
So I think Kos is correct about the need to nominate someone with a record to run on, but I don't think he is doing the Democrats any favors by stipulating that the record has to be one that (merely) appeals to his part of the political spectrum.