Tennis without a net?

Joan Vennochi of the Boston Globe asks whether Hillary Clinton’s nomination is “inevitable.” That’s an easy question — her nomination is quite likely but not inevitable.
Vennochi’s real question is whether the Democrats should nominate Clinton. For Vennochi, that question seems to turn on whether Clinton is likely to win. And it’s here that the column turns incoherent because, like so many pro-Democratic analysts, the author tries to answer the question in a vacuum, as if no intelligent and reasonably informed electorate exists. Thus, Vennochi warns that while Clinton is moving towards the center, this is no guarantee of success. After all, John Kerry is a centrist war hero, but the nasty Republicans successfully convinced the public that he is a flip-flopping Vietnam war protester. (Vennochi says that the Republicans had some help from the “candidate” himself, as if Kerry had never been a dovish liberal until he started blundering as a candidate). Ultimately, Vennochi concludes that Hillary can win but “it will take hundreds of millions of dollars, tremendous will, and ugly political warfare.”
Well, yes, both sides will spend lots of money, exert their will, and engage in political warfare. But politics isn’t tennis without a net. The net is an independent electorate, and (contrary to the paranoid views of many Democrats) neither side gets to determine the height of that net. Thus, Hillary’s prospects ultimately will depend on whether she consistently takes positions that most voters agree with, and on the public’s perception in 2008 as to whether the country needs a major change. There’s not much Hillary can do about the latter factor (certainly not now), but she’s working hard on taking popular positions. The key question is not whether the Republicans will distort these positions, but whether her party’s left wing will permit her consistently to take them.


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