Prick Up Your Enthusiasm

Clinton 2012 is a political distraction at a time when some solidarity would go a long way

Speculation about a possible presidential run by Hillary Clinton in 2012 remains surprisingly popular among a certain segment of Democratic activists.

One fellow gay political junkie who strongly backed then-Sen. Clinton in 2008 remains convinced that she will resign before the year is out to challenge Barack Obama for the 2012 presidential nomination. I think he is mistaken, not because Clinton lacks the ambition but because she is too smart.

The scorched-earth Republican opposition may have the gall to cry ”loser” at a president whose first 18 months saw victories on economic stimulus, health care reform, and financial reform, and who rescued a major American industry that is growing jobs again; but Hillary knows better. Could she plausibly call Obama weak on foreign policy when she has been his top diplomat? Could she knock his domestic achievements after celebrating with him the health care victory he won in contrast to her failed effort in 1994?

More important, the memory of her 18 million primary voters in 2008 can hardly blind Clinton to the likelihood that millions of other Democrats would never forgive an attempt to topple our accomplished incumbent president.

Another gay Democratic acquaintance has talked for months as if heavy Democratic losses in the midterm election are inevitable. Even if he fears that eventuality, shouldn’t he put on a braver face between now and then? I am afraid that he doesn’t because he too was a strong Clinton supporter in 2008 and has not gotten over his disappointment.

I don’t believe that Clinton’s supporters are consciously rooting against Obama. They simply doubt that he’s up to the job, and they look to her to rescue the party. You can imagine them saying ”I told you so” after a Republican takeover of Congress. The trouble there is that Clinton’s husband showed how a midterm defeat can be used to great advantage by an incumbent president. And let us be clear: Obama has won several pieces of landmark legislation despite constant Republican vilification and filibusters. That suggests he knows what he is doing.

The reluctance by some Democrats to give Obama due credit drifted into silliness last week when Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who helped Clinton win the Pennsylvania primary, criticized Obama for appearing on ABC’s The View. Rendell said, ”I think the president should be accessible … but I think there’s got to be a little bit of dignity to the presidency.” Oh, please. When Clinton was downing Crown Royal shots during the primary, she was focused not on preserving her dignity but on connecting with people, the same as Obama.

A notion has gained currency about an enthusiasm gap favoring Republicans in November. This defeatism needs to be resisted. The stakes are too great to allow our disappointments — including over the unfinished LGBT agenda — to dampen our determination to thwart the inciters of fear and intolerance who seek to exploit what is fairly called the Bush Recession to regain power. Republican politicians’ votes and rhetoric have tied them clearly to the interests of the wealthy and privileged at the expense of the great majority of Americans, and we need all of our voices to drive that message home.

Hillary Clinton is a fine secretary of state. I would have voted for her had she been our party’s nominee in 2008. If that’s not enough for some of my fellow Democrats, I’m sorry, but realistically you’ll have to wait until 2016. In the meantime, your party and your country need you.

Sitting back or going through the motions while the radical right tries to stampede the country into nativist hysteria would put us on the same moral plane as Mitch McConnell. Instead, let’s pull together and fight for our common values.

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