For close to a year I have expected Bernie Sanders to embarrass Hillary Clinton in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. It now looks as if he well may injure her.
Most Democrats, I assume, thought Bernie would be a salubrious tonic for Hillary, keeping her honest, more or less, during the primary season, and, then, after sufficient chastisement, Bernie having made his points, she would walk off with the nomination, and, given the chaos of the Republican field, win the presidency, if not easily, at least convincingly.
Well, so much for conventional wisdom.
If Sanders wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, the gloom and doom now percolating in the pundit class about Clinton's second presidential campaign will only increase, and, as most history proves, battering primaries injure the eventual nominee, given that they serve as a period of free oppo-research for the other party. Indeed, the Republicans have mostly aimed their ire at Hillary, considering Sanders superfluous, evidently, too easy a target.
Eight years ago Iowa signaled Clinton's likely electoral downfall. It showed white folks would vote for the African-American candidate. In that way, it was the most important primary in presidential election history.
It's at this point difficult not to consider what a Clinton 2 presidency would have looked like back then. Certainly, Hillary would have not shown the naivete that Obama displayed his first term. I have always been surprised that no one took him aside after he won the election and told him, "You know, the last Democrat who won the presidency for two terms was a white good old boy, called Bubba by many, from Arkansas, and you know what the Republicans did to him? They impeached him. What do you think they will do to you, Barack Hussein Obama?"
Hillary, doubtless, would have been more combative from the get-go, not being as easily hoodwinked by the big pharma-medical industry complex, perhaps even not caving in to the no-tax GOP zealots by letting all the Bush tax cuts expire, reverting to her husband's not-so oppressive era of taxation. Why those tax cuts were set to expire was that even the Republican bought-and-paid-for economists couldn't claim the deficit wouldn't balloon if they stayed.
Didn't happen, obviously. Obama persisted in his Rodney King why-can't-we-all-get-along? presidency for too many years. The deficit went down a few times, but only at the price of the country's infrastructure collapsing, corroding, imperiling many here there and everywhere. What may have remained the same in a Clinton 2 presidency is Obama's handling of the Middle East maelstrom. Hard to imagine Hillary doing anything much different.
But now she is haunted by Bill's two terms, thanks mainly to Donald Trump, everyone's naughty Puck in his own gaudy production of his extended Midsummer's Night Dream (or nightmare), abetted by the other players in the Republican crowded cast. The various scandals of Clinton 1 parade around, the sex imbroglios, the Defense of Marriage Act, the end of Glass-Steagall, the deregulation of the big banks, etc.
And the Internet serves up cheap reproductions of all this history as fast as McDonald's puts out french fries.
Not that I don't think Hillary still could win it all. Bernie does make her appear younger. She is well-qualified, though that doesn't appear to be currently part of the job description.
The presidency, as we have seen for the last seven-plus years, has limited powers. Neither Hillary, nor the long-shot Bernie (but not as much of a long-shot as a young black Senator with the middle name of Hussein who ran seven years after 9/11), will have that much weight to throw around, especially if the Supreme Court gelds the office as the conservative justices on the Court seem to want to do this coming June. And the reason most staunch Democrats put up with their flawed candidates is that the president still nominates Supreme Court members.
The coming months of the election cycle may be painful, but they won't lack for morbid entertainment. To turn a well-known Orwell remark around, we all get the presidential campaign we deserve.