Douglas Schoen and Patrick Caddell really want people to believe that they authentically want Hillary Clinton, and not Barack Obama, to be president. So much so that they keep publishing the same op-ed on the matter with minor thematic tweaks, and people keep running it despite the fact that it is, essentially, high-toned gibberish. But, whatever, Politico needed to be the fourth or fifth media organization to peddle this idea to its readers, so let's take a look-see.
The new bold idea that Schaddell brings to the table today is for Democrats in New Hampshire to get behind nominating Clinton as president through a write-in campaign:
First, and most important, ordinary Democrats and independents in New Hampshire should mobilize behind a grass-roots effort to write in Clinton's name during the Jan. 10 Democratic primary.
Second, a committed group of Democrats with resources and stature needs to help facilitate an authentic citizens' movement -- independent of party structure, Clinton and organized interests -- to support a massive New Hampshire write-in campaign and put this before a deeply disaffected electorate.
There is already an online petition to draft Clinton, created by Democrats.
"We the undersigned Democrats want a new Democratic nominee for president who can win in 2012. We are convinced that the only person with the national stature, experience ... who can win in the general election in 2012 is Hillary Rodham Clinton. We are fully prepared to take matters in to our own hands and launch our own massive write-in campaign," it reads.
Where to begin? Well, one could probably point out the fact that "authentic citizens' movements" that are hastily assembled by party elites for three weeks are not actually "authentic citizens' movements." Right now, there is an "authentic citizens' movement" that gives President Obama a 49 percent approval rating. As Steve Benen points out, the latest CNN poll finds that "81% of Democrats want their party to renominate Obama for 2012," which is "nearly the strongest intra-party support the president has enjoyed in two years."
There will also be an "authentic citizens' movement" that will rally behind a GOP nominee, who will propose a set of policies that are the antithesis of the current administration. (Depending on what they choose to do, candidates like Ron Paul, Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer might be able to accomplish assembling an "authentic citizens' movement," but each has already invested a significant amount of time and effort building such a movement -- in Paul's case, it represents years of work.)
The real question to be asked is, what do Schoen and Caddell imagine would be substantively accomplished by this elites-driven write-in campaign? And the answer is mostly based in atmospherics and voter-resentment. There are lingering Clinton supporters who never forgave Obama for not withdrawing after Super Tuesday in 2008, good heavens! There are liberals for whom Obama has not been sufficiently "tough" or sufficiently "liberal," and who seem to not understand the concept of "centrist Democratic senators" who needed to be sufficiently appeased in order to avoid a filibuster.
What, exactly, would Clinton have done differently? Not much. You can still look it up. By and large, she supported a massive health care proposal that provided universal coverage by taxing the rich, whose Bush-era tax cuts she -- wait for it! -- wanted to repeal. She opposed Social Security privatization and promoted green jobs, wanted to reduce middle class tax burdens and support students with tuition subsidies. This is all a prelude to the same big budget fights and the same GOP obstruction, unless you believe that Clinton had a magic plan to avert this. (Obama's main fault as president may have been providing his opposition with too many chances to bargain, as if he were the only person in Washington not in on the joke that his policies would meet lockstep opposition no matter how many accommodations he allowed.)
Alex Pareene basically nailed this the last time Schoen and Caddell emerged from their hole to promote this idea:
So Hillary Clinton should be president instead of Barack Obama, because Obama is too partisan and divisive. America needs a bipartisan plan to attack the deficit and also create jobs, and it is Obama's fault that that is a vague, magical fairy tale. Hillary Clinton will make this fairy tale real, thanks to the fact that, as we all know, Republicans love cheerfully working with the Clintons for the good of the nation. When a Clinton's in the White House, partisan politics are always put aside!
This is self-evidently dumb on about ten different levels -- Clinton won't run, President Clinton wouldn't have any more success negotiating with Congressional Republicans than President Obama, Clinton's popularity is a result of her not being a partisan candidate for office anymore, if there was such a thing as a "bipartisan" plan to reduce the deficit while also stimulating job growth (and protecting entitlements!) we'd presumably have already decided to act on this fantastical plan, everything resembling such a plan is explicitly supported by the White House and rejected by Republicans, Republicans would not endorse said plans if President Obama promised to go away because then they'd simply want to wait for a Republican to take over for him, and Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen are not, as they claim to be, Democrats -- but the Journal published this regardless, as they always do with fresh tripe from Schoen and Caddell.
Could such an idea -- a massive, New Hampshire-based write-in campaign for Clinton -- even work, practically speaking? Schoen and Caddell say there's precedent, and it is almost convincing if you don't know anything about history.
This primary -- traditionally well before other primaries -- allows independents to cast ballots for either Democrats or Republicans, unlike most other "closed primaries," in which only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote on their respective parties' ballots. It's justly famous for write-in candidates, who often had substantial success.
In 1964, write-in candidate Henry Cabot Lodge had an upset victory over GOP front-runners Barry Goldwater and Nelson Rockefeller. In 1968, incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson was not on the ballot, but as a write-in, he received nearly 50 percent of all Democratic votes.
If I could interrupt your reverie of memories and emotions of how great we had it in America during the Lodge administration, let's consider how stupid it is for these two to use the example of Lyndon Johnson in this instance. At the end of Johnson's first full term, the Democrats were in authentic disarray, split into numerous unmanageable factions, all of which led to a chaotic year of conflict that gave rise to Richard Nixon's first term.
What Caddell and Schoen either are too stupid to understand or don't want you to know, is that Johnson was sitting where Obama sits today -- only the discontent over his presidency was more widespread and significantly angrier. The Democratic party base still resoundingly supports Obama today, as Chris Cillizza noted four weeks ago:
Although African Americans remain the base group most broadly supportive of Obama, liberals and Democrats are very much in his camp as well. In Gallup's most recent data, Obama's job approval rating stood at 78 percent among Democrats and 70 percent among liberals.
Those numbers are similar to where President Bill Clinton stood in November 1995, when 78 percent of Democrats in Gallup polling approved of the job he was doing. (Bush had the support of 87 percent of Republicans in the fall of 2003, but those numbers were the result of the boosts he received from the start of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.)
As Cillizza adds, "Obama's base strength does not mean that he will face an easier-than-expected road to reelection." And that's a claim that no one should make at this time. Nevertheless, Obama is not experiencing a Lyndon Johnson-level of discontent.
But the comparison that Schoen and Caddell make is sillier for another reason. Let's cast our mind back to Johnson's astonishing write-in campaign in the 1968 New Hampshire primary. His 49-42 victory over Eugene McCarthy was such an earth-shattering success that...he withdrew his nomination days later! (Hubert Humphrey and Robert Kennedy subsequently joined the race, Kennedy was assassinated, the 1968 convention was the venue for riots, and the eventual nominee, Humphrey, won 191 electoral votes.)
So, for a lot of reasons, it's just dumb to stand around and encourage people to help replicate Lyndon Johnson's "success" in New Hampshire.
But it's no wonder that Schoen and Caddell are instinctively drawn to the 1968 election and the epic failures of the Democratic Party, because despite the fact that Caddell bills himself as "a pollster for President Jimmy Carter" and Schoen touts himself as "a pollster for President Bill Clinton," neither man is an authentic Democrat today and neither wants traditional Democratic candidates or policies to actually succeed.
Neither man, for example, supports Democratic health care reform policy. Schoen buried his dislike of the policy within a call for something more bipartisan -- but he either wasn't smart enough to know or wanted to mislead readers into thinking that there was never a possibility of a bipartisan health care deal during Obama's first term. Caddell, for his part, compared the Affordable Care Act to "Jonestown."
In April of 2010, here was their great advice for Democrats:
To turn a corner, Democrats need to start embracing an agenda that speaks to the broad concerns of the American electorate. It should be somewhat familiar: It is the agenda that is driving the Tea Party movement and one that has the capacity to motivate a broadly based segment of the electorate.
In other words, the best thing that Democrats could do is dismantle their own party and become Republicans. In the meantime, they praise the people that even rank-and-file Republicans think are buffoons: They think, for example, that Michael Steele and Sarah Palin are terrific! If you are a Democrat and you're wondering what you can do to make Schoen and Caddell happy, ask yourself: Are you doing enough to ensure that the Democratic party does not exist? If the answer is "no," then you know why they aren't happy with you.
In 2010, Caddell was briefly involved with Andrew Romanoff's failed bid for the Colorado Senate seat, until Romanoff was made to understand that he was a right-winger. And most recently, Schoen willfully misrepresented his own polling results in order to provide Karl Rove with fodder for an attack ad against Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren.
The best way of describing Schoen and Caddell comes, once again, from Alex Pareene, who very aptly dubs them "professional Democratic Concern Trolls." But what's comical about this pair isn't that Democrats no longer respect them -- Schoen and Caddell invite that disrespect and are happy to have it. What's hilarious is that their GOP pals don't respect them either: These two go forth on a daily basis to pollute the air with ideas and strategies that the GOP elite know full well is absolute, unpractical, unworkable idiocy. But it's useful idiocy, so why not let them make it under the guise of being Democrats while they tend to the hard work of developing their own candidates and selling their actual policy platform?
Schoen, for his part, continues to insist, as he did Tuesday with Politico's Glenn Thrush, that he has "always considered myself a Democrat and certainly still do," and that he "strongly believe[s]" he "can be a good Democrat without supporting what passes for orthodox Democratic policies and positions today."
But Hillary Clinton does support "orthodox Democratic policies and positions today," so you should not fall for this junk.
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CORRECTION: This article originally described Elizabeth Warren as a Massachusetts senator, but she is actually a Senate candidate.