08/25/2014 04:39 pm ET Updated Oct 25, 2014

Dear Hillary: Don't Worry About 'Obama's Third Term' Nonsense -- Run on Progressive Values and Record

Patrick Demarchelier

Some people just wanna party like it's 2008. There's apparently some "concern" out there among advisers to Hillary Clinton -- all of whom, of course, told CNN they had to remain anonymous -- about Republicans attacking her candidacy (and presumably that of any Democratic nominee) as "Obama's third term."

One of these unnamed advisers predicted that the Republican attack would unfold thusly:

"If you like Obama, you will love Hillary. ... She was in his government, she was at his side. ... That is, the way to go after her is four more years of the same old thing. The question they should ask her is "Tell me 10 things that you disagree with him on."

Now, we don't know whether the Democratic nominee in 2016 -- whomever she or he may be -- will listen to this nonsense. Either way, running away from the Obama administration would be a serious mistake, not to mention being all but impossible for just about any Democrat currently on the horizon. Doing so would divide the party and depress enthusiasm, and thus voter turnout, among President Obama's core supporters in key swing states like Ohio and Florida. Besides, as we saw even as they competed for the Democratic nomination in 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama do agree on the vast majority of issues. Trying to pretend otherwise would be seen as disingenuous at best.

The most important task for any Democrat is to make an election a choice between the values and record of our party versus that of Republicans. When we do that, we win. Period. When it comes to values, Democrats are the party of the 99 percent, Republicans are the party of the 1 percent. We are the party of freedom, justice, and equality for all Americans, no matter who they are. The Republicans? Not so much. We are the party that believes "we're all part of one American family," while the GOP operates from a different principle: "I've got mine, and the rest of you are on your own." If former Secretary Clinton is our party's 2016 nominee for president, she must put these contrasts front and center.

The last three presidents have included two Democrats and a Republican. How'd they do? President Bill Clinton presided over the longest peacetime economic expansion in history, saw 20 million net jobs created during his eight years, and, thanks in large part to a 1993 budget deal passed with only Democratic votes in Congress, turned huge deficits into the first run of federal budget surpluses in decades.

George W. Bush turned these surpluses -- which the Congressional Budget Office predicted would come to over $800 billion per year from 2009 to 2012 -- into massive deficits. Additionally, he created all of about 1 million net jobs in eight years, and that thanks only to an increase in government jobs. The private sector actually lost jobs during the eight years of his presidency.

In his last year, George W. Bush's economy tanked. It crashed. Our economy was as bad as it's been at any point since the Great Depression. Barack Obama came in and stabilized the situation. Fighting against almost universal Republican opposition, his policies reversed the collapse, and we've been growing slowly but steadily since. Even after losing millions of jobs in its first months, his administration has seen overall job growth exceed 5 million in just five-and-a-half years.

Unemployment is down. Median income, after falling hard thanks to the crash, has rebounded in the last three years. The economy has grown for the most part over the past five years, while the deficit has fallen dramatically. The stock market has more than doubled off the low point reached just after President Obama took office. Assuming these trends continue over the next two years, the Obama record will be one to run on in 2016, and that includes Obamacare.

The American people have watched for the better part of three decades as Democratic presidents have performed better for our country than have Republicans. President Obama, in particular, has had to clean up the messes left at home and abroad by George W. Bush, a president who inherited a very strong country from Bill Clinton.

There's no question that Hillary Clinton will also have to run on her own individual vision, her own talents, experience, and personal qualities. Absolutely. But rather than listen to the advice of some "unnamed" supporters and run away from the Obama record, former Secretary Clinton should absolutely highlight it, along with that of her husband, as a record of Democratic success.

In 1988, Michael Dukakis unfortunately tried to run a campaign that was "not about ideology, it's about competence." In 2016, however, the Democratic candidate for president would only benefit by emphasizing ideology, by contrasting what Democrats believe to the beliefs of a Republican party that, whoever is its nominee, is dominated by extreme right, by the tea party. Our policy positions -- even now, when President Obama's ratings are not what they were two years ago -- are more popular than those of the Republicans. Those positions reflect our values, as does the record of the last two Democratic presidents. Any Democrat running in 2016 should enthusiastically embrace them.