When Democrats worry about Hillary Clinton's electability, they focus on her reenergizing a depressed Republican base while demoralizing core Democratic activists, particularly those outraged about the war, and thus maybe lose the election. But there's a further danger if Hillary's nominated--that she will win but then split the Democratic Party.
We forget that this happened with her husband Bill, because compared to Bush, he's looking awfully good. Much of Hillary's support may be nostalgia for when America's president seemed to engage reality instead of disdaining it. But remember that over the course of Clinton's presidency, the Democrats lost 6 Senate seats, 46 Congressional seats, and 9 governorships. This political bleeding began when Monica Lewinsky was still an Oregon college senior. Given Hillary's protracted support of the Iraq war, her embrace of neoconservative rhetoric on Iran, and her coziness with powerful corporate interests, she could create a similar backlash once in office, dividing and depressing the Democratic base and reversing the party's newfound momentum.
Think about 1994. Pundits credited major Republican victories to angry white men, Hillary's failed healthcare plan, and Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America." But the defeat was equally rooted in a massive withdrawal of volunteer support among Democratic activists who felt politically betrayed. Nothing fostered this sense more than Bill Clinton's going to the mat to push the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Angered by a sense that he was subordinating all other priorities to corporate profits, and by his cavalier attitude toward the hollowing out of America's industrial base, labor, environmental and social-justice activists nationwide withdrew their energy from Democratic campaigns. This helped swing the election, much as the continued extension of these policies (particularly around dropping trade barriers with China) led just enough Democratic leaning voters in 2000 to help elect George Bush by staying home or voting for Ralph Nader.
No place saw a more dramatic political shift than my home state of Washington. In November 1992, Democratic activists volunteered by the thousands, hoping to end the Reagan-Bush era. On Election Day, I joined five other volunteers to help get out the vote in a swing district 20 miles south of Seattle. Volunteers had a similar presence in every major Democratic or competitive district in the state. The effort helped Clinton to carry the state and Democrats to capture eight out of nine House seats.
But by 1994 grass-roots Democratic campaigners mostly stayed home, disgruntled. In Washington State, there were barely enough people to distribute literature and make phone calls in Seattle's most liberal neighborhoods, let alone in swing suburban districts. Republicans won seven of our nine congressional races, and reelected a Senator known for baiting environmentalists.
The same was true nationwide. I spent that campaign season traveling to promote a book on campus activism, staying with friends long involved with progressive causes. Everywhere I went, critical races would go to the Republicans by the narrowest of margins. Yet my friends and their friends seemed strangely detached, so disgusted with Democratic politics that they no longer wanted anything to do with it. Surveys found that had voters who stayed home voted, they would have reversed the election outcome. Even a modest volunteer effort might have prevented the Republican sweep.
To prevail in close races, Democrats need enthusiastic volunteer involvement. This happened in 1992, and then again in 2006. If Hillary is the nominee, she's likely to significantly damp this involvement, especially among anti-war activists, many of whom are currently saying her candidacy would lead them to sit out the election entirely. She'll also draw out the political right in a way that will make it far harder for down-ticket Democrats in states like Kentucky and Virginia where the party has recently been winning. A recent Pew poll gave her both higher unfavorable and lower favorable ratings than either Obama or Edwards. A recent Rasmussen poll had her lagging behind Edwards in matching up against the leading Republican candidates. In a July Fox poll (of citizens, not Fox viewers), 29% of voters (including 27% of Independents and 5% of Democrats) said they would "never vote for her under any circumstances," compared to just 6% overall saying the same about Obama, and less than 1% about Edwards. So she might not win at all, despite Bush's disastrous reign.
But even if she does, she is then strongly likely to fracture the party with her stands. She talks of staying in Iraq for counterterrorism operations, which could easily become indistinguishable from the present war. She backed the recent Kyl-Lieberman vote on Iran that Senator James Webb called "Cheney's fondest pipe dream." She supported the bankruptcy bill and the extension of Bush's tax cuts on capital gains and dividends. If her contributors are any guide, like those she courted in a $1,000-a-plate dinner for homeland security contractors, she's likely to cave to corporate interests so much in her economic policies that those increasingly squeezed by America's growing divides will backlash in ways that they're long been primed to by Republican rhetoric about "liberal elitists." And if Democrats do then begin to challenge her, the relative unity created by the Bush polities will quickly erode.
Because the Republican candidates show every indication that they'd continue Bush's disastrous approaches to the world, I'd vote for Hillary if she became the nominee. But I'd do so with a very heavy heart, and a recognition that we'll have to push her to do the right thing on issue after issue, and won't always prevail. We still have a chance to select strong alternatives like Edwards (who I'm supporting) or Obama. And with Republican polling numbers in the toilet, this election gives Democrats an opportunity to seriously shift our national course that we may not have again for years. It would be a tragedy if they settled for the candidate most likely to shatter the momentum of this shift when it's barely begun.
Paul Rogat Loeb is the author of The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, named the #3 political book of 2004 by the History Channel and the American Book Association. His previous books include Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a Cynical Time. See www.paulloeb.org .
Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton
October 26, 1947
No confirmed birthtime; noon CST used to erect chart
2008 Presidential Election
November 4, 2008
Noon EST at Washington used to erect chart
Hillary Eris (civil rights, prejudice, conflict vs. peacemaking) 6 Aries 06 conjunct natal Typhon (struggle) 6 Aries 08, trine transiting Hylonome (the cry of the people) 4 Sagittarius 47
Hillary Ceres (nurturance) 1 Taurus 56 conjunct natal Hylonome 1 Taurus 05, natal Buysballot (election fraud) 1 Taurus 36; conjunct transiting 1995 QZ9 (to do what you think is best for you) 1 Taurus 59, transiting 1993 SB 3 Taurus 20, transiting Soomana (idealized woman) at 3 Taurus 39, transiting Vesta at 5 Taurus 33; trine transiting Pluto 29 Sagittarius 19 and transiting Juno (the powerless) 0 Capricorn 52, also transiting Ceres 0 Virgo 20
Hillary North Node (rising above past influences, making connections) 23 Taurus 33 conjunct transiting Thereus (working with others) 23 Taurus 04, transiting Pyatiletka (doctrinaire) 23 Taurus 42, transiting Juvenalis (youth) 24 Taurus 50
Hillary Uranus (to break loose from something) 25 Gemini 56 conjunct transiting Yarilo (sensitive male) 24 Gemini 21, transiting Klytia (seeking the light, maintaining optimism) 25 Gemini 22
Hillary Vesta (dedication, commitment) 26 Cancer 39 conjunct transiting Aeolia (long-winded) 25 Cancer 29, transiting Tortali (shining a light on something) 26 Cancer 35, transiting Athanasia (immortality) 27 Cancer 32
Hillary Mars (aggression, assertion) 14 Leo 06/Pluto (power, transformation) 14 Leo 51 conjunct transiting South Node (separation) 13 Leo 52, transiting Assesse (put to the test) 14 Leo 38, transiting 1999 XX143 (acceptance/rejection, expressing individuality) 16 Leo 10, transiting Lachesis (deciding the length of something, default) 16 Leo 37, transiting Lacrimosa (something to weep about) 16 Leo 41; opposite transiting North Node 13 Aquarius 52 and transiting Chiron (need to pay attention) 16 Aquarius 06
Hillary Saturn (discipline, ambition) 21 Leo 19 conjunct transiting Baucis (hospitable, welcoming) 19 Leo 15, transiting Acacia (sacred cow) 20 Leo 58, transiting 2002 AW197 (how something is set up) 21 Leo 09, transiting Atahualpa (no surrender, no compromise) 21 Leo 30, transiting Gleason (“and away we go”) 21 Leo 38
Hillary Pandora (having an impact, making a splash, stirring things up, curiosity) 0 Libra 11 conjunct transiting Krok (lies) 28 Virgo 44, transiting Taranis (technology) 0 Libra 19, transiting Okyrhoe (taking attacks, staying true to one’s principles) 0 Libra 20
Hillary Neptune (ideals, illusions) 11 Libra 21 conjunct transiting Don Quixote (taking on the system) 11 Libra 04, transiting Cheshirecat (keeping up a brave front, big smile) 11 Libra 32, transiting Gunn (having to do with guns) 12 Libra 44, transiting Buysballot 12 Libra 58
Hillary Sun 2 Scorpio 28 conjunct transiting Mercury 0 Scorpio 04, transiting Rousseau (back to basics) 1 Scorpio 17, transiting Wood (wishing to) 2 Scorpio 11, transiting Zero (nothing, nullified) 2 Scorpio 12, transiting Oye (attentive) 2 Scorpio 51, transiting Masi (massive, rude, touchy) 3 Scorpio 20, transiting Taguacipa (suddenly turning hostile or malevolent) 3 Scorpio 33, transiting Ceto (a clear picture, a monster surfacing) 4 Scorpio 16
Hillary Chiron (need to pay attention, inner wound) 12 Scorpio 18 conjunct transiting Midas (money) 11 Scorpio 00, transiting 2003 CO1 (true principles, living with legacies) 12 Scorpio 14, transiting Sun/Chariklo (glamorized, need to see clearly) 12 Scorpio 39, transiting Potter (questions of experience) 12 Scorpio 44, transiting Siwa (breaking down illusions) 13 Scorpio 56, transiting Neverland 14 Scorpio 37
Hillary Venus (values, feeling the love) 16 Scorpio 26 conjunct transiting Neverland (living in a fantasy) 14 Scorpio 37, transiting 1996 GQ21 (ambition, drive) 14 Scorpio 55, transiting Thule (prejudice/tolerance) 15 Scorpio 20, transiting Tithonus (atrophied) 15 Scorpio 24, transiting Hidalgo (to assert, promote or defend) 16 Scorpio 01, transiting Bellerophon (knowing or being reminded of one’s place) 17 Scorpio 47, transiting Lancelot (to be a “white knight”) 18 Scorpio 09
Hillary Mercury 21 Scorpio 23 conjunct transiting Iris (sending messages, diversity, hippie values) 19 Scorpio 25, transiting Toro (confrontation, domineering) 19 Scorpio 38, transiting Requiem (kiss it goodbye, let it go) 19 Scorpio 46, transiting Arachne (attempting to ensnare) 19 Scorpio 52, transiting Arcadia (rural people and their attitudes) 20 Scorpio 42, transiting Mallory (trying to attain something) 21 Scorpio 10, transiting Wiener (sex) 21 Scorpio 14, transiting Mars 21 Scorpio 44
Hillary South Node (past influences) 23 Scorpio 33 conjunct transiting Mars 21 Scorpio 44, transiting Xenophon (trying to get back to where one feels one belongs) 22 Scorpio 37, transiting Mony (money, disabling conditions) 22 Scorpio 57, transiting Sisyphus (frustration) 23 Scorpio 48, transiting Amycus (the proper way to treat people) 23 Scorpio 50, transiting Toutatis (to build, to memorialize, patriarchal) 24 Scorpio 03
Hillary Jupiter (optimism, obtaining support) 0 Sagittarius 33 conjunct transiting Jabberwock (slaying a monster) 28 Scorpio 32, transiting Skuld (dreams of the future) 28 Scorpio 38, transiting Bratfest (immature behavior) 28 Scorpio 41, transiting Boucolion (having to do with rural areas) 29 Scorpio 48, transiting Restitutum (restored) 0 Sagittarius 22, transiting Radiocommunicata (radio and TV broadcasting) 1 Sagittarius 19, transiting Hershey (to strike fear into others) 1 Sagittarius 51
Hillary Juno (playing a role, claiming or reclaiming power) 29 Sagittarius 37 conjunct transiting Cadmus (crafting a message) 28 Sagittarius 08, transiting Persephone (being separated from something) 28 Sagittarius 42, transiting Pluto 29 Sagittarius 19, transiting Goldstein (used as a piñata or scapegoat) 0 Capricorn 13, transiting GONG (to put an end to) 0 Capricorn 16, transiting Otto (acting alone or for oneself) 0 Capricorn 23, transiting Juno 0 Capricorn 52, transiting Wurm (contempt) 0 Sagittarius 57, transiting Bacchus (trying to dodge things, being “high”) 1 Capricorn 19
Hillary Hidalgo 20 Aquarius 38 conjunct transiting Neptune (illusion, confusion) 21 Aquarius 28
Hillary Pallas (politics) 28 Aquarius 29 conjunct transiting HAL (expecting honesty) 28 Aquarius 11, transiting Poor (the poor) 28 Aquarius 30, transiting Stentor (noisy) 29 Aquarius 01, transiting Deborah (chest-beating) 29 Aquarius 35
Hillary Damocles (pushing the envelope, under pressure, politics) 6 Pisces 58 conjunct transiting Wil (will) 5 Pisces 33, transiting Defi (defiance) 5 Pisces 46, transiting Espinette (getting together) 7 Pisces 46, transiting Unitas (fighting the good fight) 7 Pisces 48
Hillary Lilith (having to deal with something or resign oneself to something) 27 Pisces 49 conjunct transiting Stephengould (skepticism, secularism) 25 Pisces 49, transiting Pelion (survival of the fittest) 27 Pisces 34, transiting Medon (to stay true to one’s principles under pressure) 27 Pisces 37, transiting Heracles (heroic struggle) 29 Pisces 22