Hillary Clinton is a fairly weak candidate for the presidency, in many ways:
-She’s lost before, which is a bad omen. Many pols run a second time, but usually they lost the first time for a good reason.
-She comes across as wooden and unnatural on television.
-She has a chilly relationship with the media.
-She brings enormous personal baggage to the campaign; the email scandal is easy fodder for would-be opponents. Her husband also brings substantial baggage.
-She is strongly identified with the status quo in American politics, when just about everybody thinks it is time for a change.
And yet the smart money is on an easy nomination. Surely, Democratic politicians, strategists, and sympathizers are aware of these liabilities. Yet they are powerless to stop her, because the rest of the field is so weak.
Why is that? One answer is the party’s drubbings in 2010 and 2014, which cleaned out the Democratic bench, leaving relatively few would-be challengers who can give Clinton a run for her money.
Another reason: In a coalition increasingly non-white and female, the Democratic party is still mostly run by white men.
This matters enormously in the Democratic party. By and large, the GOP is made up of the white, married middle class. The Democrats, on the other hand, are a demographic hodge-podge. And one group that is less and less important to the Democrats is white men. In 2012, just 23 percent of Barack Obama’s vote came from white men, according to the exit polls. Compare that to white women, who made up 31 percent of Obama’s vote. And non-whites made up the rest, at an unprecedented 46 percent.
It is now regularly averred that the “browning” of America is going to remake the body politic. Maybe so, but first it will remake the Democratic party. Indeed, at the grassroots level, it already has. Federally mandated majority-minority districts guarantee a strong non-white presence in the House. The political order in major cities has also shifted. Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles is of Mexican descent. Mayor Bill De Blasio of New York City touted his mixed-race family to win in 2013. And Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago is in the fight for his political life against Jesús "Chuy" García. Meanwhile, non-white mayors govern important cities like Atlanta, Cleveland, Miami, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Washington; white female mayors run Houston, Las Vegas, and Minneapolis.
But the changes have not worked their way through the upper echelons of the party, where presidential candidates typically come from. Of the 64 current Democratic senators and governors, about 70 percent are white men. The remainder are mostly white women. There are only four sitting non-white Democratic governors or senators, two apiece from Hawaii and New Jersey. If we broaden the field to include Democrats elected to the Senate or a governorship in the last decade (who did not lose a subsequent election), the picture is still basically the same. We add a couple more white women (e.g. Kathleen Sebelius and Janet Napolitano), and Deval Patrick.
This is an enormous advantage for Hillary Clinton. Indeed, it might be the single biggest reason she’s favored to win the nomination.
Ross Douthat made this great point in his Sunday column:
Voting for president is a political act, but it’s also a relational one. As the presidency increasingly dominates our politics, people want a nominee who will somehow personally represent all the virtues that they associate with their country, their political coalition and their worldview. They want an archetype, an inspiration, a figure who can somehow personify liberalism, or conservatism, or America itself.