Democrats Have a Hillary Problem and a Bernie Problem

Democrats have settled quickly into their role as an opposition party, throwing up roadblocks to any and all policy ideas in the name of undermining the Republican Congress. That’s not surprising. What is surprising is that they have so embraced their role as a force of opposition that they’ve taken to attacking their own would-be standard bearers.

The most prominent, and perhaps justified, example of this is Hillary Clinton who just refuses to fade from the public spotlight. Recently, Clinton announced that she would be released a book called What Happened in which she’ll detail her stunning fall from “sure thing” to “also ran.”

“In the past, for reasons I try to explain, I’ve often felt I had to be careful in public, like I was upon on a wire without a net,” Clinton writes in the book’s introduction, according to publisher Simon & Schuster. “Now I’m letting my guard down.”

Democrats seem to prefer that she just go away. Albert Hunt writes for Bloomberg:

Democrats, reveling in President Donald Trump’s plummeting popularity and the Republican Party’s civil wars, are looking forward to September. Except for one thing: the rollout of Hillary Clinton’s next book right after Labor Day.

Clinton has promised to “let my guard down” in the book, “What Happened,” explaining her shocking loss to Trump in November. She has already offered up several explanations, blaming Russian interference, former FBI director James Comey, and misogyny, while also acknowledging tactical errors by her campaign.

Many Washington Democrats, though unwilling to criticize her in public, wish she’d “move on,” as Senator Al Franken has put it. They fear that her complaints help Trump make his case that the controversies surrounding him flow from the Democrats’ bitterness about their 2016 loss.

Franken is far from the only Democrat to share their views.

“When you lose to somebody who has 40-percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Schumer told the Washington Post.

“[FBI Director] Jim Comey didn’t tell her not to campaign in Wisconsin after the convention,” David Axelrod, a former adviser to President Obama told CNN, “Jim Comey didn’t say ‘don’t put any resources into Michigan until the final week.”

The frustration leveled at Clinton, and her unwillingness to find something to do beyond dwell on her ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, is understandable. It prevents Democrats from being able to move on and focus on the next generation of talent who can avoid the same pitfalls. What’s less understandable is that a significant contingent of Democrats seem to take a similarly critical stance of could-be contenders for their party’s nomination.

Sen. Cory Booker, who was once billed as the “second coming of Obama,” has since become labeled a “neoliberal egomaniac,” a “wannabe celebrity,” and worst of all for his political chances in today’s Democratic Party, “just another Wall Street Democrat, out-of-touch with the concerns of Main Street America.”

Other perceived frontrunners have faced similar heat. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) was once viewed was a messianic figure who “can bring new relevance to a struggling party,” in no small part because she was the first African American woman elected to the Senate since 1992. Now, just months after assuming her position in Washington, the left is viewing her skeptically because of her “roots as a prosecutor” (read: friend of police) and her “ties to Wall Street and insufficient commitment to populist economic issues.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has been branded as the successor to her political mentor, Hillary Clinton, and worse in today’s divisive times, a “Blue Dog Democrat.” Gov. Deval Patrick would be eaten alive in the primary because he actually works for Bain Capital, one of the left’s most hated corporate foes. And Sen. Elizabeth Warren is too busy building a “merchandising empire” to be a legitimate populist force.

All told, the so-called “Sanders litmus test” is increasingly putting the squeeze on would-be Democratic presidential candidates. It’s also creating a significant tear in the party fabric which prevents them from offering a unified “resistance,” much less an undivided primary process. In fact, the only thing Democrats seem to be able to agree on these days is that Hillary Clinton was a poor candidate who needs to quietly go away. Unfortunately, that’s not going to take them very far in 2020.