A Strategy to Defeat the Republicans in 2016

It wasn’t that long ago that the conventional wisdom among D.C. pundits (cough – Ron Fournier – cough) was that Hillary Clinton would need to distance herself from President Obama during the 2016 election. But since she actually launched her campaign, it’s clear that she’s not going to do that.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is running as the most liberal Democratic presidential front-runner in decades, with positions on issues from gay marriage to immigration that would, in past elections, have put her at her party’s precarious left edge.

The moves are part of a strategic conclusion by Clinton’s emerging campaign: that it can harness the same kind of young and diverse coalition as Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012, bolstered by even stronger appeal among women.

In a previous post, I outlined the set of issues Clinton has addressed during these early stages of the campaign and noted that – so far – I’m impressed. Brian Beutler also took note and suggests that, rather than the triangulation Bill Clinton occasionally employed, Hillary’s “grand strategy” appears to be one of taking bold positions. But this statement by Beutler really caught my eye.

The nature of the strategy involves staking out a variety of progressive issue positions that enjoy broad support, but it’s not as straightforward as simply identifying the public sentiment and riding it to victory. The key is to embrace these ideas in ways that makes standard Republican counterspin completely unresponsive, and thus airs out the substantive core of their agenda: Rather than vie for conservative support by inching rightward, Clinton is instead reorienting liberal ideas in ways that make the Republican agenda come into greater focus.

That observation reminded me of a quote Ron Brownstein got from an Obama adviser back in December 2014.

One senior Obama adviser says the administration “To Do list” after 2012 included thinking “about how you lock in the Obama coalition for Democrats going forward. Because it’s not a 100 percent certainty that they come out for the next Democrat.” Part of the answer, the adviser said, was to pursue aggressive unilateral action on “a set of issues where we have an advantage … and believe are substantively the right thing to do” and dare Republicans to oppose him.

Hmmm…you don’t suppose these two have been working together on a strategy to defeat the Republicans in 2016, do you?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.