Now that she has finally dispensed with her only rival for the nomination; US Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont), Hillary Clinton could have a unique opportunity. The former first lady could be in a position to craft a new Democratic coalition that will dominate American politics for a generation.
Clinton has this opportunity because of the way that the electoral contest is shaping up this year. Three developments in particular could give Hillary the chance to build a political coalition as influential and as broad as those of Ronald Reagan or Franklin D. Roosevelt. These circumstances are:
- Polls indicate that Hillary is poised for a massive victory in this fall’s presidential election. Data tabulated by Real Clear Politics shows that she would beat the most-probable Republican candidate; Donald Trump, 48.8% to 39.5% in the general election. She would beat another potential Republican candidate US Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) by a margin of around 2.3%. Note: I think this margin will grow once the American people learn who Ted Cruz is; and sample some of his extremist agenda. Similar large victories put Reagan and FDR in a position to build large coalitions.
- The Republican Party seems to be cracking up. Trump has alienated some influential elements in the party including many intellectuals and business interests with some of his stands. Cruz has also alienated a lot of people, although not as many as Trump. Some of these people could be attracted to a centrist Democrat such as Hillary.
- There is widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo in the United States. That opens the door to new alliances, and aggressive reform efforts. Many people seem to be open to shifting alliances. For example: some cultural conservatives and evangelicals seem to be willing to vote for openly secular candidates such as Trump – something that would have been unheard of 10 years ago.
Hillary could be in a position to build the kind of effective political coalition that eluded her husband. Bill Clinton was never able to effectively unite his party, nor to attract dissident elements of the GOP. Hillary could be in such a position right now.
Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan capitalized upon a Democratic crackup by appealing to disillusioned elements in that party. Reagan shrewdly reached out to working-class whites, Southerners, anticommunists and Cultural Conservatives who disliked where their party was heading, and lured them into the GOP.
How Clinton could Get Republican Support
Clinton has a chance to appeal to some elements of the GOP including: moderates, neoconservative foreign policy hawks, upper-class whites, intellectuals, free traders, big business and libertarians. Trump’s aggressive stand on trade; pushing a 45% tariff on Chinese-made goods, could provide the wedge that cracks the GOP apart. Cruz’s far-right cultural positions could also drive off many moderates.
Another group Hillary could appeal to are the enraged working-class whites that Trump has stirred up. If Cruz succeeds in outmaneuvering Trump for the nomination, Clinton could make a play for such voters with some tough stands on trade.
An intriguing advantage she might get is a Donald Trump endorsement. Trump is likely to return the Democratic fold and try to mend fences with the Clintons if he loses the nomination.
If Trump is the nominee, Clinton will be in a good position to gather a lot of support in historically Republican areas. Potentially she could carry some red states such as Utah, and turn others such as Texas purple. Purple states are those evenly divided between Red Republicans and Blue Democrats. A few purple states including; Colorado, Nevada and Arizona, are likely to turn Democratic blue this November. Trump as the GOP candidate will make Democrats more palatable to a lot of moderates, and even some conservatives and libertarians.
What the New Democratic Coalition could Look Like
My guess is that new Democratic coalition will look something like this: African-Americans, big business, unions, moderate middle class voters, upper class whites, Hispanics and a scattering of intellectuals. The alliance will be an uneasy one, but it could form the basis for a new Democratic majority.
Some of the elements that could support Hillary against Trump such as libertarians or conservative intellectuals might drift back to the GOP after the election. Others will stay making the New Democratic Party, a very interesting place.
Clinton will also face some serious challenges and possible upheavals in her own party. She is already facing what amounts a revolt by liberal and leftist intellectuals and young people in her own party. This revolt; which is currently led by Bernie Sanders, is far from over and it has some support in traditional Democratic institutions such as unions.
There have also been eruptions of revolt among some other reliably Democratic elements including; educated white middle class professionals especially in rural areas. Hillary will have to find some means of winning these people or at least neutralizing them if she wants an effective party.
A major problem Hillary could face is a generation of radical-young leftists who are intent on pushing a more aggressive agenda. If Democrats retake control of congress in 2017 such people; led by US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Bernie, are likely to be the most influential element.
That means we could see some unusual alliances with moderate; or even conservative, Republicans rallying to help Hillary; while many Democrats attack her. An intriguing possibility could be an alliance of right-wing Republicans; such as Ted Cruz, and left-wing Democrats united to thwart Hillary’s agenda.
The old saying that “politics makes strange bedfellows,” is truer than ever. If Hillary understands that, she could have some interesting opportunities to build an effective and fascinating new coalition that will reshape American politics.