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February 12, 2014 2:46 PM Krystal Ball To HRC: Please Save Us From You!

By Ed Kilgore

Not being a frequent consumer of television political talk, I’m not familiar much at all with MSNBC contributor Krystal Ball; I’ve never once watched the show she co-hosts, The Cycle. So I can with impeccable objectivity look at her cri de coeur on the MSNBC site urging Hillary Clinton not to run for president.

If you haven’t read the piece and don’t want to now, here’s a precis: she expresses her passionate admiration for HRC (despite all sorts of pro-corporate connections and behavior which Ball just as passionately itemizes), but thinks she the wrong person to take up the cudgels in 2016. Here’s the money quote:

[I]n a time when we badly need to be inspired, rallied, and made to believe that America can once again be true to the American dream, we desperately need someone who is mission driven. We need someone who is clearly passionate, who is living and breathing and feeling in their bones the plight of the worker and the middle class, and who is unafraid to stand up to the Wall Street titans. That person is not Hillary Clinton. It is Elizabeth Warren.

Since we are going to hear this sort of thing for a while during the “invisible primary” phase of the 2016 presidential cycle, I have a simple request of people who feel like Ms. Ball: could you try to make it clear whether you think HRC can’t win, or that you don’t think she’d do what it takes if elected, or both? Is the requisite “passion” and “living and breathing and feeling in their bones” a political credential, or a statement of intent about future policies? I realize some progressives think the question is a crock, because obviously a “populist” campaign that refuses to “blur the differences” with the Right is now and forever the sure path to victory. But that’s probably something we should talk about, not simply assume.

As it happens, HRC is looking pretty robust in the electability department right now (a new Marist/McLatchey poll shows her beating every named GOP rival by margins ranging from 8% to over 20%; she’s beating the “Establishment” favorites Chris Christie and Jeb Bush by 21% and 20%, respectively). So if that’s what is worrying Ball, she might want to explain her concerns more explicitly. And if, on the other hand, she just doesn’t think HRC is progressive enough, or anti-Wall Street enough, or “passionate” enough to get the job done in the White House, she might want to spend some time wondering why Clinton is so popular among Democrats, to the point where—by her own admission—the real-deal candidate Elizabeth Warren wouldn’t have a prayer (and almost certainly wouldn’t run) unless HRC gave the race a pass.

In any event, I can’t imagine Ball thinks this plea will tug Hillary Clinton’s heartstrings or affect her calculations. On second thought, I’m not tough enough and I’m horribly compromised by my friendships with evil people isn’t a thought-bubble likely to appear above her head. So if Krystal Ball means what she says, she should drop the protestations of deep love for Clinton and just plain attack her and call for someone to run her right out of the race. This is why we have nomination contests, and if no one has a prayer of beating Hillary Clinton, it’s probably a pretty good sign she’s not the grossly inappropriate nominee Ball makes her out to be.

UPDATE: Note to commenter Robert Waldmann: Look, I’m aware my writing often aggrieves you greatly, and I’m sorry about that. But in this case: Good God, lighten up. I’m not trying to shut anyone down or burn any straw men. This was a light mocking of a celebrity pundit who’s getting a lot of attention for making a noisy but insincere and imprecise argument against HRC’s candidacy. No, I do not know exactly how many people embrace the “move left to win” argument (not as many as those who embrace the “move right to win” theory, I’m pretty sure), but you know very well it’s been out there for years. My friend Armando Llorens wrote it up constantly at his various outlets,calling it the “1860 strategy.” It was the implicit argument of the Lackoffians. It’s the explicit argument of everyone who’s ever accused “centrists” of trying to “blur the differences” between the parties. As for “intellectual honesty,” I think I’m more careful about sourcing arguments I criticize than most bloggers, but sometimes it’s so obviously a part of the the discourse that I don’t bother. But my main response is: this is a news cycle blog written very rapidly with a premium on depth and stimulation rather than total precision. Every post is not going to survive unscathed from a hostile parsing of every word. I have to live with that, and you should, too.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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