Groundhog Day Starring Hillary Clinton – Harold Ramis’s delightful hit Groundhog Day inaugurated a new genre for moviegoers – existentialism on loop – where the main character must relive every day until the individual achieves a breakthrough. It could be battling aliens (Edge of Tomorrow), terrorists (Source Code), or in Groundhog Day’s case, a heartwarming redemption.
Modern presidential campaigns can be a Groundhog Day experience for Americans, given the increasing number of years to which a candidate subjects the country’s citizens. The repeat experience used to be more acute when parties renominated unsuccessful nominees. In the twentieth century, both parties renominated an unsuccessful candidate a total of four times; however, neither has done so since 1968.
As the Biden White House lurches from disaster to disaster, the Democratic Party faces a Groundhog Day nomination scenario. Party insiders have become increasingly nervous as Dems have belatedly discovered Biden’s numerous shortcomings.
Increasingly desperate, some dare consider She Who Must Not Be Named – Hillary Clinton.
What Does History Say About Hillary Clinton 2024? Think Nixon
There is precedent for an unsuccessful nominee to win the White House a second time around, but boosters are more hopeful than they are realistic. Worse, Hillary 2024 advocates are blind to the only common thread running through the Obama, Trump, and Biden victories.
“Having lost a close one eight years ago and having won a close one this year…”
The only modern presidential nominee to win a presidential election after losing previously was Richard Nixon in 1968.
In 1960, Vice-President Richard Nixon lost one of the closest elections in American history. Despite tremendous advantages in experience and gravitas, Nixon was defeated by the articulate and telegenic JFK. Eight years later, Nixon returned from the wilderness to recapture his party’s nomination and finally win the presidency.
Nixon’s arc from 1960 to 1968 proves that a successful Hillary run in 2024 eight years after the loss to Trump in 2016 is within the realm of possibility.
Additional similarities bolster the argument for Hillary 2024.
Nixon’s candidacy in 1968 seemed to be the rare occasion when the man meets the moment. The United States had been riven by clashes over civil rights and the Vietnam War since Nixon’s departure from the scene. Although ensconced in private life for the preceding eight years, he remained a tireless campaigner for fellow Republicans, and his absence from the polarization of the era gave him the aura of a statesman in waiting. Compared to other Republican challengers such as Rockefeller, Romney, and Reagan, Nixon was the most experienced and prepared to assume the presidency.
Advocates of Hillary Clinton 2024 have argued the same. Amid unprecedented polarization, proponents argue the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade necessitates her leadership more than ever. Compared to the listlessness of the Biden Administration, supporters assert Hillary would be the most effective spokesperson for abortion rights and would be more decisive in wielding the powers of the presidency to preserve access to it. In 2016, her supporters endlessly referred to her as “the most qualified candidate ever;” in 2024, she’d be “the most vital candidate ever.”
While the penchant for polarization and scandal is comparable, it highlights another quality. Nixon was the devil incarnate for liberals ever since he collected the scalp of Alger Hiss in 1948, but their hatred only cemented Nixon’s stature among anti-communist Americans and the loyalty of his constituency. Similarly, Hillary infuriated conservatives when she arrogantly dismissed homemaking, aggressively insisted on a policymaking role in her husband’s presidency, and secretly planned to subordinate one-seventh of the economy to the government. But neither Nixon nor Hillary ever recoiled from a fight with the opposition, and neither retreated in the face of scandal.
Even the distinctly Nixonian quality of toughness can be justifiably labeled Hillaryesque. Just as Nixon always remained on the attack when campaigning, Hillary never quit despite the delegate count or seemingly indestructible nature of her opponent. When a voter at the second debate in 2016 asked each candidate to say one nice thing about each other, even Trump acknowledged her toughness.
Nixon retained diehard supporters up to the end (and then even beyond); Hillary’s viability this year is an indicator of a similar devotion.
Nixon and Hillary Clinton: Maybe Not a Good Comparison Overall?
Nonetheless, the deeper the examination, the less the parallel holds up.
Nixon was the nominee of the out-of-power party; Hillary would be the nominee of the incumbent party.
Nixon benefited from the glaring divisions in the Democratic Party and George Wallace’s independent candidacy; Hillary would face a united Republican Party, one fanatically so if it re-nominates Trump.
Nixon versus Humphrey was not a rematch. If the GOP re-nominates Trump, Hillary would have to do what no repeat nominee has done since 1892, win a rematch.
Nixon was a formidable campaigner; Hillary failed despite being the heavy favorite – twice if one counts losing the party nomination to Obama in 2008.
Nixon was fifty-six when he was inaugurated; Hillary would be seventy-seven, and Biden’s senescence has extinguished any tolerance for septuagenarian nominees, at least on the Democratic side.
“The dream shall never die…”
The more appropriate comparison is Ted Kennedy’s failed bid to win the nomination over incumbent President Carter in 1980.
Kennedy embarked on his campaign in part because of Carter’s missteps, but also in part because the latter’s agenda was too conservative for the party’s liberal base. Kennedy stepped forward as the heir to the liberal tradition embodied by FDR and LBJ and the lost promise of his ill-fated brothers.
Hillary would be the nominee because of Biden’s incompetence, period. Hillary represents no philosophical aspiration. Hillary would be running because of her electability (as well as her wounded self-regard) — hardly the inspiration for a demoralized party.
Of course, Biden is so singular in his failure that Hillary might succeed where Kennedy did not. For all the negative comparisons to Carter, a Biden loss would improve the thirty-ninth president’s historical standing in one dimension. If Hillary defeated a sitting president for the nomination, then Carterites could claim their hero at least defeated his challenger.
Lastly, ever since Bush 41, voters have been aggressively anti-Establishment, more responsive to outsiders, and less demanding of experience. Bush 43 only had five years of experience before announcing his candidacy, Obama only had three, and Trump had none. Hillary has been a public figure since, well, Bush 41.
To be blunt, re-nominating Hillary would simply be a complete misreading of the American electorate. If there is anything that the Obama, Trump, and Biden elections have proven, Americans don’t exactly love Hillary Clinton.
Between 2008 and 2016, a wide-ranging swath of voters agreed a rookie Senator and a celebrity real estate magnate would be preferable to her in the White House. In 2020, Hillary wasn’t on the ballot, but voters turned out in more significant numbers for an overachieving mediocre politician to replace the real estate magnate who beat her.
Unlike Bill Murray’s Phil Connors in Groundhog Day, Hillary in 2024 would not foreshadow redemption. It would simply mark desperation. And insanity — i.e., doing things repeatedly and expecting different results.
R. Jordan Prescott is a private contractor working in defense and national security since 2002. He has been published in RealClearDefense, The National Interest, Small Wars Journal, and Modern War Institute.