Is Hillary Clinton really inevitable?

I have an admission to make, which may sound a bit strange given my partisan leanings. I don’t really mind Hillary Clinton all that much.

Obviously I don’t support her political agenda, and I find most of what she stands for to be drastically out of step with what I stand for. I will never vote for her for any political office, anywhere.

Bill de Blasio hugs former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after his inauguration as New York City Mayor on Jan. 1, 2014. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

Bill de Blasio hugs former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after his inauguration as New York City Mayor on Jan. 1, 2014. Carlo Allegri | Reuters

But hearing her name or seeing her face no longer incites raging passions within me. There was a time when the mere hint of anything Hillary-related was enough to make my blood pressure go up into dangerous hypertension.

No longer hating Hillary is something true of most people, and it is largely responsible for the idea that Clinton is not only going to run for president, but that she will barely even need to try in order to win. It seems her White House portrait is already being commissioned, and any would-be Democrat or Republican challengers should just give up.

But why is she so “inevitable?”

Hillary Clinton has not been involved with politics for six years. This, by itself, is responsible for the general public’s lack of aversion to her. When she was politically active, she was a polarizing lightning rod, inciting partisan Democrats and Republicans to channel their combative partisan personalities into hyperbolic and often times absurd directions.

Serving as secretary of state, she is withdrawn from the political battles of her unpopular boss. While she likely supported nearly all of the Obama agenda, she wasn’t the one on the front lines making the case, arguing for his policies.

Obamacare, for instance, was more similar to Clinton’s own health care proposals from the 2008 primary, but she is more or less off the hook for the entire thing because she never participated in the fight.

Thus is the gift of all secretaries of state, as even the incompetent and unqualified look stately and heroic shaking hands with foreign dignitaries.

Even scandals, such as the administration’s handling of the Benghazi incident, seem not to touch her. Yes, conservatives scream bloody murder about it, but to the other two-thirds of the country that sounds like partisan recrimination. The issue is just too complex to really gain traction with the public.

And now, as the Obama administration’s foreign policy failures have become more readily apparent, she is no longer at the State Department at all. She is a private citizen, and what is to hate about a private citizen.

Even George W. Bush is viewed more favorably than unfavorably now. Such is the magic of removing yourself from the bottomless pit of politics.

Because of this, even knuckle-dragging, mouth breathing, extreme partisans find it more difficult than it was before to hate her.

But does that mean she is inevitable? Will she have a cake walk to the White House in 2016?

Hardly. Setting aside the historical precedent of candidates like her (not good), and setting aside her own track record as “the consensus choice” (not good), it doesn’t seem likely that the “inevitable” will ever happen.

Once she steps back into the political arena, you can expect my blood pressure to go back up. You can expect her to be the polarizing figure she has always been. And you can also expect all the political mistakes she has repeatedly made in her political career to come back and haunt her.

Since World War II, only once — once! — has there been a (non-incumbent) consensus nominee of a major political party. That one time was Richard Nixon in 1960, a reasonably popular vice president to a popular president (Dwight Eisenhower), and it was only “consensus” because Nixon bought off Nelson Rockefeller. Every other cycle has seen a fight for the nomination.

Hillary will have to fight once more for her party’s nomination.

Even if she gets it, she will have to fight a general election on difficult terms. Obama fatigue has already set in, and he still has three more years in office. The Republicans have a much better crop of candidates than they had in 2012. And the party will be absolutely obsessed with getting the White House back.

Can Hillary Clinton be the next president? Sure. But this country’s political history is unkind to people who are assumed to be unbeatable.

If you asked me to take Hillary Clinton or the field, I’d take the field.

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Matthew Gagnon

About Matthew Gagnon

Matthew Gagnon, of Yarmouth, is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a free market policy think tank based in Portland. Prior to Maine Heritage, he served as a senior strategist for the Republican Governors Association in Washington, D.C. Originally from Hampden, he has been involved with Maine politics for more than a decade.