Hillary Clinton officially announces: It Could Be Worse 2016

Hillary Clinton is running for president. This shouldn’t be news — she’s been winking and nodding for months — but her campaign officially launched today, which means that we have to talk about it like it’s something new.

But on a number of levels, Hillary Clinton and her campaign are nothing new.

Hillary Clinton is a known quantity, having been heavily involved at the highest levels of American politics for over 20 years, so she can’t seriously bill herself as a reformer with new ideas that will shake up Washington. Her rhetoric on domestic policy is a janky recitation of the Democratic Party’s small-ball tweaks to America’s wealth distribution; her understanding of America’s role in the world is even more hawkish than President Obama’s. She’s got sketchy ties to Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and even sketchier ties to the Religious Right. Voters seeking “change” in 2016 really should be looking elsewhere — not that they’ll find anything they like.

All signs point to Hillary Clinton running an intentionally boring campaign. She’s starting with a big lead and no serious primary challenger. Barring a major scandal — unlikely for a candidate that’s been as thoroughly vetted as Clinton — or national crisis, she can spend the next year and a half being, as Jonathan Chait put it, “the candidate of the only major American political party not run by lunatics.”

As long as Clinton remains the only candidate in the race who understands (not believes in) science and isn’t actively working to dismantle the Civil Rights Act, she doesn’t need to go out on any limbs in order to win the White House. I think that’s a shame, but until the Republican Party sobers up and offers a credible alternative — which isn’t going to happen any time soon — she has no incentive to do otherwise, and we have no choice but to go along and vote for her.

So it’s no wonder that Clinton didn’t seize the opportunity to make a grand announcement — no grandiose speech to a captive audience — that forcefully answered the “Why am I running?” question. The answer is something along the lines of “Why not? It could be worse.” Unlike her Republican opponents, who in no uncertain terms represent radical, tyrannical, oligarchical change, Hillary Clinton represents all of the things from the 1990s and 2010s that poll well, and a couple of things that don’t. She doesn’t need to make any hard choices in order to win; until that calculus changes, we can’t expect her to.

Hillary Clinton, via Alan Freed / Shutterstock

Hillary Clinton, via Alan Freed / Shutterstock

To be sure, Clinton seems primed to run an excellent version of this boring campaign. She has her finger on the pulse of the median American voter and, as evidenced by her announcement video, seems ready to capitalize on the fact that said median voter considers marriage equality, immigration reform and expanded economic opportunity to be noncontroversial must-dos before the decade is out.

That says more about how much progress the country has made over the last eight years than it does about her as a leader. On issues ranging from military intervention to marriage and economic equality, the median American voter in 2016 is safely to the left of where Hillary Clinton stood in 2008. Clinton’s done plenty of evolving since she last ran for office in an attempt to catch up; if and when she wins, she’ll enter the White House with a clear mandate for progress on these issues.

The question that remains, then, is how serious she is about following through on that mandate if and when she’s elected.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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