Hillary Clinton has announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the President of the United States. The consensus appears to be that she is almost certain to win it and odds-on favourite to win the 2016 presidential election.
The Democratic pool appears incredibly thin. As the Republicans gear up for a proper contest featuring several credible contenders, the Democratic primaries look set to amount an anointment of the only serious candidate.
Of course, she has been here before. Clinton was the coming woman in 2008 before an unknown, charismatic senator pulled the rug out from under her coronation procession. But the odds on that happening twice seem too long to bet on.
It seems that the long shadow of Clintonian destiny is stifling the Democratic field, as a whole political generation prepare to sit this cycle out – and possibly not get another chance until the 2024 election.
This is unfortunate for the Democrats, because whilst there’s no doubt that electing the first female POTUS would be an historic moment it does not follow that such moments produce good presidents.
Barack Obama can scarcely be said to lead a stronger, less divided country than the one he inherited, for all his promise.
Yet he at least, with his complete dearth of executive experience, could serve as an empty vessel: a smiling blank space into which voters could project whatever hopes for change they harboured.
Clinton, on the other hand, comes with literally decades of baggage. She served with a chequered record in the current administration, famed for the government’s awkward response to the murder of the US ambassador to Libya in Benghazi and for routing her government emails through a private server and destroying them.
This makes it hard enough for her to present herself as a fresh face, but the baggage train stretches back all the way to her husband’s time in office and a series of shady, Cherie Blair-like “get-rich-quick schemes“.
Despite that long track record there is, at least on one view, comparably little to recommend Clinton to office.
Her record in the Senate was undistinguished, she authored a health reform (‘Hillarycare’) so toxic that a Democratic Congress didn’t table it, and as mentioned her recent stint in the Obama cabinet has not bathed her in glory either.
She may not even have much by way of personal charisma – few candidates opt, as Clinton did, to announce their candidacy with a pre-recorded video rather than a speech.
The source of her strength instead stems from two things: that she is a woman (not unimportant, but clearly not decisive); and that she is a Clinton. Obama demonstrated in 2008 that when Hillary stopped being the inevitable candidate, she wasn’t really the candidate of much else.
Yet this is not that electoral cycle. The Republicans are not seeking re-election at the tail end of a toxic administration, nor are they beholden to an out of control right-wing grassroots insurgency as they were at the start of the decades.
The GOP establishment has got control of the reins and the party has a selection of charismatic, capable candidates with solid track records of executive or legislative experience to choose from. It also has some, such as Marco Rubio, who could make the party competitive with some of the ethnic minority blocs the Democrats traditionally lean on.
The Republican candidate will also have been stress-tested in the fires of the primaries, a very useful function that the Democratic equivalent will not perform if it is uncompetitive.
In short, this is not an election the Democratic Party can afford to simply hand to someone they feel has waited their turn.
In Britain, we have seen what happens when an old guard veteran, with a burning sense of entitlement, stifles the competition who might have renewed their party to seize a crown they feel ought to have been theirs a long time ago. Gordon Brown happens.