Gary Hart says the prospect of a billion-dollar Hillary campaign should 'frighten' every American
Former Colorado senator and Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart had some choice words for Hillary Clinton and the dynastic nature of current American politics.
In an interview with Politico, Hart praised his former staffer, Martin O'Malley, and thought that Elizabeth Warren was a "courageous" politician:
"I like Hillary Clinton. I really appreciate what she and her husband have done … but we need new leaders,” said Hart, a former Colorado senator who rose from the bottom of the polls and nearly took down Walter Mondale in the 1984 primaries.
The post-Citizens United campaign finance environment has sullied the presidential process, he said, benefiting establishment politicians who cater to financial backers. He pointed to his own experience, noting that he and his wife mortgaged their home for between $50,000 and $75,000 — an amount that made a significant difference in his first campaign in 1984.
“I’m now told the Clinton campaign intends to raise $1 billion. Now, that ought to frighten every American,” he said.
“If you’ve got to have a billion dollars to run for president, how many people can do that? Only the Clintons and the Bushes and one or two others,” he said.
“This country is 330 million people, and we should not be down to two families who are qualified to govern. … When you create dynastic networks, you shut a lot of people out,” he added.
Hart, who finished second to Mondale in the 1984 Democratic primary, said he has no doubt Clinton will get a primary challenger. And he argued that the challenger — whether it’s O’Malley or anyone else — should force Clinton to clarify her stance on key issues, something he says would be “therapy” for the party.
“The job of a challenger is to force specificity: Here is my plan, now let’s see her plan,” he said. Asked whether Clinton has not been adequately specific — he used the words “specific” or “specificity” 10 times in a half-hour interview — the former senator said she hasn’t been “pressed.”
His advice to prospective challengers to Clinton, like O’Malley? Be specific on policy, play up the generational divide and aggressively court small-money Internet donors.
It's ironic that Hart thinks a billion-dollar campaign is frightening, when President Obama's 2012 effort also spent a billion dollars. This after Obama promised in the 2008 campaign to forgoe raising independent funds and take public money to run for the office. We all know how that worked out.
But Hart's advice to O'Malley and any other Democrat who may run is spot-on. Hillary Clinton has absolutely nothing to say – no specific plans or policies. She plans on running on her gender, hoping that will be enough to put her over the top. Any specifics she doles out along the way are incidental to her primary thrust of exciting female voters over the prospect of her becoming the first female president.
Hart thinks O'Malley can counter that by coming out with a liberal policy agenda that's specific enough that he can challenge Hillary to do the same. In effect, this would pull Clinton even farther left – good for the base, not so good for the general election.
Hart is right about dynastic politics. But this is a different political landscape today – even compared to 2008. The answer for O'Malley is to win back millenials who have drifted away from the Democratic party because of President Obama's failed economic policies, and exciting minorities to get out and vote. Clinton is vulnerable with both of those groups, and a push by the former Maryland governor to win them may make the race more competitive.