Pity the Democrats: The Clintons will just not go away. The magical resilience of the clan headed by the Comeback Kid has become a curse. The party on which they thrust themselves on a quarter of a century ago has moved on, but the Clintons haven’t.
Recently, the Clintons’ promoter announced the pair would begin touring select cities next month. Mercifully for Democrats, it will begin after the midterm elections. Organized by Live Nation, which usually books major pop acts, “An Evening with President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton” will come to 13 lucky cities. Perhaps they’ll sell tee-shirts!
Amazingly, no other former first couples have thought of this. However, no shortage of aging rock bands have. The longing for adoring crowds and ringing cash registers have enticed many acts to come out of retirement in hopes of another shot at stardom. Of course, some prove harder to coax from retirement than others. Assuredly, the Clintons did so for a simple reason: they have steadfastly refused to retire.
Playing the Old Hits?
If the Clintons follow other former headliners’ formula, they will be performing some new material along with their former hits. It will be interesting to see how their relatively moderate stylings measure up to today’s liberal tastes. Their takes on the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings should be interesting, to say the least.
As a result of perjury, Bill Clinton agreed to a five-year suspension of his Arkansas law license. Their thoughts about Kavanaugh’s legal qualifications should be uniquely insightful. Of course, the recent Supreme Court confirmation battle also raises questions about the Me Too movement. Again, few couples in America are more qualified to talk about this issue–and the less-than-sensitive responses such allegations can elicit from the accused–than the Clintons.
Health care remains a major policy issue. Here, the Clintons can perhaps get a second shot at explaining their health care thoughts, something they proved spectacularly unable to do 25 years ago.
If their new material does not work, they still have golden oldies to fall back on. After all, isn’t that the real reason people come to these retro shows?
Their biggest hit was undoubtedly the Clinton administration’s economy and budget surpluses. The fact that these were fueled by spending cuts could cause this number to sound a bit dated to liberals thoroughly dedicated to spending. That the cuts were forced on the Clinton administration by a Republican Congress should soothe diehards, to a degree.
They could also reprise one of the duo’s first big hits—Bill Clinton’s famous Sister Souljah moment when he repudiated the rapper at Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition in 1992. That should go over well with audiences who have embraced identity politics to the point of suffocation. If nothing else, it could invoke some nostalgia for a time when extremism could still be seen to exist somewhere besides the right.
There is also the couple’s mid-administration hit: welfare reform. Hard as today’s audiences may find it to hear, when the Clintons were searching for a chart-topper to keep them in the White House beyond 1996, they came up with this. Hated by the left even then, it should go over really well now.
The Last Album: #I’mWithHer
There is always the Clintons’ last hit album: Hillary 2016. There are so many tracks that could be lifted from this one, it will be hard to avoid this becoming a show unto itself. Russia, the investigation into her emails, the dossier––the hits just keep on coming. More manageable would be just capturing its mood: Hillary being defensively and consistently outflanked on the left by Sanders. Now that their audience has gone even more to the left, reprising this should certainly whip attendees into a frenzy.
If nothing more, this paroxysm of narcissism can capture that the Clintons lucked into the White House, but always seemed like they felt entitled to it. The coda on the Clintons is that the Democrats never wanted them. In 1992, their real heartthrobs had abandoned the race before it began.
A series of unimaginable breaks occurred for them, catapulting them into the limelight: Ross Perot splitting the conservative vote, Lee Atwater’s untimely death a year earlier, which left Republicans without an attack mode, and a shallow economic downturn. Despite these, Bill Clinton would go on to win with the smallest popular vote share in 80 years.
Once in office, the Clintons fumbled massive Democratic majorities in Congress and produced one of the biggest bombs in presidential history: ClintonCare. In 1994, they ushered in a Republican Congress for the first time in decades. In 1996, Clinton still failed to win a popular majority. Clinton finished his presidency only because he survived impeachment via sympathy.
From this ignominious run, they continued, switching places, but not outcomes. If this tour can offer America anything, it is this: a reminder that the Clintons were never invited to the party. They came in through the back door. Now, Democrats cannot get them to leave. It should be some tour–just don’t mistake it for a farewell one.
J.T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.