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A Known Entity

A thing that just occurred to me is that Hillary Clinton, as a putative nominee, will have been in the public eye for twenty-five years (or so) before the election in November. As a contrast, nobody had heard of Our Only President until he ran for President in 2007. Yes, I know, you remember his speech in 2004. When I say nobody, I mean nobody except political junkies and other newsnerds, and that is what I will continue to mean by it for the rest of the note. I could look up his name recognition numbers from 2006, but I feel pretty confident they were low. Our Previous President was the son of a President, so he wasn’t completely obscure, but I don’t think anybody knew anything about him, really, until he ran for President in 1999 or so. And before that was the Man from Hope, who nobody had heard of until he ran for President in 1991. So the last time that anyone took office who was properly famous two years before was Poppy Bush, who in 1987 had been Vice-President for a term and a half. Really, though, the better comparison is to Ronald Reagan, who had been really famous for decades, and a more or less polarizing (for the time) political figure for fifteen years.

Let’s go back to the losing sides: Mitt Romney was not an obscure figure, but I think most people didn’t know much about him, probably those outside Massachusetts and Utah couldn’t have named what he had done, and they hadn’t made up their minds about him in any sense. John McCain may well have been famous; I don’t know. Al Gore was of course famous in whatever sense you want to use. Perhaps a Saturday Night Live test of famousness. Bob Dole would have passed that test in 1994… maybe? Around the John McCain level, at least. Michael Dukakis was Clinton-level obscure before running. Fritz Mondale, though, was well-known, or at least, he was just about as well-known as Veep as he became during that election. I’m not sure SNL ever did Mondale.

Digression: Mondale and especially Hubert Humphrey are the best examples of why fans of Elizabeth Warren should be loudly rejecting the notion of the Senator accepting a Vice-Presidential nomination. Good legislators that became… well, let’s just say that nobody wants to be the 21st century Mondale. Nobody wants have an obituary that reminds people of forgotten accomplishments before the years of the peculiarly prominent obscurity that is the Vice-Presidency of the United States. Even Joe Biden, Lord love him, will be remembered as That Veep. It’s different if you think that there’s a real chance of the Presidency, eventually. Oh, hey, trivia question: who was the last Vice-President to go on to serve two full terms as President? End Digression.

The reason I find this interesting is that people know Hillary Clinton in a way they haven’t known a candidate since Reagan. They’ve made up their minds about her. She is, of course, loathed and vilified with a viciousness truly difficult for her supporters to believe; she is also very popular and widely admired. She needs no introduction. We haven’t had a candidate like that since Reagan, which is nine elections ago. I don’t really know what difference that will make, but it’s bound to make some sort of difference.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Trump is at a similar level of celebrity.

True—In fact, I suspect he is at a far higher level of celebrity. Were he to become the nominee, that would make a great deal of difference... but I still think it's unlikely.


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