Forget Populism: The Establishment Would Rule a Clinton White House

Forget Populism: The Establishment Would Rule a Clinton White House

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Last week, before the bombshell about the FBI looking at a new batch of emails, a story planted with Politico said that Vice President Joe Biden is on a short list of candidates for Secretary of State in a Hillary Clinton Cabinet.

The campaign has been mum about other potential appointees, but sources with insights into the thinking of Clinton’s transition team told Politico there is strategizing about how to approach Biden who declined to seek the presidency last year after the untimely death of his son Beau. He later said he regrets every day not running, but it was the right decision.

Related: Leaked Memo Shows Clinton Foundation’s Tangled Web of Money and Favors

Maybe Hillary’s handlers were simply floating a balloon to divert a media beset by attention deficit disorder away from further reports about WikiLeaked emails that portray the Clinton Foundation as an enrichment vehicle for Bill Clinton Inc. (Though the new FBI investigation into emails found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, the former congressman and estranged husband of close Clinton aide Huma Abedin, did that nicely.)

Or maybe they thought that in a tight race between two candidates with such high unfavorable ratings, Clinton might benefit from the suggestion that her administration could include Biden, who lately has cultivated the image of an avuncular if sometimes fumbling family member: good-natured Uncle Joe.

But there are downsides to that ploy.

First, it signals that a third Clinton administration will be business as usual. It’s a stick in the eye to all the Americans grumbling for change who signed onto the out-of-nowhere candidacy of Bernie Sanders and the millions more who see (or saw) in Donald Trump a wild and crazy chance to defy the political Establishment of both parties and elect an outsider to run the country.

The Biden diversion isn’t the only sign out there that we are about to get four more years of ‘same old, same old’ if Hillary is elected.

Related: Did a Mutiny at the FBI Impel Comey to Send That Letter?

Intense pressure is being put on John Podesta, the top dog in the Clinton Campaign and the owner of the hacked email account from which Clinton Foundation revelations were flowing, to be her Chief of Staff. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But Podesta is the political Establishment. A founder (with his brother Tony) of the powerhouse lobbying firm Podesta Group, he served as Deputy Chief of Staff in the first Clinton White House and Chief of Staff in the second. He is about as inside an insider as it gets in Washington.

Then there is Ken Salazar. The former Senator and Interior Secretary in the first Obama Administration is the head of the Clinton transition team, which will present Madame President – should there be one -- with a list of choices for her Cabinet, as well as lesser posts. His day job is partner in WilmerHale, a big-name law and lobbying firm.

See a lot of change a-comin’ here?

Another reason why the Biden balloon might be not so smart is all those Bernie-loving Millennials who have been standoffish when it comes to Clinton.

If they look past lovable Uncle Joe, they will find Biden’s senatorial history as a water-carrier for the credit-card industry, a powerful force in his home state of Delaware. He wasn’t exactly a paragon of progressive dogma.

Related: The Growing Republican Chorus: If Clinton Wins, She Should Be Impeached

When Biden was considering a run last summer, a story in The New York Times said that his record as a close ally of the financial-services industry for three decades would be difficult to overcome in the face of a populist insurgency – the one that saw Wall Street critics like Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren stoke outrage against credit-card companies and other sharks feeding off the middle class.    

The tired defense of old liberals like Biden is that if you’re a senator in a state that relies heavily on a certain industry, you should be excused for essentially being a publicly elected lobbyist for the interest of that business. But that sort of Beltway thinking doesn’t fly with young people eager for fresh faces and new approaches.

Maybe Hillary’s folks were feeling so confident of victory that they didn’t think she still needed Bernie’s band of insurgents.

But with Clinton holding just a 2.2 point edge in the Real Clear Politics poll average today and the FBI investigation still hanging out there (even if it may not be moving voter preferences much), she will need every vote she can muster. Thumbing her nose at progressives and young voters hungry for change is no way to get them to the polls.