Three 'black swans' who have upended political calculations for 2014 and beyond
By Noemie Emery | July 22, 2014 | 5:00 pm
Remember the presidential race between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, the front runners eight years ago, each tough as nails, each combat-tested and raring to go?
It was one for the ages, except it was not: Rudy dropped out before the gates opened, Hillary met a community organizer, and we all know the rest.
But the race that took place was almost as thrilling: a true neck and neck between John McCain and Barack Obama, who entered September in a virtual tie. McCain was leading on Sept. 15 when the fiscal system went bust, taking with it the entire economy: a nail-biter turned into an absolute blowout, and that was that.
This means that predictions made even weeks in advance can turn out to mean little, and "black swan" events can upend the conventional wisdom. In less than two months, three stunning events -- Iraq, the border, and the plane in Ukraine -- upended everything, certainly for the next two national cycles. Here are the ways that they did.
First foreign policy: Unless some unforeseen success contrives to come through in the very near future, the Democrats' long effort to rebrand themselves as the party of foreign policy prowess has taken a serious hit. Gone are the glory days of the hit on Osama bin Laden; gone are the boasts that two wars had been ended; gone are the claims that their power was "smart."
Everything now is in much worse shape than it was when President Obama took over: bin Laden is dead, but his successors are even more virulent. Mitt Romney was mocked when he mentioned the Cold War, but ask the Ukrainians if it hasn't come back. The fruit of the doctrine of "lead from behind" is an emerging caliphate state in Iraq and Syria.
Obama and Joe Biden gave the Republicans a gift in 2010 and 2011 when they talked up Iraq as their national triumph, leaving them to explain how under their leadership this success story turned into the chaos that we see today.
This doesn't mean the Republicans are out of the woods, but they have the chance now to present themselves as the sober alternative to a discredited doctrine whose implausibility is ever more obvious. The foreign policy debates leading into 2016 will be very important, and doors are wide now that were not open earlier.
Which brings us to case number two: A few weeks ago, immigration was a win-win for Democrats, but it has been transformed in days to a lose-lose for everyone, or even a possible boost for Republicans, who don't seem so thoroughly hexed. For a change, it's an issue that splinters the Democrats: some on the left want the immigrants welcomed, others want order restored. Governors are enraged, and blacks and Hispanics aren't happy.
Sounding like a Tea Partier, a black matron railed at her representative because illegals get more attention than native Americans: "It's our country," she roared. This opens the way for a Marco Rubio to re-emerge with a common sense compromise. And the chaos of course rebounds on Obama, who seems to be stepping in everything.
Which brings us to point number three: There was a time where Obama and Hillary Clinton were in the same boat, but that was then. Now the lady is rowing away from the Titanic, so that the undertow won’t take her down. Watch her triangulate between the GOP and Obama, setting her course by his sliding poll numbers.
Can she run at once against both Republicans and her party's own president? We may be about to find out.