Barely a week out from the municipal election, some undergraduate students have already begun publicizing their new group called “Yale Students for Hillary” as a branch of the national Ready for Hillary movement. But in their zeal to ready Yale’s campus for Clinton’s all-but-certain presidential run, this group unintentionally undermines their own objectives and threatens to stall the progressive movement before it has a chance to take off.
Ostensibly, organizing for Hillary three years before the 2016 election would accomplish two main goals: first, it would build up excitement about Hillary on campus ahead of a 2016 run; and second, it would ensure that the best Democratic candidate (Hillary) would become the Democratic nominee.
But assumptions about the certainty of her nomination seem hauntingly familiar to the lead-up to Clinton’s 2008 run. Having served as senator from New York and first lady, Clinton assumed a front-runner status early on, marching toward what seemed like a locked-up nomination — until it wasn’t. Her star rose too quickly, too early, and she lost precious momentum going into Super Tuesday, which Obama used to rise up and take the nomination before Hillaryland even knew what had happened. I fear that a three-year head start to 2016 would only force a repeat of 2008.
Aside from damaging Hillary’s political viability, the group also undermines the progressive movement as a whole. Campaigning for an incumbent in 2012, Democrats missed the opportunity to analyze the priorities of the progressive community — conversations that typically occur in contested primaries. If Hillary faces no serious competition in the primary, we will delay for another four (maybe eight) years the chance to re-evaluate the platform of the Democratic Party.
Yale students should therefore keep their minds open to other progressive candidates in 2016. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has consistently led the charge for implementing a modern Glass-Steagall Act that would protect consumers from financial meltdown. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has called for a fundamental restructuring of the way our military deals with sexual assault. And Martin O’Malley has successfully sold bold progressivism to Americans below the Mason-Dixon Line. Before blindly organizing for Hillary, we should allow other potential candidates to make their case. If she eventually emerges victorious over the others in a contested primary, she will be a stronger candidate because of it.
This analysis comes with a major caveat: I am easily one of Clinton’s most ardent supporters, and I believe the combination of her domestic and foreign policy experience makes her one of the most qualified presidential candidates in American history. But such early sycophantic devotion to a candidate is misguided and will only hurt progressivism in this country and on this campus. If Yale students want to bring about concrete political change, they should instead focus their energies on winning crucial congressional and statewide races in 2014.
Next year, Americans have the chance to retire scores of Tea Party congressional Republicans who have obstructed progress in this country. Here in Connecticut, one of the country’s most progressive governors will face re-election. And even the often-overlooked State House and State Senate races across the country have the potential to bring about real change in the form of marriage equality, Medicaid expansion and criminal justice reform.
But if Yale students devote even an ounce of energy to 2016 before looking at the races that come before, they are doing the Democratic Party and the progressive movement as a whole a disservice.
One day, I might be ready for Hillary. But not today.
Tyler Blackmon is a sophomore in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.