It was probably inevitable. On Sunday, Politico published an article insisting that Hillary Clinton is going to run for president in 2020. Normally, speculation about the next presidential election doesn't kick off in earnest until at least a few months into the new president's term, but apparently we're off to an early start this time. But seriously, stop speculating about Hillary Clinton running in 2020. There are too many other important things going on in the country right now.
The Politico article was written by former George W. Bush speechwriter, Matt Latimer, and he certainly makes interesting observations about Clinton's post-election moves. If one looks closely at what Clinton has said and done since election night, one can indeed find a few bits of evidence that suggest she might be leaving the door open to a 2020 run. Of course, there are just as many reasons to think that she won't run, but Latimer does an able job outlining the argument that she will.
I don't disagree with Latimer's reporting, but I am worried about what this report may spark. The thing is, there's no reason to be making that argument about whether Clinton will run right now, because there's no reason to be speculating about 2020 in the first place.
There are two reasons not to be so focused on the 2020 election: First of all, it's a fool's errand, and second of all, it's a distraction from the many, many other news stories that we should be focusing on. You know, the stuff that's actually happening, as opposed to the stuff that might theoretically happen in three years.
Over the last week or so, the following events took place:
- North Korea tested a ballistic missile
- The Trump administration started deportation raids across the country
- President Trump lost a huge court case when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate his travel ban
- The president, in turn, said that Americans should blame the judicial branch if there's a terrorist attack in the U.S.
- National Security Advisor Michael Flynn became embroiled in a potentially huge scandal surrounding conversations that he may or may not have had with the Russian ambassador prior to Trump's inauguration
Those are just the first five things to pop into my head, and every single one of them is more relevant and newsworthy than 2020 presidential speculation. It's hard enough to keep track of all of the legitimate news stories right now; the last thing I think the country needs is to get distracted by baseless speculation about the next presidential contest.
What's more, presidential speculation is often wrong — and that goes triple when it's conducted almost three before an election. Back in 2005, a CNN poll declared Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were the frontrunners for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations in 2008, respectively. A 2013 Marist poll found that Chris Christie and Paul Ryan were the favorites to win the GOP nomination three years later — although some disagreed, and instead claimed that Rand Paul was the 2016 frontrunner. Obviously, this was all completely off-base, and for a simple reason: Politics is unpredictable.
The impulse to focus on 2020 is understandable. For many of those who oppose President Trump, the next presidential election can't come soon enough. More broadly, the 2016 campaign was so excruciatingly long that it's sometimes hard to remember what life was like before it began, so it makes sense that our brains are still in campaign mode. But I believe that trying to game out Clinton's 2020 plans really isn't what the country should be devoting its energy to right now. Let's focus on the here and the now.