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Hillary Clinton won't go away. In May, she formed a political action group to advance progressive causes. It's called "Onward Together." As a rallying cry, is there anything more stale and timeworn?

In a couple of weeks, Ms. Clinton is bringing out a book. It's called What Happened. Which is just what Democrats don't want to be reminded of.

Their attitude, by contrast, is "We've just gone through a stunning electoral disaster with you at the helm, Hillary. We'd rather not relive and relitigate it. Much as we've admired you over the years, we'd prefer you to drop into a sinkhole until the next eclipse. Oh, and please take Nancy Pelosi with you."

At 69, Ms. Clinton isn't planning to run again. At least we think not. But evidently, after several decades in the forefront, she wants to remain in the forefront. So does Ms. Pelosi, the House Minority leader who is 77 years old, and whose ideas are about as fresh and catchy as Ms. Clinton's. Democrats have been working the corridors to get her to go. Like Ms. Clinton, she's as stubborn as a canal horse.

From 2016: How Bill and Hillary raised and earned millions from Canada's corporate elite

Given Donald Trump's wretched presidency, the Democrats heading into next year's vitally important midterm elections should have stars in their eyes. So far, though, they are being out-fundraised by the Republicans by a wide margin. They have lost several special elections to the GOP since Mr. Trump came to power. Most Americans, according to a recent poll, don't even know what the Democratic Party stands for.

The party hasn't been idle on the policy front. In July, it unveiled a new platform under the slogan, "A Better Deal." Among its main features were a $15-an-hour minimum wage, lower prescription-drug prices and a promise to curb corporate monopolies, which, the platform said, are driving down competition.

The focus is on the economy, not identity politics. "Old-fashioned capitalism has broken down to the detriment of consumers," said the party's Senate leader, Chuck Schumer.

The Better Deal got next to no traction. The imprint of Ms. Clinton's handiwork is still too thick. She is a symbol of old politics, of elitism and now of defeat, and should be aware of it.

The Democrats do not have a shortage of potentially strong leaders. They include senators Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand. Also in the mix is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, former vice-president Joe Biden and, although she says she has no interest, former first lady Michelle Obama.

Ms. Clinton isn't clearing the stage because she can't live with the embarrassment of losing to a carnival barker. There's that, and there's something else likely gnawing at her: a point made at a Republican debate in 2015 by Carly Fiorina. "If you want to stump a Democrat," she said, "ask them to name an accomplishment of Hillary Clinton."

Sad to say, it is a good question. Ms. Clinton has been a leading promoter of women's rights and social causes and good values. She's erudite, fair-minded, dogged. But after a lifetime in the cauldron, what is there?

As first lady, she lost her big fight on health-care reform. What vaulted her status in public esteem was her stoicism in the face of Bill Clinton's dalliances. As senator from New York, she is most remembered for a vote she'd most like to forget – the one in favour of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. As secretary of state, she won international sanctions against Iran but what stands out is the bungling over her use of her private family computer server for official communications.

As the Democratic nominee, she will be most remembered for a deplorable campaign even though she beat Mr. Trump in the debates and won the popular vote.

Ms. Clinton was warned repeatedly about voters' fatigue, about how she had to find a fresh vision. She couldn't find one then and she's not about to find one now. She's a spent force. She should recognize it's over and make way for the others.