On Sunday, Hillary Clinton announced her intent to run for president of the United States. Her two-minute campaign video focused on domestic policy and the economy with the latter likely to be a defining issue moving forward. As her husband’s campaign astutely divined, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Foreign policy was not mentioned at all. In the video, she champions the middle class and their determination to succeed. She laments that the “the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top,” and she “hopes you will join her on this journey.”
The strengths of Candidate Clinton are as numerous as they are well-documented. Her fundraising machine is world-class. The allure of electing the country’s first female president hot on the heels of its election of its first black president may prove to be irresistible for the quasi-religious devotees of the “Church of the Right Side of History.” She has an undeniably high name recognition from her days as First Lady. She is a creature of Washington; she knows how to navigate the terrain. She is running for the Democratic nomination virtually unopposed.
But, the weaknesses of Candidate Clinton are likewise as numerous as they are well-documented. She appears frigid and mechanical. Her past (and the name recognition that comes with it) is a double-edged sword: dated and irrelevant though it may be, it still casts an ugly pallor on her current bid. She is a creature of Washington, yes—but at a time when popular sentiment seems to be in favor of electing an “outsider,” someone who will bring down-to-earth values like hard work and honesty back to the White House: a “man of the people.” Her very essence seems to fly in the face of the electorate’s desire: She projects the image of being a detached, globe-trotting, hundreds-of-thousands-of-dollars-per-speaking-event-charging candidate. (The “detached” part is debatable, but the other two are uncontested.) She is scandal prone (see: Whitewater, Benghazi, etc.) She seems to believe that she is above the rules that govern the rest of us mere mortals, reminiscent of a Nietzsche’s Übermensch (see: her use of a private server and email account that was, allegedly, wiped after the contents were subpoenaed by Congress’ Select Committee on Benghazi). Perhaps these will prove to be merely nuisances with the full weight of the Democratic Party establishment and various cultural mobilizations behind her. Her supporters can only hope and pray, for her sake, that they indeed prove to be nothing more than trifling inconveniences. But Clinton has even deeper and more troubling problems than these.
First, America’s presidential politics are reliably pendulum-esque post-WWII. The only time the incumbent party has won a third consecutive term in the White House was when George H.W. Bush did so in the 1988 election succeeding President Ronald Reagan. Reagan supercharged the economy and presided over the fall of the Soviet Union, two mammoth accomplishments that gave Bush 41 the boost he needed to overcome the political gravity that limits parties to disjointed eight year blocks in the White House and secure the presidency. Clinton will be attempting to secure a third term for the Democrats, following in the wake President Obama, one of the most divisive presidents in recent memory (or at least, he is perceived that way). His foreign policy appears to have been designed by a five-year-old. His signature social policy legislation, ObamaCare, faces a very plausible dismantling by the Supreme Court. He has been a major agent of polarization in the nation. In other words, Obama’s two terms had very much the opposite effect on the overall “mood” of the electorate toward his party than Reagan’s did. This will be very relevant as the showdown in November in over a year from now inches ever closer.
Second, she is a creature of the polls. How can anyone forget her support for DOMA … and then her flip-flop (err, “evolution”) on same-sex “marriage” when it was clear that this was where the momentum was? What about her support for invading Iraq … and now her non-defense when asked about it? (“I voted for it with the information that I had. I wouldn’t do it again knowing what I know now.”) Translation: Now that the war in Iraq polls poorly, I am against its ever happening. Good one, Mrs. Clinton: I wouldn’t have done X had I known X was going to be a bloodbath/disaster. You and the rest of … everyone with even half a brain. Get to the back of the line.
Third, she is boring. She represents the establishment, the past, corruption. Because of her over-reliance on polls to do all of her thinking for her, she is not in the least bit dynamic. She looks and acts like a shell controlled and manipulated by the various forces of the progressive wing of American politics. I truly wonder what her own opinion on anything is. She appears to stand for nothing unless it polls well. The strength of her convictions is doubtful. She will not unite a nation.
Fourth, she is representative of a dynasty. I see no problem with anyone trying to run for the presidency even if their family has held the office before. Nobody should be formally forbidden from running for public office for something as inconsequential as their family name. The problem is that the American people, by and large, will have a problem with what looks like an emerging dynasty. Given our history of revolt from the fetters of monarchy, to willingly elect a Clinton (with its whiff of faux “royalty”) would be out of character for us as a nation.
In any case, she will be a formidable foe for the Right to overcome. She will need to watch for another dark horse candidate á la Barack Obama circa 2008. She will have to answer to the progressive wing of her party with respect to her overt friendliness with Wall Street and Big Business. She will be asked when it becomes unacceptable to have an abortion. (One wonders if she will mimic Debbie Wasserman Schultz and say that the procedure should have no restrictions whatsoever: “period.”) Her ability to lead will be called into question given her background at State. But if she can overcome all of these not insubstantial hurdles, then she will be fine.
Who else is less than convinced that she will accomplish this?