All right, then, it’s Hillary Clinton. Here’s hoping she will be a great president. If she can win in November. That’s a big “if,” because, as a candidate, Clinton makes Mike Dukakis look like a John Kennedy.
When she’s scripted, Hillary Clinton sounds bogus. When she’s on her own, she is tone deaf and says dumb things.
A competent and confident debater, she will shred Donald Trump on formal debating points, but he can win their debates with wisecracks, if he can rein in his worst impulses just a wee touch.
In the end, she counts on Trump’s polling negatives, which are astronomical, but hardly out of reach of her own, as well as two things that should work in her favor: the women’s vote and the Obama coalition, to which she has tied herself as though 2008 had never happened.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Trump is a beastly enemy of everything humane.[/pullquote]
So let’s consider those two matters, women first. Clinton is already attacking Trump for his boorish, Beavis-and-Butthead comments about women, made, not just over the course of the campaign, but for many years. He responds that she has remained loyal for 41 years to a philandering husband who is a serial woman abuser.
At first blush, Trump’s response seems weak. Bill Clinton’s sexual history, while nothing to be proud of, does not, by credible accounts, include rape. If Trump’s attack were merely the feminist argument that a serial adulterer is a predator whose victims are poor, powerless females, it would not hold. Sex with people who want to have sex is, in contemporary America, unremarkable. To argue that it’s predatory is anti-feminist at its heart.
But there’s more. First, the Monica Lewinsky scandal involved a woman who was very young, psychologically weak and employed by Clinton. The affair thus looks not only predatory, but contrary to the spirit (and only the spirit) of laws that Clinton himself supported. Second, and much more damaging, is the fact that Bill, Hillary herself and many Clinton shills went out of their way to slut-shame and degrade the women who exercised the temerity to talk about their own regrets. Remember James Carville’s insult to everyone who’d ever lived in a trailer park? Remember what Hillary did for women when she was on the Walmart board? No? Neither does anyone else.
Trump is a beastly enemy of everything humane. Clinton is a women’s advocate of desultory political convenience. So women hardly have a true champion in this race, unless they want to vote on the basis of gender alone. The fact, however, is that having a vagina, while a very fine thing, is not a qualification for political office. Even if Hillary’s husband proved that having a great many of them is no impediment.
On to the Obama thing: Republicans have been attacking Clinton’s candidacy for months as “a third Obama term.” She seems to have embraced the idea, wrapping herself in the mantle of the president whose candidacy she opposed with vitriol a mere eight years ago. She realizes that, to be elected, she needs to hold the Obama coalition together.
The coalition consists of progressives, ethnic minorities and hard-core Democrats. That last group is safe, but is small and dwindling. The other two, she holds with a tenuous grip. It’s not that progressives, Blacks or Hispanics will vote for Trump; it’s a question of whether they will come out to vote for Hillary. In both cases, they’ve considerable cause for discouragement, and her work is cut out for her.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Clinton needs a VP with no hint of scandal, ever.[/pullquote]
Bernie Sanders’ candidacy proved the illegitimacy of any claim Hillary tried to stake in progressivism. A spate of journalism explaining the nature of neoliberalism and the damage it has already done has gone a long way toward destroying her credibility with traditional liberals.
Meanwhile, Blacks and Hispanics, in large numbers, have been awakened to the consequences of Clinton-backed legislation on crime, bankruptcy, welfare and Wall Street deregulation. Their enthusiasm for a Clinton candidacy is dampened and getting downright soggy.
All of which means Clinton needs Obama himself to campaign with her, and with a great vigor. He’s at a stage of his presidency where his legacy matters more to him than his successor, if he’s a normal president. We’ll see.
It also means that the choice of a running mate could be more critically important than usual. Here’s a name for you: Ed Rendell. The former Pennsylvania governor wanted to be Hillary’s running mate in 2008. Assumedly he’d still like to be. He has all the credentials, all the savvy and all of the political sensitivity to make a great campaigner. He might make the short list.
Certainly Clinton needs someone on the ticket with no hint of scandal ever attached to his or her name. Never, perhaps, has so much smoke of scandal surrounded so little fire as there is with the Clintons. While the Clintons don’t help themselves with the usual sort of political prevarications (Sanders didn’t support he auto bailout, for example), the perception of gross dishonesty isn’t fair, and with many voters it actually helps to create a righteous indignation that works for her. But it is there, and it is, on balance, harmful to her candidacy.
Clinton’s supporters are fond of writing, lately, that she is “fundamentally honest,” meaning, what? That she is usually honest? In any event, her fundamental honesty is sometimes overshadowed by a fundamental arrogance. She shows up at the State Department to find that State has rules, carefully constructed over a long period of time, for purposes of national security. You have rules? No, you have rules. I’m Hillary Clinton, and these rules inconvenience me. Move the earth so I don’t have to follow them.
Finally, Trump holds a high card in this weird campaign year. He is his own attack dog, and in a normal year, that would be a fatal liability against a female candidate. The year, however, is about as normal as Ben Carson, and Hillary is not a normal female, in this sense: It’s hard to be seen as the victim when you allegedly stand for female empowerment. Let alone when the death toll in a war you supported is 100,000 plus and counting, and when your advice on Libya left an entire nation struggling with a bombed-out infrastructure.
She’ll probably win in the end, but this is a far heavier lift for Hillary Clinton than it would have been for any other plausible Democratic nominee.