The media tells us that Hillary has a lock on the nomination. That news should make her supporters extremely nervous, and not because the prognosticators have been wrong so many times already. All Democrats should worry because her major policy and character flaws could leave us with a Republican president this fall. Here’s why.
1. The Senator from Wall Street: This is not 1972 when the country was so deeply divided over the Vietnam War. That upheaval wrecked the Democratic Party and led to the Nixon landslide over George McGovern. Now the country is united against Wall Street. Hillary will have a great deal of difficulty triangulating her way to safety. She will never be able to explain away why she received over $11 million in corporate speaking fees, much of it from Wall Street, and why she still is accepting millions from Wall Street for her campaign.
The defensive lines she is using are weak — Obama did it too. I have a proven record against Wall Street. I can’t be bought. My proposals are even tougher than my opponent’s.
Do you really think that will sell in the fall?
2. Free Trade Cheerleader: The neo-liberal consensus on corporate-managed trade has collapsed. The American people know they’ve been had. They see that average worker and thousands of communities have been screwed by trade agreements which put Americans in direct competition with low wage workers around the world. Hillary, during her husbands administration, pressed hard for NAFTA. And until very recently, she was proud of her work to develop the TPP — “the gold standard” of all trade agreements she said — until Bernie forced her to retreat. She has no credible defense.
3. Global Warrior: The American people are also turning away from regime change. Hillary’s record is consistently hawkish. She voted for the Iraq War. She pushed for the takedown of Kaddafi and Assad. Now she wants a dangerous no-fly zone in Syria and she encourages the use of special OPS troops all over the world. The Libya and Middle East are her quagmire.
4. Enthusiasm Gap: While a Trump or a Cruz will draw many to the polls just to defeat them, there is no substitute for positive enthusiasm. We should be worried about the fact that Hillary is having difficulty breaking into double digits with young voters. That’s where the real energy is this year. Maybe she can make up for this with older voters, especially women. But it’s a gamble — a big one. Those Sanders kids may stay home. And guilt-tripping them into voting is not likely to work.
5. Trust: Hillary does not generate trust. Nearly 55% of voters think it’s a quality she lacks. Sure, it’s a wash if Trump is the nominee, given his high unfavorables. But what if it’s a Cruz-Kasich ticket or Ryan? Hillary will be hobbled. And it’s not just a bum rap. She has shift-shaped too many times, on too many issues. Yes, you can always explain away any one instance or another, by saying how she has changed, learned or made a mistake. But doing so only reinforces the image that she’s not being straight — that she’ll say whatever needs to be said to get elected.
6. “I” not “We”: Hillary seems to say “I” more than any other candidate. The election is so clearly about her — her record, her skills, her experience, her ability to get things done. I’ve been in the situation room. I’ve had to make the tough choices. I will work hard for you. “I” is her sense of public service. She wants to do for others, she says again and again. In normal times that might be enough, assuming it was believable. But these are not normal times. There are movements afoot. Bernie has made “we” the mantra of his political revolution. Trump talks about his movement. Cruz talks about the conservative movement. But voters want to be included, to be part of something important. Hillary doesn’t have a feel for how to rally people to a cause. That’s not her. She’s an insider, a player, a person who commands $225,000 speaking fees. And that spells “I”.
7. Working Class Blues: A lot has changed in the public’s perception of Hillary since 2008 when she ran against Obama. Then, she captured the lion’s share of the white working class vote. Much, but not all, had to do with race. It also had to do with the perception that she and Bill were public servants, not rich people. I feel your pain. Today, Hillary casts a different image. She and Bill are very, very rich. They hang out with other very rich people. Together, the Clintons have made over $130,000,000 during the last 8 years. They threw a multi-million dollar wedding for their daughter. That life style creates a growing chasm that separates them from the average working family.
Trump is much richer but doesn’t talk that way. In comparison, Hillary sounds more like Jeb Bush — the policy nerd. Not a good year for that.
8. Unmotivated African-American voters: Hillary is beating Bernie because of her lopsided support among black voters. Clearly the Clinton machine’s many years of engagement with the black political and social infrastructures has made a difference. But will that translate into a massive turnout in November without Obama on the ticket? It’s possible that her support for Wall Street and trade bills will temper the turnout among some black working class voters. And she doesn’t seem to have any proposals that will generate real enthusiasm. Just saying “breaking all barriers” is not enough. Are we counting on Obama doing it for her?
9. The Typical Politician: Hillary sounds incredibly scripted — like every line was carefully tested in a focus group. It’s not just that she says them again and again. By this point, every candidate is a broken record. It’s that she seems less than sincere. It’s hard to fathom what she really believes. But that is not her biggest problem. Her real political character comes out when she goes on the attack. For example, her claim that Bernie didn’t support the auto bailout was a monumental distortion, if not an outright fabrication. The fact that she doubled down and repeated accusations showed a political character that is not about trust. It’s the opposite, in fact. It showed that we could trust her to lie, when necessary, to get what she wants — what she feels is her due.
10. Weaker Polling: Hillary supporters should be worried that Bernie polls better against the Republicans. Yes, there are many ways to explain that away too. The argument most repeated is that the Republicans haven’t done a number on him yet. Wait until they red-bait him....
But Hillary’s poll numbers show weakness right now. Yes, she beats the Republicans in most polls. But why is Bernie doing better? Think about that for a bit. He’s a self-declared socialist in the most capitalist country in the world and he’s doing better than Hillary Rodham Clinton, a capitalist to the core? How can that be?
The answer is simple. Bernie is everything Hillary is not. He’s a straight shooter, who is willing to fight Wall Street and to stop fighting useless wars. He offers bold proposals that would really make a tangible difference in people’s lives, like free higher education. And he doesn’t need to test his lines in a focus group. As a result, he has the enthusiastic support of young people of all hues. He’s also a big hit with independents. Everyone knows he’s completely committed to fighting runaway inequality. And this year, that’s what voters really want.
What they don’t want is what we’re hearing from so many Hillary supporters — defensiveness, complex explanations about why her positions have changed, why she’s being treated unfairly, why her more centrists positions are really more progressive, why she’s really telling the truth even when she isn’t. It’s spin after spin after spin. It doesn’t sit well with voters.
Plain and simple, Hillary is a much bigger risk this fall than Bernie. It’s not too late to do something about it.