The Republican field is shaping up to be diverse and competitive, a welcome change from the circus of flubs, gaffes, and wing-nut lunacy that was the 2012 nomination contest. But while the Republican race will be a slugfest, its Democratic counterpart will be a drawn-out Clinton coronation. Any challengers that do emerge will merely be keeping up the appearance of contestation among Democrats. This should be extremely troubling for the party, but not just because Hillary Clinton is a poor candidate. Her virtually unopposed march to the nomination is also symptomatic of a gaping leadership vacuum in a party with few marquee agenda items left. It has, willingly or not, put all its chips on Hillary, who will be a vulnerable candidate in a showdown with Republicans who have re-imposed some discipline on their party.
Her first campaign announcement in 2008 was criticized as distant and presumptuous, and while she probably still feels entitled to the nomination, she’s at least hiding it by de-emphasizing her personality. In fact, she didn’t even appear in her first campaign video until the final minutes, choosing to lead with a troupe of cheery, multicultural and most importantly, “ordinary” Americans who were all #Ready.
She has positioned herself as the champion of ordinary Americans who are being squeezed by the fat cats at the top. The problem, of course, is that Hillary is an elite member of the group doing the squeezing and is, by her own admission, a person who hasn’t driven her own car since 1994. Hillary Clinton is obscenely wealthy, and while that doesn’t mean she can’t fight for the little guys, it will make it impossible for her to pretend to be one of them.
Immediately, Clinton’s taste for strategy over anything resembling political conviction betrayed her. The ordinary folks in her announcement video, it turns out, are Democratic activists and Hill staffers, about as authentic as the functionaries planted at her campaign stops. Already on her listening tour she’s been caught avoiding uncontrolled interactions in public and stacking a visit to a café in Iowa with pastries. She’s made a big deal of driving a van to these staged events like an everyday American but failed to mention that it’s a scary black van with heavily tinted windows and, of course, there’s a difference between driving cross-country and being driven.
Clinton will need to develop a clear agenda before the platitudes of early campaigning crumble away and reveal her as the reigning plutocrat of the entire presidential field. The Republicans, in an odd reversal, will hammer her for this rhetorical duplicity as they did after catching her in a bald-faced lie about the “dead broke” post-White House Clintons. A single speech from Slick Willie can command up to $750,000. The wretched “one percent,” mind you, starts at $400,000 in annual income.
Her record as Secretary of State is likely to be another black eye. While it wasn’t marked by conspicuous failures—save the trumped-up Benghazi psuedoscandal—she will nonetheless be implicated in her boss’s dismal foreign policy. Recent revelations about her use of a private email account during her tenure will be dredged up again and again, and Clinton has no excuse for this.
Her tenure as chief diplomat has also been implicated in mutual backscratching with corporate giants. As the Wall Street Journal reported in February, at least 60 companies that lobbied the State Department during Clinton’s time there also donated more than $26 million to the Clinton Foundation. While it’s not clear evidence of a quid pro quo, most of those companies cashed in on international projects coordinated by Mrs. Clinton’s office—Boeing, for instance, seems to have bought a Russian contract for a cool $900,000.
The disparity between Clinton’s populist rhetoric on the one hand and massive wealth and corporate ties on the other will be an easy target for Republicans, but no Democrat is positioned to take her to task in the primary. The only potential contenders are complete no-names or, in the case of Bernie Sanders, admitted socialists.
Hillary Clinton has a number of advantages, including universal name recognition, respectably high approval ratings and an overflowing war chest. But the glaring hypocrisy of her strategic alignment will be a tremendous weakness. With both chambers of Congress under firm Republican control, Democratic voters should be #Worried.