The astonishing weakness of Hillary Clinton
Clinton has many advantages over her competitors. But she's still collapsing in the polls.
Hillary Clinton is as unpopular as she ever has been. Her favorability ratings have fallen to just 40 percent. Her campaign is already heading south, even though she has serious advantages over everyone else in the campaign, both Democratic and Republican.
Her opponents in the Democratic field do not pose a plausible mathematical threat. Bernie Sanders can attract huge crowds in college towns, but he is going nowhere with the African-American voters who would be key to building an anti-Clinton Democratic primary coalition. Martin O'Malley's record, shaped by his transition from the Baltimore mayoralty to the Maryland statehouse, has made him radioactive to an activist Democratic base that wants criminal justice reform and that winces when a politician like him says, "All Lives Matter." Clinton is thus free to define her agenda apart from them.
Because the Republican field is startlingly unanimous in its positions, Clinton has the opportunity of running against a coherent platform, while picking out its weakest spokesperson on every individual issue. She can run against Trump on immigration, against Huckabee on social issues, against Walker on foreign policy.
But it's an opportunity that she has so far passed over. Perhaps she doesn't want to get bogged down in actual policy details, always unpopular with an electorate that grows fat on cliché but retches at details.
Still, it means that the entirety of Clinton's campaign has alternated between distancing herself from the legacy of her family name, and stonewalling reporters investigating one scandal or another. In the first category, she has repudiated the tough-on-crime policies of her husband. She has strongly embraced gay marriage even though her previous support for traditional marriage was, according to Clinton, rooted in timeless religious principles. She has joined the new gender politics, despite her own history of slut-shaming her husband's mistresses. Calling Bill's pump-and-dump paramours "trailer trash" and "narcissistic loony tunes" is understandable in my own view, but considered impolitic today.
Hillary Clinton has never won a competitive election. This can't be repeated enough. She beat Republican Rep. Rick Lazio for her Senate seat in 2000. And she defeated a mayor from Yonkers in 2006. In her first competitive race, the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, she began as a heavy favorite and she lost.
What has she done to improve her chances in that time? She's aged well, I guess. And she served without distinction as secretary of state. The most notable addition to her CV was her strenuous support of military intervention in Libya, which has left that nation in ruins and vulnerable to ISIS. In turn, Libya has left Clinton with a new scandal about her home-brew email server and the deletion of thousands of emails that congressional oversight might have used against her.
She has high name-recognition. Until she started campaigning she was polling well even with Republicans. She has the Obama coalition, and an electoral map where Republicans need significant pickups. But boy, it all seems underwhelming. What is the task for Democrats in the post-Obama era? Why is Clinton the one to take on this mission?
After achieving a policy almost approximating universal health care, the dream of Democrats since Harry Truman, what are the Democrats to do? Are they pro-globalization? Do they have ideas for integrating the great wave of immigration to America that has occurred over the past 50 years? Do they have anything to offer the dying white working class? Are they for reforming any of America's major institutions?
Clinton just seems like a mismatch for the party and the moment. The center-left darling of Wall Street talking up issues of inequality. The former Walmart board member posing as savior of American jobs. The "Smart Power" leader whose achievement at state was wrecking a nation and turning it over to Sunni terrorists faster than George W. Bush. A champion of women who pretended the leader of the free world was the victim of his intern. The wife of a man who flies on the "Lolita Express" with a porn star that was booked for "massages." The vanquisher of a Yonkers mayor.
Is this really the best the Democrats can do? Yes, and that should worry them.