Seven things about the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton

NOTE: To jump to my own thoughts on this, click here.

We all know that Hillary Clinton, an undeclared candidate for President in 2016, is the front-runner by a huge margin.

It’s also obvious that she’s been remarkably silent on a number of issues, on many of which, as Secretary of State, she had direct personal knowledge, expertise or involvement.

Keystone Pipeline approval is one obvious such issue, but there are many.

Is Hillary Clinton a Carbon Candidate?

About the Keystone environmental report, for example, this occurred on Ms. Clinton’s watch as Secretary (my emphasis):

There are other political problems associated with the Keystone pipeline. The environmental impact report on the project was written by a consulting firm with a longstanding commitment to TransCanada, prompting several U.S. congressmen to call for an investigation into conflicts of interest.

Other sources have reported conflicts of interest between State Department officials and TransCanada, finding an unusual degree of support inside the department for the Keystone pipeline project. Some of these findings are related to people like Paul Elliott, now working at TransCanada. Elliott was a former campaign official with the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, the current Secretary of State who is intimately involved in the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Yet we have not heard Ms. Clinton speak about Keystone, except to indirectly extol the need for “U.S.” carbon to see us through those long cold nights (my emphasis and paragraphing):

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 80-minute lecture and discussion at upstate [New York] Hamilton College on Friday [October 4, 2013] touched on dozens of issues—the government shutdown, the global economy, what it takes to be a president and the creation of merlot ice cream, to name a few. But a few ears in the press corps perked up when she made a brief mention of a major issue facing New York: Production of oil and natural gas.

Late into the lecture portion of Clinton’s Oneida County appearance, she referenced a report that the U.S. in on track to surpass Russia in domestic oil-and-gas production. That’s good news, Clinton said.

So she’s a Carbon Candidate, but only via a side comment at a little-covered event. And other than that, her public speaking schedule has been mainly substance-free. Nevertheless, we’re often assured that Hillary Clinton is inevitable, which has a number of effects. One of those effects is to keep anyone else out of the race. But is she “inevitable”? And can she win?

Seven vulnerabilities of the “inevitable” Hillary Clinton

Guy Saperstein, writing in Alternet, takes a look at Ms. Clinton’s presumed candidacy and concludes that she could very well lose the presidency to any reasonable-sounding Republican in 2016. Interesting. I would say the risk of losing might even get Beltway Democrats to rethink their support. Here’s Saperstein to explain why (my emphasis and some reparagraphing below):

In December 2007, just as the 2008 presidential primaries were beginning to heat up, and with Hillary Clinton 26 points ahead in national polling of Democrats, I wrote an article for AlterNet arguing that she was beatable, that she had vulnerabilities the other candidates did not have, that she had historically high “unfavorables,” that she polled poorly against Republicans and that Democrats should rethink the “inevitability” of her candidacy.

Apparently, they did and we know how that turned out.

Once again,Clinton is riding high in polling of Democrats; once again, her supporters are claiming she is “inevitable;” and once again, she has vulnerabilities other candidates lack, including extremely high “unfavorables,” as well as additional liabilities in 2016 she didn’t have in 2008 — some of her own making, some not.

His list of her vulnerabilities is well-marshaled. For example, consider Clinton’s polling:

1. Worrisome Polling

Hillary Clinton has maintained consistently high “unfavorable” ratings since at least 2007 (ranging from 40 to 52 percent). In December 2007, they were running 45 percent and are still hovering in the 45 percent range today.

In 2007, I wrote that her unfavorable” ratings “currently are running 45 percent — far higher than any other Democratic or Republican presidential hopeful and higher than any presidential candidate at this stage in polling history. Hillary may be the most well-known, recognizable candidate, but that is proving to be as much of a burden as a benefit.” That still seems to be true.

Before Chris Christie melted down in the Bridge-Gate scandal, Quinnipiac, a well-respected poll, had him running ahead of Hillary Clinton 43-42 percent. That doesn’t, in my opinion, mean Christie is a strong candidate — people hardly know who he is — but it suggests Clinton is a weak, or at least vulnerable, candidate. …

In an April 24, 2014 Quinnipiac poll in Colorado, a state with two Democratic senators and a Democratic governor, Rand Paul is out-polling Clinton 45-40 percent and she is running 42-42 percent against the scandal-ridden Christie. Colorado is a blue state Democrats need to win in 2016 and having a well-known Democrat running behind a virtual unknown Republican is not good news.

She also has mood-of-the-base issues:

2. New Liabilities

By every metric, voters are in a surly mood and they are not going to be happy campers in 2016, either. Why should they be? The economy is still in the toilet, not enough jobs are being created even to keep up with population growth, personal debt and student debt are rising, college graduates can’t find jobs, retirement benefits are shrinking, infrastructure is deteriorating, banksters never were held accountable for melting down the economy, inequality is exploding — and neither party is addressing the depth of the problems America faces.

As a result, voters in 2016 will be seeking change and there is no way Clinton can run as a “change” candidate … This problem is not really her fault, but it creates serious headwinds for her candidacy and makes her susceptible to any Republican candidate who does not appear to be crazy, who can say a few reasonable things and who looks fresh, new and different. The status quo is not going to be popular in 2016[.]

Items in Saperstein’s list include her legacy as a foreign policy hawk; her lack of real accomplishments as senator and later, as Secretary of State; the inevitable “here we go again” reaction of voters to a renewed Bill-based Bimbo Eruptions (again not her fault, but still); and others. Please do read; this piece is well worth considering.

No progressive Dem will enter the race until Hillary Clinton is out

And now a thought of my own. As Saperstein points out, the strongest support for Clinton’s candidacy comes from those who think it’s way past time to elect a woman president. Saperstein agrees with the latter, and so do I.

Elizabeth Warren speaking to progressives at Netroots Nation

Elizabeth Warren speaking to progressives at Netroots Nation

But if this is the strongest argument for Clinton’s candidacy, is that reason enough for Democrats to put all their eggs in a base-depressing, Big Carbon–loving, neoliberal basket, when in fact there are other female candidates whom the base would be delighted to support?

(I ask this as a decided opponent of the wealth-serving, Big Carbon–loving, privatizing neoliberal agenda. If you love that agenda — so long as a woman leads it — the next few paragraphs are not for you.)

It gets worse. Barack Obama, the first black president, tried for five years to cut benefits to the working poor in a time of deep recession. Should that be the legacy of the first black president? Thank god he failed; still, he tried.

The irony writes itself. If Clinton does win, should the legacy of the first woman president be that she locked in global warming past repair, and gave her own grandchild a +7°C (12½°F) world — a world that feeds a tenth, if that, of the humans alive today?

Of course the rich will survive — that’s what government is for, in their minds — or at least they think they’ll survive. But what about the rest of us, about whose help government will claim austerity? I’m willing to bet that comes the crisis, every name who got us there will be remembered, and not fondly.

If we’re going to elect a woman, can we not choose a woman worth electing? And is there such a woman?

Saperstein thinks there is. But there’s a problem getting there — the aforementioned “inevitability” of not-yet-candidate Clinton. So long as Hillary, whether or not she’s in the race, is presumed to have won it, no progressive Democrat will even enter, or for that matter, even start fund-raising.

In other words, even while not declaring herself, Hillary is blocking all of her potential rivals, save the neoliberal, bank-friendly ones who can fund-raise from the rich starting instantly, if Clinton decides to bail, for example, for health reasons. On that, Saperstein again:

In December 2012, [Clinton] suffered dehydration and fatigue, fainted, fell and hit her head, suffering a concussion. She was rehospitalized two weeks later and her condition was described as a clot between her brain and skull. She previously had suffered a large blood clot in her leg. These medical issues could cause her to rethink undertaking the rigors of a presidential campaign, which are brutal.

I’m almost certain that if Hillary is the presumed front-runner in 2016, whether she runs or not, our only other choices will be privatizing neoliberals like Joe Biden. Ready for that?

Put simply, no progressive can get through the door while Hillary is still a presumed candidate. Given that, shouldn’t she be asked, at least, to go on the record, so Democrats as a group can decide if they even want her policies? Or is it in her (neoliberal) interest to make sure no progressive runs, whether she runs or not?

(We have it as fact that Bill Clinton hates the “far Left” of the party; he’s told us so. I’ll have that story later. Does Hillary share his view of us? For a hint, go back to the top of this piece and read how she likes her carbon.)

Whichever way this goes, unless she withdraws, she puts the base in a tough spot, like the spot Obama put us in last time. 2012 was a “hold your nose” year, and he had the benefit of incumbency. If Hillary makes 2016 a “hold your nose” year for most of us — the single exception being Democrats who would happily vote for any woman at all — she risks everything, for herself, for us, for our climate future, and even, as Saperstein points out, for the party itself, neoliberals included. (After all, the corrupt revolving door only works if you can corruptly use those government jobs first. No government jobs, no revolving door.)

Do mainstream, neoliberal Dems want to lose the White House and all the corrupting goodies it hands out, to support a losing presidential bid, no matter how loyal they may be to the Clinton “brand”?

And what if Hillary eventually withdraws, but way to late for a progressive to enter? We’ll likely end up with aa neoliberal male as a candidate, and there goes that pro-woman support. I know for a fact that I will not vote for a Carbon President in 2016, knowing that by not acting decisively — i.e., in a way that David Koch will hate — the “game over” card will be played in the early 2020s. And I know a lot of women who will support a corporate candidate only if it’s Hillary.

Much to think about, and yes, it really is time to have these thoughts. In my view if we want a real progressive, we’ll need to clear space for her … starting now.


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Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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