Whenever Hillary Clinton opens her mouth, I picture her speech writers and campaign managers nervously fidgeting in chairs while nervous hands pass shaking folders of sinking polling data, campaign contribution debts and scandal-related news around a large table.
I imagine that the mission statement above their door reads, “Say what people want to hear, stick with old ideas but frame them as progressive, call Bernie too extreme and generally run the same campaign we did in 2008.”
Clinton’s team seems to have stuck to that plan, and in previous elections, it probably would have played nicely with voters. But something bizarre is happening this election cycle. It seems that “down-to-Earth” policy and ineffectual promises are no longer what the majority of the public are looking for.
People are frustrated, and this widespread disenfranchisement with the political establishment has given rise to extreme elements in both parties. However, the media and almost everyone else still insists that Clinton will be the default nominee come November and that she’ll crush the Republican candidate (likely Trump) in the General.
If that first assumption holds true and she is named the Democratic nominee, I doubt the ensuing political death match would be as one-sided as they believe. In fact, I bet she’d get demolished.
See, though Trump is a divisive and rude megalomaniac with insecurities that run to the bone marrow, he does possess qualities that a frustrated population might find attractive. He’s a politically incorrect businessman who’s loud and entertaining, he’s funding his own campaign, he seems genuine and he promises an unattainable radical revival in the power and well-being of the country.
Clinton, on the other hand, seems transparently fake in the same way Nicholas Cage seems on screen. Everything she says or does seems strategic yet played out, airbrushed yet clumsy and progressive yet recycled. But this authenticity handicap is but one of her many flaws as a candidate.
She also seems to be a magnet for political land mines.
For instance, the Clinton foundation has accepted money from foreign countries, she voted for the war in Iraq, she’s been fairly accused of electioneering, the Benghazi scandal still looms in the background, she recently used the massacred children of Sandy Hook to attack Bernie’s stance on gun control, she’s been paid exorbitant fees for Wall Street speeches, in an unbelievably stupid and potentially illegal move she utilized a non-secure private email account as secretary of state and she generally seems to have an instinct for mis-speaking and flip-flopping.
Now, the Clintons were never considered the most upstanding politicians, but still, that’s a disturbingly long list of insert-topic-here-gates. And if anything at all comes from the FBI’s investigation into her emails, it’ll cause a media firestorm and her whole candidacy could be thrown into question. Even if nothing’s found there, she is a treasure trove of campaign complicating dirt and unlike Bernie Sanders, the Republican candidate will use it.
This is especially true if Donald Trump wins the nomination. Imagine those debates. Picture the unemotional and completely nontheatrical Clinton attempting to battle the spectacular Trump. Does she win those? If it’s centered on policy, maybe. But even if she does, all the media attention will be sucked up by Trump, and if we’ve learned anything from the past 13 months, the efficacy of policy positions holds surprisingly little sway in this election.
Look at the numbers and the situation appears even darker for Ol’ Hill-Dog. Take her popularity with independents (who now vastly outnumber those who register to either party) and you’ll see it’s below all of her competitors. Similarly, according to polls collected and aggregated by Real Clear Politics, Clinton’s current favorability is in the red at 40.2 percent, while Bernie’s in the black. Even more telling, recent polling suggests that Bernie would beat all of the other candidates by a far larger margin in the general. Tack on the fact that she’s floundering with millennials, slipping in the women’s vote and losing her unquestioned supremacy in the primaries and suddenly things don’t seem all that certain for the Clinton camp.
The reality is that Clinton is a liability for the Democrats, and despite the naysayers, Bernie Sanders would be far more electable. Unlike Clinton, his record is unbelievably consistent, he’s correctly predicted the outcomes of so many political actions it borders on precognition, he galvanizes and understands the fundamental frustrations of the American electorate, he advocates for substantially progressive changes, he’s genuine and he’s adept at capturing media attention — all of which will be essential in beating someone like Trump. As the age-old adage goes, “one must fight fire with fire,” and Clinton just doesn’t bring the heat.
Collegian Columnist Paul Hazelton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HazeltonPaul.