There is no question that Hillary Clinton will come into the 2016 Presidential campaign (yes Virginia, she’s running) with many powerful advantages. She’s enlightened about the Presidency from her husband’s years as President, she’s famous, she’s a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, she’ll have a massive war chest of money and a huge army of political supporters. Maybe the most potent aspect of her run for President though is that she could be the first woman President in American History.
There are many legitimate arguments to make about how her alleged inevitability to be the Democrats’ candidate is overstated and ignores recent history (as late as December 2007, Hillary had 80% in the polls against all other Dems running for the nomination…including Barack Obama). For the sake of argument though, let’s say that all the popular predictions are correct, Hillary wins the Dem primary and she goes on to win the Presidency against a Rand Paul or Jeb Bush.
Could the blowback from wanting to see the first woman President of the US, result in making the first woman President a one termer? Might Hillary be the wrong person to be the first woman President?
Hillary Clinton has already revealed that her primary strategy to win the Presidency is to court moderate and even conservative Republicans at the expense of Democrats and Progressives. She openly ridiculed and criticized Obama, beat the drums for war with great enthusiasm and had nothing but pandering and pleasantries for Republicans and Republican voters, often equating Democrats and Republicans as equally to blame for issues in the nation.
Hillary ran into trouble with this strategy recently when the push back came swiftly from the Obama Administration and loud voices on the Progressive side. She responded by trying to make nice with Obama and Progressives and get back on her best behavior towards them. But how genuine is this? The initial pursuit of Republican approval was a peek into Hillary’s General Election campaign (possibly her primary campaign) and her possible Presidency. And that is what may foreshadow the drawbacks for her having a two-term Presidency if elected.
For many voters, the prospect of being able to vote in the first woman President is in itself a reason to be committed to vote for Hillary. My mother was a Hillary supporter in 2008 and it took a number of conversations to make the case with her that Obama was the better, more Progressive choice. She eventually agreed and switched to Obama (especially after Hillary’s and Bill’s racial-themed attacks on Obama) but for 2016, she has renewed excitement about being able to vote for and see in her lifetime, the first woman President.
That will be a powerful selling tool for Hillary in her campaign for the White House but if she was to win, that won’t remain such a prominent factor in a re-election run.
Seeing someone be the first at anything can be enticing. Though the Right Wing used this as part of the racial attacks on President Obama, he did not win the Presidency because people wanted to see the first black President, he won because George W. Bush had so destroyed the nation’s faith in the GOP and McCain’s running with Sarah Palin put the withered cherry on top of the Republicans’ melted sundae, the prospect of Hope and Change personified by the man who would also be the first African American President was a winning combination.
Hillary is not offering hope and change though. Her campaign so far seems to be, “I’m superior to the others so I’ll be a better President”. Less about what she’ll do than who she is. She offers an important symbolic achievement in possibly being the first woman President but going backwards to conservative economics and war-hawkish policies of years past runs counter to most women’s policy views. If she is elected in 2016 and she pursues the conservative course she’s already been promoting…could she end up the first woman President who only serves one term, an achievement and a setback for women at the same time?
Let’s try an experiment. Imagine a male candidate named Harold Clanton. He is a financially conservative Dem with deep Wall Street and corporate ties who wants to reduce regulations on them, very pro-war, he supports gay rights and women’s rights, he supports oil companies drilling and fracking more and is not very driven on combating climate change. He is very politically calculating, won’t step in on racial issues unless pressed or stand firm on any issues of principle that would be a political negative. His family has been in the White House before and oversaw a conservative push on the nation, sending jobs overseas, tightening welfare restrictions and loosening regulations on banks that led to a devastating financial crash.
The experiment here is, if one removes the aspect of Hillary’s being the first woman President from her as a candidate, as a re-election would, might she not be the most supportable and electable candidate? Thus, might electing Hillary in 2016…turn out to be voting to elect a Republican President in 2020?
Why might that be? Why wouldn’t Hillary have a good shot at re-election?
First of all, Hillary has made it pretty clear that she is not a Progressive when it comes to the economy or international affairs (war). By coming out of the box ignoring Progressives and trying to appeal to Conservatives, Hillary revealed a political calculation, that is, by pursuing Republicans, Hillary is saying to Democrats, “Why do I need to appeal to you and your issues, who else are you going to vote for?”
And this is the trap of hubris that could await a Hillary Presidency. In her pursuit of attracting conservative and Republican support and taking Democrats for granted, she could end up without enthusiastic support on either side of the political fence in a re-election and hand the White House to a Republican.
If Democrats and Progressive voters’ agendas are ignored by Hillary, they may either support a Dem challenger to her re-election which would be destructive to Dems winning the White House or simply not turnout for her re-election. And no matter how she may pander to Conservatives and Republicans, they will always prefer to vote for their own Republican candidate than Hillary Clinton.
So the election of Hillary in 2016 could turn out to be a package deal in electing a Republican President in 2020. Many Americans want to finally see a woman in the White House but it does matter who that woman is (or we might have heard every State of the Union speech end with, “You betcha!”). Maybe it’s best to be open to “firsts” but put them aside to genuinely assess candidates. With that being the case, Dem voters might be best off to look past the historical aspect of electing the first woman President and ask themselves before supporting her, “Who is Hillary really, what exactly does she really stand for and are those things representative of what I believe?”