Among many liberals the question with Clinton preparing to announce her candidacy is not whether it is desirable to stop Hillary Clinton from becoming the Democratic nomination but whether this is even possible. Last week The Boston Globe urged Elizabeth Warren to run, and many liberals are pushing for this despite Warren’s statements that she is not interested. Now a story at The New York Times looks at the general strategy of defeating Clinton. Maggie Haberman, the presidential campaign correspondent for The New York Times, spoke with people she referred to as “three of the smartest Democratic strategists we know.” Their identities were not divulged “so as not to anger Mrs. Clinton.”
Even before getting to the strategy points, this raises the question as to whether this is an isolated article or if it is a sign that Clinton is losing The New York Times. The need to keep the identities of the strategists secret can be taken as both a sign of the reluctance of those who depend upon Democrats for their likelihood to anger Clinton and as a sign of what people feel about her.
There were three main strategic points in this article. The first was Populism:
Any Democrat who takes on Mrs. Clinton should be a truth-telling populist, challenging the party from within and tapping into the energy and aspirations of the Democratic base.
This is especially crucial given Mrs. Clinton’s popularity with African-Americans, a significant voting bloc in Democratic primaries. One suggestion for reaching those voters? Focus on improving policing, after a national debate and protests set off by the deaths of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York City.
Another area that the right candidate could seize upon: immigration. Pound away at Democratic leaders for not passing a comprehensive overhaul when there was a chance to do so in 2014.
Another strategist said the challenger should focus on a few big-ticket ideas, like a transaction tax on Wall Street that would finance renewable energy, and hammer the utilities for harming energy independence.
“I wouldn’t give Hillary hell, I’d tell the truth and make her think it’s hell,” the strategist said, echoing former President Harry S. Truman. “I’d try to build my own momentum, not blunt hers.”
Eating into Clinton’s support among blacks is important from the standpoint of primary votes, but the legendary Clinton support from blacks has been diminished by her attacks on Barack Obama in the 2008 primaries, which many feel went over the line f or what is acceptable in a primary battle. Her Wall Street connections have been mentioned frequently in criticism of Clinton, with this issue being raised by open challenger Martin O’Malley and non-challenger Elizabeth Warren. A successful challenge on her economic views could also help cut into Clinton’s blue collar support.
Foreign Policy was listed second:
“She’s to the right of where the party is on a lot of these issues,” one of the strategists said. Mrs. Clinton has traditionally favored a more muscular response in places like Syria, the source of one of her biggest policy disagreements with President Obama while she was secretary of state.
Clinton was on the far Joe Lieberman right win of the Democratic Party on Iraq, pushing for war based upon non-existent ties between Saddam and al Qaeda. She was generally the strongest supporter of military action in the Obama administration (often countered by Joe Biden). The degree to which this matters from a political perspective will depend upon how war weary the country is a year from now.
The third factor was Authenticity:
For more than a decade, Mrs. Clinton has tried to swat away a persistent concern about her ability to connect with voters. “Saturday Night Live” recently captured that problem in a sketch featuring an actress playing Mrs. Clinton, who said of herself at one point, “What a relatable laugh!”
Years of security-infused Bubble Wrap around her travels and a wealthy lifestyle have done little to pull Mrs. Clinton closer to voters.
The best hope for someone running against her, all three strategists said, was to be real. And the best environment to showcase that genuineness may be Iowa. A challenger could camp out there, have a lot of up-close voter interactions, build a relationship with activists in the state and hope to catch fire.
Mrs. Clinton has always had trouble in Iowa, and she never totally connected with voters there. One of the strategists advocated saving as much money as possible to spend in Iowa for a late media push.
Clinton’s authenticity and integrity have been further challenged by her claims of being dead broke after leaving the White House and with the recent email scandal. While few people will vote based upon her having a private email server, this scandal does demonstrate what critics have often said about Clinton. It verifies the suspicions of her dishonesty. Her two main defenses, convenience due to not wanting to carry two devices (even though she actually did), and claims that she did not break the rules, were both shown to be false.
Clinton’s attacks on Republicans for shredding the Constitution when they used a server from the Republican National Committee, and the citing of use of personal email as one reason for the firing of an ambassador under her, are consistent with the view that the Clintons believe that the rules do not apply to them. This also ties into Clinton’s long-standing propensity towards secrecy, both in her political life and in policy matters. Her contributions from foreign donors raises further suspicions, but Clinton has made it quite difficult to follow the money.
Much of the criticism raised of Clinton by these Democratic strategists are similar to questions raised in the past about the poor judgment she has shown throughout her career.
While strategies discussed above include means for cutting into Clinton’s support among black and working class voters, some liberal feminists are also coming out to criticize Clinton’s history on feminist issues. While this is beyond the scope of this post, I will briefly note the main points which are generally raised:
- Clinton undermines the case for abortion rights with calls for abortion to be safe, legal, and rare, stigmatizing women who do seek abortions
- Clinton’s history of undermining women who have been subjects of sexual harassment
- Anti-feminist actions as an attorney including her attacks on a rape victim
- A relative lackluster record on women’s issues and taking contributions from counties with a pitiful record on women’s rights such as Saudi Arabia
Clinton is similarly weak on other social issues such as gay marriage which might have some impact in primaries among the Democratic base.
Despite these thoughts from the Democratic strategists, defeating Clinton for the Democratic nomination will not be easy. While difficult, the attempt should be made in order to have a liberal choice in the 2016 election.