If you had asked me just a year ago if former Secretary of State and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton would be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States I’d have replied “no question.” I expected a near-coronation on the Democratic side, and a little rough-and-tumble on the Republican side.
Jeb Bush, I thought, would have a few competitors nipping at his heels, but the Chris Christies, Bobby Jindals, and Scott Walkers of the world had ambition and followers, but nothing to top Jeb. I thought this would be a legacy race and while I didn’t much like the déjà vu feeling about 2016, it seemed to be inevitable.
Now, the Republican nomination has turned into a reality television show, with feuds being played out on Twitter, and good sense is as likely to show up in these Republican gatherings as calculus is to be found in kindergarten. Now what promised to be a sleepy Democratic glide to the nomination has evolved into, if not a contest, at least a challenge for Hillary Clinton.
As Clinton has muddled her way through the State Department email drama, potential competitors have circled her like sharks circling blood in the water. It has taken her months to grudgingly admit her mistakes. If she was going to give the emails from her private server up with an apology for her bad judgment, why didn’t she do so in the beginning? As it is, she has raised all kinds of questions about her honesty, and allowed rabid Republicans to go after her with a vengeance.
A progressive Democrat was likely to jump into the race regardless of what Clinton said or did. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have pushed Clinton to the left with their rhetoric, and few could have predicted that Sanders would not only enter the race but also attract millions of both people and dollars to support him. While the super PACs funding Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton are collecting six and seven figure checks, the average Sanders donor has given about $30 to his war chest.
There is blood in the water and Vice President Joe Biden is now considering vying for the presidency, and some see him as “insurance” in case Hillary implodes. The email drama should not sideline her from this race by itself, but weak showings in the early primaries, especially as she has already campaigned hard in Iowa and New Hampshire, will bruise her badly. Clinton supporters seem to think she has locked up much of the Democratic money, but with his long history in politics, and a group of loyal supporters, there may be more than a few pennies out there for Joe Biden. And, if Clinton even appears to stumble, there may be millions out there for Biden.
Hillary Clinton has become a much better campaigner than she was in 2007 and 2008. She seems more approachable and friendly than she was then, although there are some members of the press who would say otherwise. We’ve seen much less of former President Bill Clinton on the trail so far than we did last time around, which is a good thing. Lots of people love Bill Clinton, but his presence often raises the question about who will be running the White House. In some ways, Hillary Clinton has all her ducks in a row, just like she and her supporters thought she did before President Barack Obama said he was running for president.
Clinton stumbled in early 2008, and she may stumble again. Her handlers need to make sure she speaks to the press more often and more transparently. She needs to tone down the sarcasm to build her likeability up. Her focus on working families and middle class families is great, but she might try to say a word or two about the poor. Poor folks won’t write checks, but if they feel included they can surely vote.
If Biden jumps into this race, the African American community is likely to be conflicted. If President Obama endorses or supports his vice president, those loyal to him in the African American community will give Biden more consideration that they might have otherwise. At the same time, African Americans, generally, like former President Bill Clinton and much of that affection spills over to Hillary Clinton. And there are tens of millions of Democratic women who feel that it is overdue for a woman to lead our nation.
Hillary Clinton needs to loosen up and lighten up, and that is not her nature. She can prevail if she tweaks her campaign strategy and opens up to the press. The email drama is likely to go away, but it won’t if she remains defensive. And while an uptight Clinton might win a spirited fight for the nomination, an uptight Clinton won’t win the presidency.
Our nation will be worse off if a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, and virtually doomed if the blustering Trump wins the White House. Hillary Clinton is worth fighting for, but she’ll have to tweak her style to rally the troops.
Julianne Malveaux is an author and economist based is Washington, DC. She can be reached via www.juliannemalveaux.com