Rewind 6 months. We are in the middle of a brutal primary campaign (though aren’t they always?) on both sides of the isle. Trump and Hillary are beginning to emerge as the most likely winners of the Republican and Democratic nominations for President of the United States. In a normal world we would have seen common sense prevail, Hillary Clinton would be coasting ahead in the polls despite reservations many voters may have about how trustworthy she really is. Donald Trump could have sank his campaign with any number of outrageous statements, take your pick really;
- “Clinton Supports Abortion Until An Hour Before Birth”
- “He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder of ISIS. He’s the founder. He founded ISIS.” (Speaking about Barack Obama)
- “That could be a Mexican plane up there — they’re getting ready to attack” (referencing an overhead plane at a rally in New Hampshire)
He seems to be utterly untouchable. Clinton rode a big post convention bump in the polls and everyone seemed to think that was the beginning of a landslide election. Yet here we are with the RCP (Real Clear Politics) polls averaging at a Clinton lead of just 0.9 in a head to head with Trump, and only 0.7 with Jill Stein and Gary Johnson included in the polling numbers. What has Hillary Clinton done to be struggling against Donald Trump? I feel there are 4 main reasons for Hillary’s inability to truly open up a commanding lead in an election that she should be coasting to victory.
Firstly, her lack of transparency. She has been plagued by scandal throughout her career, Benghazi (8 reports and counting), Whitewater, The Clinton Foundation, the list goes on; and she has frequently come through the other side unscathed. But her emails just seem to be one scandal too many for her to handle. Americans overwhelmingly believe she would be a better candidate to handle an international crisis, represent the US on the international stage or to be put in charge of nuclear weapons. However, when it comes to honesty and trustworthiness, her poll numbers are abysmal. As of last week the Wall Street Journal reported that she was viewed as being unfavourable by 59% of registered voters, up 7% from 3 weeks ago. This is a problem that cannot easily be overcome, though holding a few more press conferences may be a start.
Secondly, there is the Supreme court issue. Perhaps the most overlooked reason for the incredibly tight race we are witnessing, is who she would choose as her supreme court nomination were she to be President elect. Donald Trump will undoubtedly nominate a conservative Justice to the Supreme Court; it is as simple as that. The most important issues to many republicans, are those that will be decided in the Supreme Court, such as the status of planned parenthood or the transgender bathrooms debacle. Hillary Clinton, cannot win over these voters, regardless of what Donald Trump might say or do. As long as he claims that he will nominate a conservative Justice, he will have their support.
Clinton has also suffered greatly from her alienation of the youth and progressive voters who turned out in their thousands to support Bernie Sanders. The purported oppression of Sanders campaigners by the Democratic establishment, within the party and at the convention, combined with the dirty campaign she ran against Sanders has lost her the progressive and youth vote that she now desperately needs the support of. Despite having Sanders endorsement, many of his supporters have failed to get on-board with Hillary Clinton, with a recent YouGov polls showing that 40% of Sanders supporters refusing to back Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s dismissive attitude towards Sanders is coming back to haunt her and she needs to find a way to get those voters back in her corner, perhaps agreeing to universal health-care or a wall street tax would be a start.
Lastly, Trump’s “outsider” status is one that has won him a massive portion of his support. The public are fed up with career politicians and big money in politics (evident from both Trump and Sanders success) and Clinton is the embodiment of this ideal. She is the establishment candidate, whether she is willing to admit it or not, and that is costing her heavily. She needs to find a way to project herself as being anti-establishment in a meaningful way. She could come out against Citizens United or take a leaf out of Jill Stein’s book and say she will pardon Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou for, as Stein put it, “their important work in exposing the massive, systematic violation of our constitutional rights”.
Clinton cannot overlook these issues, she has to begin to address the problems with her own campaign rather than focus on how deplorable Donald Trump’s campaign has been. Yes, she should condemn his comments, but she also needs to separate herself from them, rather than becoming engaged in a petty political back and forth. Give the people reason to believe that she could truly change the United States for the better, because, ultimately, that is where the source of Trump’s power comes from: the desire for change.