From The Economist - April 2016
Unloved and unstoppable
In a year of insurgents, Americans appear likely to elect an establishment grande dame as president
AMONG the millions of words Hillary Clinton has expended on the campaign trail, these stood out. "This is not easy for me," said the Democratic front-runner, during a televised debate in Florida last month. "I am not a natural politician, in case you haven't noticed, like my husband or President Obama." A more straightforward answer to the question posed - why do two-thirds of Americans mistrust you? - might have cited the many scandals that have attended her three decades in public life. An FBI investigation into her casual handling of classified information is merely the latest. But if somewhat disingenuous, her response was, in its way, accurate and revealing.
She does not mesmerize on the stump, as Barack Obama and Bill Clinton did. She is fluent and accomplished but icily controlled, as if stage-managing her every utterance.
Her grip on policy is ironclad; in hours of wonkish debate with Bernie Sanders, the rival she beat handsomely in the New York primary on April 19th, she has rarely been caught out. But the easy charm Mrs Clinton displays in private is seldom evident. "She tries so hard to be real she just seems false," said a 21-year-old student, voting in the Ohio primary last month. His friends nodded; all were "feelin' the Bern, definitely!"
Her oratorical weaknesses contribute to Mrs Clinton's reputation for shiftiness. Where Mr Obama inspired with promises of a better world, she rams home her argument like a trial lawyer.
That can sound hectoring; it also makes her look especially hypocritical when she changes tack. Her decision to come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) last year would have seemed less cynical had she not predicted that the deal would be the "gold standard" of trade agreements.
These problems hurt Mrs Clinton even before a large part of the Democratic electorate, enraged by the financial crisis and its aftermath, turned against establishment politicians.
A 68-year-old former first lady, senator and secretary of state, with good friends on Wall Street (she pocketed $675,000 for giving three speeches to Goldman Sachs in 2013), her candidacy was always liable to face an anti-establishment attack.
Still, Mr Sanders, the 74-year-old conscience of Vermont, has made her struggle far more than anyone predicted.
When Mr Sanders announced his presidential run in a four-minute-long speech to a handful of journalists, he did not look like a contender. The rumpled senator, who for 25 years has been the sole self-declared socialist in Congress, has gone on to win 17 states.
In recent months his campaign has raised more money than Mrs Clinton's: $44m last month, mostly in small contributions from millions of admirers. Most are young and white-like those Ohioan students, one of whom predicted Mr Sanders would win because he "didn't know anyone who wasn't voting for him" - or well-educated lefties. These groups have felt the Bern by huge margins. Even women below the age of 35 have done so, suggesting that the radical promise of a first woman president is not such a big deal to those born after the 1970s.
(YA THE YOUNGER ONES KNOW WHERE THE USA IS HEADING IF SOME BIG CHANGES ARE NOT FORTH COMING - Keith Hunt)
Down and confused
Mrs Clinton owes her lead over Mr Sanders to older whites and to Hispanics and blacks of all ages, who have backed her by a similar preponderance - but with less obvious enthusiasm. A few days before the primary in South Carolina, it was hard to find voters in Orangeburg, one of America's blackest cities, fired up by the candidate they were about to choose by a 72-point margin. In 2008, recalled Sharon Marlon, who runs the city's Masters hair salon, you could hardly move for Obama yard-signs. "But where are the Hillary signs? I haven't seen one!" This apathy looks bad for Mrs Clinton's chances in a general election. The Democrats need a big turnout if they are to win a rare third straight victory.
Scandal-dogged, distrusted and divisive, a workaday campaigner with a style and resume at odds with her party's humour, Mrs Clinton is not ideal. Yet all this may hardly matter. She is almost certain to win the Democratic nomination. Her victory in New York has extended her lead in elected delegates to 237. She also has a large lead in "super-delegates", the Democratic top brass who have a vote at the party's nominating convention in July. To catch up, Mr Sanders would need to win about 60% of the remaining delegates, which is almost unimaginable. The Democrats divvy up their delegates in proportion to vote share and Mrs Clinton has a lead in all the big remaining states, including Pennsylvania and California.
Having won her party's ticket, Mrs Clinton would probably face either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz in November. Both men have consistently lost to her in head-to-head polling. Predictwise, which looks at polls, betting markets and bookies, puts her chance of becoming president at more than 70%. Perhaps only an indictment arising from the investigation into her use of a private e-mail server when secretary of state could stop her.
(WE NOW KNOW IT WILL BE TRUMP SHE HAS TO BEAT TO THE WHITE HOUSE - Keith Hunt)
Her Republican rivals claim to expect one. Mr Trump says she faces "up to 20 years in prison". Mr Cruz, in his snider fashion, says that, instead of the White House, "I've got slightly different government housing in mind for her." Within the next few weeks Mrs Clinton and a couple of her aides are expected to be summoned for interviews with the FBI to ascertain whether they "knowingly" mishandled classified information, or allowed that to happen through "gross negligence". If Mrs Clinton is indicted, it is assumed she would quit the contest (leaving Democratic leaders to try to block Mr Sanders much as their Republican counterparts are trying to nobble Mr Trump).
Republicans have a history of pinning imagined crimes on Mrs Clinton. The e-mail case sprang from one such: on the basis of no evidence, many believed Mrs Clinton had failed to protect America's ambassador to Libya and three co-workers, killed by jihadists in 2012. Mrs Clinton's e-mail arrangements emerged from one of several congressional inquiries into this bogus scandal. Disdaining the usual protocols, she used a private system, protected by off-the-shelf security systems, to send and receive e-mails - 2,100 of which, it transpired, contained classified information.
This looks naive and high-handed - a familiar case of Mrs Clinton bending rules to her convenience, her critics say. Her friends admit the trait, in both Clintons, but excuse it as a response to Republican hounding. "It is to stop those who would undermine them that they do things they shouldn't do," says Leon Panetta, a former head of the CIA and Mr Clinton's former chief of staff. Contemptuous of her Republican accusers, Mrs Clinton for too long refused to admit having done anything wrong. That made her look arrogant and prolonged the controversy; the public's trust in her, impressively high when she was secretary of state, tumbled.
Republicans compare her case with that of General David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to mishandling classified information last year. On the face of it, that is absurd. Mr Petraeus knowingly gave top-secret intelligence to his biographer (with whom he was having an affair). There is so far no suggestion that Mrs Clinton knew her e-mails contained classified information. The 2,100 in question were classified after the fact, often against the advice of the State Department and mostly in the mild "confidential" bracket. After a review of dozens of federal investigations into similar cases, Politico, a newspaper, concluded it was "highly unlikely" she would be indicted.
The fisted glove
If Mrs Clinton does make it back to the White House, as seems likely despite her struggles, it will be for three main reasons.
Mr Sanders has done her more good than harm
The Democrats are more united than they seem
Republicans are every bit as divided
The Sanders insurgency has forced Mrs Clinton to build her campaign aggressively. Modelled on Mr Obama's victorious efforts, it relies on a loose structure of volunteers. Some worried that the graft required for such an approach to deliver would not be forthcoming for a candidate so much less inspiring than Mr Obama. It seems that it has been, though, especially among African-Americans, a group which may have been made more politically active by its decisive role in determining the outcome in 2008 and 2012. Though there were few Hillary yard-signs up in Orangeburg, Mrs Clinton's activists had toured the city's Baptist churches and were confident of the rout they duly delivered.
An adept debater, Mr Sanders has forced Mrs Clinton to sharpen her message, especially on issues such as wages and trade that are likely to be crucial in the general election.
Mrs Clinton's biggest scare, by far, was a surprise defeat in Michigan on March 8th that reflected Mr Sanders's success in painting her as a jobs-destroying free trader. This evoked a nightmare of Mr Sanders tearing up the rest of the rust-belt - or, supposing Mrs Clinton survived that, of the protectionist Mr Trump doing likewise in November. Both Clintons promptly descended on Ohio, Illinois and Missouri, which were due to vote a week later, to advertise her more mixed record on trade.
There is little doubt she favours free trade. She was a cheerleader for the North American Free Trade Agreement, signed into law by her husband, and voted for several bilateral deals in the Senate. When in need of union votes, however, she has been less enthusiastic - in 2008 she aped Mr Obama by slamming NAFTA; in the Senate she voted against its Central American equivalent. In a speech in Ohio, Mrs Clinton vowed to "stop dead in its tracks any trade deal that hurts America and American workers." The onslaught, worked. Mrs Clinton won all three states-including a majority of those Ohioans who thought international trade had cost America jobs.
Being seen to scrap has been beneficial in itself; a recent Gallup poll suggests her supporters are becoming more enthusiastic. "I was for Bernie, but what she's said about equal pay for women has really swayed me," said Dana, a Harley-Davidson motorbike inspector in Wisconsin, ahead of its primary on April 5th. Mrs Clinton lost that one. Indeed, going in to New York, she had lost seven of the previous eight states. But her strategists were pretty relaxed. Those defeats were in places with few big cities and a lot of whites - in other words, those least representative of the Democratic electorate.
It is an indicator of her underrated strength that Mrs Clinton has largely avoided lurching to the left after Mr Sanders, a manoeuvre that would inevitably damage her in the general election. Many pundits claim otherwise, but this is based on wishful thinking of two different sorts. Those on the right want to see their long-held belief that she is a dangerous leftie borne out. Those on the left, the more realistic of whom always saw nudging Mrs Clinton leftward as the most they could hope for, want to see that hope realized. "The Sanders movement has caused her to reconsider her priorities, change her positions," says Congressman Raul Grijalva from Arizona, a rare Bernie-backer on the Hill. But there is little evidence for this.
The prime, incontestable shred is Mrs Clinton's flick-flack on TPP, which would be hard for her to reverse. Yet if the Senate ratifies the agreement this year, as it may, she will be spared the dilemma. She has said nothing to rule out future deals, including TPP's companion agreement, covering trans-Atlantic trade. Otherwise, Mrs Clinton's more leftist positions, for example those on cutting student debt and expanding Social Security, are more moderate than she often tries to make them sound. She has proposed nothing that is likely to panic swing voters in November.
Take tax. To pay for his policies, Mr Sanders would increase income tax and introduce two new payroll taxes. The marginal rate paid by the richest Americans, including federal and state taxes, would rise to 73% in the average state. Mrs Clinton's tax plan entails a 10% increase in the marginal rate for those with income over $5m a year, bringing it to 43-6%, and a minimum federal-income-tax rate of 30% for those earning over a million dollars. Despite the post-crisis anxiety many voters feel over bankers, wages and other left-wing targets, there is little in any of her proposals to suggest she would stray from the pragmatic, pro-market, centre-left territory of Mr Obama and her husband.
The public seems to understand this better than the pundits.
On a left-right scale compiled by Crowdpac, a data firm, from the perceptions of millions of political donors, Mrs Clinton has scarcely budged in a year. She has much the same liberal rating as Mr Obama. This must be disappointing for Mr Sanders's fans. Even so, two-thirds of them already say they will vote for her in November, and the number will surely rise as the party closes ranks in the summer. There is already evidence of this. "If she wins, we hope our supporters will support her," said Mr Sanders's wife Jane on April 13th. "It's nowhere near as rancorous as it was between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton."
This is the second factor in Mrs Clinton's favour. Despite their differences, Democrats are basically united. Most revere Mr Obama, who is quietly backing Mrs Clinton, dislike Republicans and want power. In an online poll of 400,000 Democratic voters conducted by Alan Grayson, a congressman from Florida, hardly any said they were supporting either candidate because they disliked the other.
The third factor is that the Republicans are mustering for civil war. Exit polls in Wisconsin suggested more than a third of Republican voters would not back Mr Trump in a general election. No wonder Republican bosses are trying to block him; yet if they do, a third of Mr Trump's supporters say they will not support any other Republican candidate. Mr Cruz would be a less divisive figure, but perhaps only a bit; he is caustically right-wing and hated by most of the party bosses.
Love the one you're with
Some moderate Republicans already say they would hold their noses and pick Mrs Clinton over either man. At a polling station in Milwaukee, a retired marine who had just voted for John Kasich, the Republican in distant third place, said he would vote for her over Mr Trump or Mr Cruz. More important, either of those two would put fire into the bellies of apathetic Democrats, enabling them to stretch their emerging advantage in the popular vote.
Although Hispanics have one of the lowest participation rates in the Democratic coalition, it will still matter that eight in ten of them dislike Mr Trump - and seven in ten loathe him.
It has been long assumed that, even if Mrs Clinton does win the presidency, a Republican-controlled Congress would prevent her doing much with it.
(YES TYPICAL USA POLITICS…..WHOEVER IS IN THE WHITE HOUSE, THE OTHER SIDE DOES THEIR BEST TO STIFLE THEM - Keith Hunt)
Yet some Republicans now fret that, with Mr Trump on their ticket, they could lose not only the Senate but also their 30-seat majority in the House of Representatives.
This possibility, while still seeming far-fetched, has some Democrats wondering what Mrs Clinton might do with a freer hand than Mr Obama has recently enjoyed.
She might well attempt nothing more dramatic than she has already promised. In the best case for the Democrats, she would still face a Republican filibuster in the Senate.
Moreover, her own record there and as secretary of state suggests pragmatism and a commitment to incremental improvement, not radicalism and the grand gesture. "She is totally opposed to not getting anything done," says Mr Panetta. "She knows her limitations, but she also knows how to empower others." Her caution is partly informed by the high price Mr Clinton and Mr Obama both paid for launching ambitious measures, including on deficit reduction and health care, early on. Both lost control of Congress after two years. Mrs Clinton might be expected to eke out her political capital more gradually.
It is a remarkable paradox that, in a year of populist insurgency, she, the archetypal establishment creature, looks best-placed to win. If she does, she suggested in a recent interview with Business Insider, Americans will soon like her a lot more than they do now: "Because when I have a position, whether it's first lady, or senator, or secretary of state, and I'm doing the work, I'm really quite popular." Quite likely, we will see about that. ■
THERE YOU GO……TRUMP IS UN-PROVEN AND HAS SAID A LOT OF MIGHTY SILLY OUTLANDISH SUFF; HE'S FULL OF WIND BUT NOT YET PROVEN HE HAS ANY SAILS. HILARY…..PROVEN THOUGH WITH MISTAKES, BUT DOES PUT FORTH A PLAN FOR THE USA, AND HAD A HUSBAND PRESIDENT WHO [PUTTING ASIDE HIS SEX HORMONES] DID A PRETTY FAIR JOB MOST WOULD ADMIT.
THE YOUNGER ONES SEE CORRECTLY THAT FOR AMERICA TO REALLY MAKE SOME BIG DIFFERENCES IN THEIR YOUTHFUL LIVES, THEY NEED A BERNIE IN THE WHITE-HOUSE, BUT IT LOOKS LIKE THE YOUNGER ONES WILL HAVE TO WAIT AT LEAST ANOTHER 4 YEARS.