Written by Political Strategy • Published 27th July 2016
Though in its early stages, this presidential election should’ve been a walk in the park for Hillary Clinton. She’s facing a Republican candidate that is deemed ridiculous at best and outright dangerous at worst by many Americans. Yet as we stand now Hillary is struggling to maintain a lead on Donald Trump.
This is somewhat paradoxical as not long ago, as Secretary of State she enjoyed a 56% approval rating which has since plummeted to 57% disapproval. So what has gone wrong so early in her campaign for the presidency?
Ironically Hillary’s lifelong commitment to public service is actually harming her campaign. She is a career politician, something heavily distrusted in America. Barack Obama outlined this phenomenon in a speech given in New Jersey in May where he highlighted the strain of anti-intellectualism that is being applied to American politics.
The thought that, unlike many other professions such as medicine or lawyers, they do not want someone who has experience or expertise in politics, someone who has “done it before” is growing in America. These career politicians are seen as untrustworthy and far removed from the plights of ordinary citizens, which to an extent may be a fair criticism.
This is the wave that Donald Trump is riding. He is presenting himself as a candidate that is challenging the political establishment and political correctness. In this election, Hillary Clinton’s experience and expertise are working against her and making it difficult for the American people to place their trust in her.
“What does she do for fun? To the American people, the answer seems to be nothing. This lack of a life outside of politics is making her appear cold.”
In May, a New York Times journalist posed the question “what does Hillary do for fun?”. Here we’re presented with another problem of Hillary’s campaign. What is her life outside of politics? During a focus group conducted by Peter Hart words prescribed to Hillary were ‘organised’, ‘multitask-oriented’ and ‘not a good vibe’. Hart described this as a ‘glass curtain’ between Clinton and voters. Even Hillary’s family life seems to revolve around politics. Her husband Bill was president and even her daughter Chelsea works for the Clinton Foundation. What does she do for fun? To the American people, the answer seems to be nothing. This lack of a life outside of politics is making her appear cold. This is a terminal condition for a presidential candidate as voters need to be able to connect with a politician. In the case of Obama, the public were able to see more of him than just ‘Obama the politician’, his casual tone and love of basketball among other things enabled people to connect with him on a personal level. Rather than just supporting his policies they actually liked him on a personal level. Even Donald Trump is able to convey his interests and hobbies outside of politics so whilst many grass-root Republicans are connecting with him, many Democrats are finding it hard to connect with Hillary.
“Trust in her is at its lowest point ever, 57% of Americans do not think she is trustworthy.”
Moreover to Trump scandal seems to be like water off a duck’s back, Hillary, on the other hand, is finding is much harder to recover from the scandals that have hit her so early in the campaign. First, she was embroiled in an email scandal that saw her at risk of criminal charges. The essence of this scandal was her use of a personal email on an unclassified server to send official emails throughout her tenure as Secretary of State. When she was ordered to turn over emails to the House Select Committee on Benghazi thousands of emails mysteriously vanished. Though she was not charged due to insufficient evidence that she intentionally mishandled classified information, this scandal has rocked the Clinton boat. With voters already disinclined to trust her, this was a heavy blow as it seemed to justify voters’ reservations.
Then, last week saw another email based scandal come to light just months after the first. This one saw evidence that the Democrat Party has sabotaged presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Though not directly involved in this scandal it is another heavy blow for Clinton. Sanders has since given speeches vehemently supporting Hillary but they have been met with boos at the mention of her name. This was by supporters of the party she is meant to be representing. Trust in her is at its lowest point ever, 57% of Americans do not think she is trustworthy.
On the other hand, despite claims of racism, plagiarism and many other ‘isms’ Trump has not taken a significant blow in the way Hillary has. In his slightly eccentric manner, he just waves them off and carries on. His ardent supports are not likely to get bogged down in ‘isms’ when he is promising to ‘Make America Great Again’.
Distrust is the running theme in the Hillary campaign. As such it appears we are entering a much closer election than previously thought, frighteningly close for those not on Team Trump. Interestingly, despite such a low trust and approval rating, most political commentators are pegging her as the next president.
Perhaps this is because the only other choice is Trump, unthinkable for many swing voters, or perhaps it is simply wishful thinking. However as we have learnt with Brexit and before that the general election, we cannot take the results of polls or words of political commentators as fact. What is becoming clear, however, is that had the Republicans fielded a more palatable candidate that could target conservative swing voters or Democrats we would most likely be looking at a Republican White House. As it is, Hillary is facing an uphill battle to connect with the American people.
By Olivia Gass