Hillary Clinton’s hard-fought slog to secure the Democratic nomination for November’s US Presidential Election was all-but confirmed this week, despite the stubborn refusal of the persistent thorn-in-her side Bernie Sanders to throw the towel in. Perhaps due to the ill-tempered nature of the campaign and the Pythonesque freak show of the simultaneous Republican circus, the history that will be made when Mrs Clinton goes head-to-hair with Mr Trump has been somewhat downplayed; but it’s still historic, all the same.
If any woman in American political history was ever going to have the guts, gall and gumption to make it all the way to the Presidency, Hillary Clinton is the one. Like Margaret Thatcher, Clinton is something of an aberration; if she achieves her aim, it’s hard to see it being replicated by another woman in the future, if ever. Love her or loathe her – and that’s just the American public – Hillary is the most expertly qualified mistress of Washington Dark Arts ever to have pushed herself forward for the top job. First Lady for eight years, New York Senator for a further eight and Secretary of State for four, Clinton’s experience of the highest offices the USA can boast is one few men, never mind women, could match. This is, of course, her second attempt to gain the Democratic White House ticket, having lost out to Obama in 2008; but the fact that she decided to run again even after history was snatched from her grasp eight years ago is testament to her inexhaustible political ambition.
Whereas Donald Trump is primarily known for being a businessman, TV celebrity and professional gobshite, his Democrat opponent is possibly the most experienced political animal to aim for the Presidency since Richard Nixon in 1968. Like Nixon when he gained the Republican nomination, Clinton has been a familiar face to the US public for a good couple of decades, giving them more than enough time to form a solid opinion of her both as a politician and as a person; also like Nixon, she divides the electorate like few other political figures in a country that has produced its fair share of divisive political figures.
2016 finds America in a strange place – or should that be a stranger place than usual. This is a moment in its history when political experience is viewed with suspicion and almost regarded as a hindrance to high office. Blue Collar America wants somebody with no experience whatsoever, somebody untarnished by association with what it perceives as Washington establishment elitism; that it should have honed in on an egomaniacal multi-millionaire whose clear contempt for anyone who doesn’t share his black & white worldview is odd on paper. But devoid of our own archaic social hierarchy, America is a country where even a man whose vast wealth sets him far apart from the street-sweeper can be regarded as ‘one of the guys’ simply because money hasn’t bought him any class. And in mistaking brash barroom bluster for ‘calling a spade a spade’ common sense, Blue Collar America has found its ideal hero, its very own Archie Bunker as the potential leader of the western world.
This places Hillary Clinton in a uniquely difficult position. Not only is she up against the ceaseless scrutiny of her lengthy and controversial career as a public servant – something Donald Trump is spared; she also has to calculate the best way to attack a man who has already shown he has no qualms over uttering outrageous statements that would ordinarily serve as valuable ammunition for an opponent, the kind that seasoned politicians would do their best to bury before facing the electorate. Trump would have to do so much backtracking over the sheer volume of ridiculous ideas and insults he’s aired during the past six months if he wanted to deny them that he may as well practice walking backwards for Christmas.
There are many Democrats who would rather have anyone as their candidate other than Hillary Clinton, which is why Bernie Sanders has been so successful at stealing her thunder during numerous primaries, and why the relatively inexperienced Obama derailed her expected smooth ride to the White House in 2008. The legacy of her husband’s secrets and lies, not to mention the dodgy moments from her own political past, have contributed towards the mistrust those within her own party feel towards her, and that’s not even taking into account the intense dislike of her that Republicans harbour.
It takes a tough nut to weather the kind of slings and arrows heading the way of Hillary Clinton over the coming months; but if there’s one hardened campaigner who can handle them, it’s the 68-year-old from Chicago who is determined to become America’s first female President. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she goes and does it.
© The Editor