Almost from the moment she lost to Barack Obama in 2008 predictions about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign began. In the intervening eight years no other names were even seriously floated. Yet for all the presumptuousness and all the leg-ups she’s received from donors, corporate media and the Democratic establishment, the fact remains that she is just not a good candidate. Whether she ends up with the nomination or not, Clinton’s 2016 run has been a debacle highlighting the worst of American politics.
Clinton began the 2016 race as the only household name on the Democratic side. In the campaign’s early months she enjoyed national polling that consistently had her at a 60-point lead. Now she’s jockeying with Bernie Sanders for the national lead and with Sanders’s 13-point win in the Wisconsin primary, Clinton is on a six-state losing streak in the nomination process. She remains well ahead in delegate count, but considering the advantages she had she’s done about as badly as possible.
In an election that’s largely been a referendum on decades of neoconservative foreign policy and Washington’s coziness with Wall Street, Hillary Clinton is as entrenched a figure of that establishment class as there can be. It’s a testament to our system’s thorough corruption that she’s in the race at all.
Start with foreign policy. Clinton is regularly deferred to as more authoritative on the subject than Sanders, due largely to her tenure as Secretary of State. But her ultra-hawkish foreign policy credentials are disastrous. In 2002 she voted to authorize George Bush’s invasion of Iraq, one of the most expensive and fatal war crimes in modern history with ramifications that will be felt for generations. By contrast, her allegedly less-knowledgeable opponent voted against the invasion and showed insight as to the consequences of destabilization in the Middle East. It’s a lesson Clinton still hadn’t learned when, as Secretary of State, she facilitated arms deals with brutal regimes in exchange for Clinton Foundation donations and spearheaded a military intervention in Libya that reduced the country to one of the world’s worst failed states, making it a nexus of terrorism. A woman who advocated for some of history’s worst crimes should be facing an international tribunal, not winning the presidential nomination of the “peaceful” political party.
After stepping down as Secretary of State in 2013, Clinton made millions of dollars giving speeches to companies like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Her and Bill together have made $139 million for corporate speeches. Bill Clinton is often credited with consummating the Democrats’ flirtations with Wall Street, repealing the regulatory Glass-Steagall Act which precipitated the 2008 financial crisis and signing trade agreements that allowed corporations to maximize profit at the expense of American workers by exploiting the cheap labor and lax regulatory standards of overseas markets. Hillary has largely shared her husband’s philosophy on these issues.
Her defense, both to her Wall Street ties and to her hawkish foreign policy, is often something along the lines of, “Everyone else does it too.” Other Democrats voted to invade Iraq. She said she’d release transcripts of her Wall Street speeches when everyone else “who’s ever given a speech to any private group under any circumstances” does. It’s certainly not inspiring leadership, but she’s right in a way to indict others. No one with this record should come anywhere near the presidency.
But even if her record can be forgiven, the way she’s run her campaign has been dirty, unethical, and in some cases, possibly illegal. Just this week Clinton sent one of the vilest tweets of the 2016 race: “@BernieSanders prioritized gun manufacturers’ rights over the parents of the children killed at Sandy Hook.” The tweet came just one week after a Clinton surrogate admonished Sanders’s “tone” and taunted that Clinton would refuse to debate ahead of the April 19 New York primary unless that tone changed.
Whenever Sanders inches toward the negative – by pointing out Clinton’s Wall Street ties, for instance – Clinton cries foul and accuses him of reneging on his promise not to run a negative campaign. Meanwhile she has run an extremely negative campaign, characterizing Sanders and his supporters as liars, sexist, or unrealistic.
“There is a persistent, organized effort to misrepresent my record, and I don’t appreciate that, and I feel sorry for a lot of the young people who are fed this list of misrepresentations,” Clinton said in an interview with Politico. This followed the fallout from an encounter with a Greenpeace activist who challenged Clinton on her well-documented ties to the fossil fuel industry. Clinton’s agitated response to the activist was, “I am so sick of the Sanders campaign lying about me.”
Bill Clinton has been responsible for some of the most disingenuous attacks on Sanders. In February he alluded to the “Bernie Bros” trope, accusing Sanders supporters of sexism. He pushed ethical politics to their limit when he made stops at numerous Massachusetts polling stations on election day, holding up lines, disenfranchising voters, and possibly violating election laws. Hillary Clinton squeaked out a narrow victory.
Perhaps her most cynical line of attack is to disparage Sanders’s ideas as unrealistic and his supporters as uninformed. Sanders has excited the progressive base in a way this country hasn’t seen in decades and Clinton has done all she can to temper that enthusiasm and bring them to the center-right.
Sanders advocates a $15 minimum wage; Clinton wants to begin the negotiations at $12 and then get in on the celebration when the State of New York raises it to $15. Sanders advocates making college tuition-free; Clinton has far more modest reforms in mind. Sanders advocates a Medicare-for-all universal healthcare system; Clinton, who championed such a plan in 1993, characterizes Sanders’s position as repealing Obamacare. She also said, “I don’t know where he was when I was trying to get healthcare in ’93 and ’94,” to which the Sanders campaign presented a photograph from 1993 showing Sanders literally standing right beside her.
While she denies the millions of dollars in Wall Street donations have influenced her policy positions, Clinton claims there simply isn’t enough money for Sanders’s proposals. This argument feels disingenuous coming from a woman who voted for an illegal war that will cost some $6 trillion, a bailout of the financial industry that cost taxpayers almost $8 trillion, and who said of a bailout in 2008, “New York and our other financial institutions are probably the biggest winners in this, which is one of the reasons why in the end, despite my serious questions about it, I supported it.”
Chicanery from the DNC further corrupted the election in Clinton’s favor. First the DNC kept the number of debates low and scheduled them for terrible times, widely seen as an effort to keep insurgent candidates from reaching a television audience. Then Clinton was awarded 45 times the number of superdelegates as Sanders before any voting had even taken place. In December the DNC punished the Sanders campaign by temporarily cutting off their access to a crucial voter database. Establishment Democrats raised $26 million for the Hillary Victory Fund before any Democratic voter had cast a ballot.
Corporate media has also been flagrantly anti-Sanders. According to the mainstream narrative the biggest scandal facing Clinton is her emails, which are unlikely to result in legal consequences. Meanwhile the media accepts Clinton’s argument that Sanders, despite being a successful elected official for 35 years, is naïve about political reality. Pundits and political figures, including President Obama, regularly call on him to drop out of the race.
Given Clinton’s enormous systemic advantages, the fact that she’s still in a heated contest for the nomination is probably the clearest indicator of just what a poor candidate she is. Part of the reason Clinton would be reluctant to debate Sanders in New York is that the two had a debate in Michigan on March 6 which was followed by Sanders scoring one of the biggest political upsets in primary history in the state on March 8. She knows that the more people hear Sanders’s message, the more support he gets, and she can’t risk that in New York.
If she does win the Democratic nomination it’s lucky her opponents will be the only people she’s preferable to – the frothing, fascist jackals of the GOP. Even at that she doesn’t poll as well against them as Sanders does. Her approval rating is historically low for a frontrunner and is the second-lowest in the race, behind only Donald Trump. It’s a depressing thought that the lesser of two evils will be a Wall Street-funded superhawk.
At this time last year she was regarded as the odds-on favorite to become the next president. But just as in 2008, her dirty politics and deep corruption have compelled the progressive base to look elsewhere. It’s a strange mentality of the political establishment that they’d run a candidate voters already rejected once. It shows how out-of-touch they are, or maybe that they just don’t give a damn. And Hillary Clinton fits right in with them.