If nominated, Hillary Clinton may defeat Trump in the general election. I say “may” because I no longer believe that the election is a slam dunk for Clinton. Last summer I argued that Trump was more cunning than people realized, and could easily damage Bush, so I am not shocked by my change of heart. But I am not here to consider Hillary’s chances of defeating Trump. Instead, I want to imagine how well Hillary will be able to navigate the dark waters that she will encounter from Day 1 of her presidency.
The recent report by State Department’s Inspector General contains several serious accusations against Clinton, but perhaps the two that are most relevant to a Clinton presidency are: 1) her willingness to employ unacceptable measures to protect her privacy, and 2) her and her aides unwillingness to cooperate with the IG’s investigation. Here’s how the Clinton friendly New York Times reported on the second point.
Mrs. Clinton and her aides have played down the inquiries, saying that she would cooperate with investigators to put the email issue behind her. Even so, through her lawyers, she declined to be interviewed by the State Department’s inspector general as part of his review. So did several of her senior aides.
Concerns about Hillary being too secretive and seeing herself above the rules and regulations that apply to common folk have been around for years, and were recently fueled by her refusal to release the transcripts of her talks to financiers. These concerns reinforce the suspicion that she is untrustworthy because she too readily changes her positions and is too quick to bend the truth to suit the situation. The Republicans have sought to use these and other failings against Clinton, but the seemingly hyperbolic nature of their criticisms has allowed most Democrats to brush them off.
But now a State Department investigation has highlighted these concerns. And the State Department’s criticisms can not be dismissed as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy or a Sanders’ driven great left-wing version. We also have a candidate on the Republican side who will be merciless in tying together many of these concerns about Hillary. Trump will keep repeating crooked Hillary. Even if it doesn’t win him the election, she will be further damaged.
With some of the highest unfavorables of any presidential candidate in history—which is not an evanescent poll result: the American people have been familiar with Hillary for decades—and a Republican Party that will be emboldened by the lack of popular support for her, just how is her incrementalism going to work once in office? She will be attacked and blocked as often as possible. The Republicans won’t stop because there won’t be any negative consequences for them. After all, she will have become president because more people disliked Trump than believed deeply in her. The GOP will seek to make her a one term president, and given the odds of a recession in the next few years, it’s likely they will succeed. Paul Ryan is already waiting in the wings. But it’s not only the GOP. The left wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t trust her and the neoliberalism she embodies. Clinton will have trouble maintaining the left’s support. And guaranteed, after the first perceived needless military action of her administration, the left will be totally abandon her.
For all intents and purposes, she will enter the office as a lame duck. In addition to crooked Hillary, she will come to be known as lame duck Hillary.
That the Democratic Establishment is committed to seeing Hillary elected is understandable given beltway power politics and self-interest. But it certainly represents a death wish in the rest of the country. With a recession almost guaranteed in the next few years, and lame duck Hillary in office, the party could lose big time in 2020, a crucial election because it will be a census election. Those elected on the state level will be able to gerrymander distracts for the next decade. So, look forward to four years of conflict and stagnation with lame duck Hillary in office, followed by the GOP taking charge.*
* No doubt there are other possible scenarios. The Democrats could come to their senses and nominate Sanders. Not holding my breath on this one. Or the left could really get its act together in the next few years and offer an alternative to Hillary and the GOP in 2020. In other words, primary Hillary or force her out of office the way Lyndon Johnson was forced out. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible.
Another scenario: Clinton could win in a landslide because of Trump’s weaknesses, but this is becoming less likely daily as more of Clinton’s dark side is revealed. Further, even if she were to win handily over Trump, it would be a mistake to assume that this would translate into the Democrats winning the House. Many people voting against Trump will ticket split. And down the road there are more problems. For example, there is the election of 2018 in which the Democrats will have many more seats at stake in the Senate than Republicans. These senators were (re)elected in 2012 in a presidential election year. The Democrats haven’t done well in non-presidential election years of late. If there is a tainted and disliked president, it will only compound their challenges in the 2018 election.