Can Hillary Make History?

Kate Mitchell

Kate Mitchell

“I’m running for President. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

This single tweet of confirmation looked like an attempt to remain humble and grounded following the months, even years of speculation about Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential ambitions. In place of any pomp and circumstance, Hillary’s almost casual-sounding announcement bore the hallmarks of someone taking absolutely nothing for granted. And yet, it is hard to imagine a time more apt for Hillary, one of the most prominent politicians of our era, to take her chance at the top job.

Of course, Hillary’s famous description of the presidency as the “highest, hardest glass ceiling” gives us an indication of the heavy emphasis her campaign will place on gender. In particular, given the recent birth of her daughter Chelsea’s first child, Hillary appears to be casting herself as the nation’s grandmother. An approach already being tested with the hashtag: #GrandmasKnowBest.

In addition, her campaign is likely to contain commitments to greater gender equality. This step could certainly prove significant given that the vast majority of her potential opponents are male. Nonetheless, gender will simply be one of a number of contentious issues throughout the arduous election process.

Hillary has already committed to challenging an economic system “stacked in favour of those at the top”. Instead, she is set to champion the cause of “everyday Americans”. She equally voiced her intention to tackle the rising tension between African-Americans and the police, by proposing officers wear a camera on their person. Her challengers, particularly those competing for the Democratic Party nomination, are also likely to hold her to account on what they view as a questionable record on foreign policy and human rights. Particular regard is given to her staunch support for the 2003 military involvement in Iraq.

In spite of these objections, given her sizeable support base it is widely expected that Hillary will win her party’s nomination. In contrast to her bitterly-fought primaries in 2008, lost to Barack Obama, there appear to be few potential Democratic candidates who could realistically challenge her for the nomination.

Her ‘Ready for Hillary’ campaign network is well-organised and its fundraising ability will undoubtedly outstrip any of the other Democratic presidential hopefuls’ campaigns. It would take something remarkable for any other Democrat to even genuinely compete with, let alone defeat Hillary. The candidate’s primary campaign could all but turn into a procession towards the presidential election itself.

Assuming she wins the nomination; with Hillary going head-to-head with a Republican candidate the presidential election would likely be a much closer affair. At this early stage Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have been touted as frontrunners for the Republican nomination. Overcoming either would indeed pose Clinton’s candidacy a significant challenge. Nonetheless, the capabilities of her efficient campaign team, along with her generally strong personality approval ratings, suggest that in all likelihood, she would go into any two-way presidential race as the favourite to win.

Remarkable though a Clinton victory would be, marking an inaugural female presidency that many would say was long overdue, it is difficult to imagine it being met with the same optimism and euphoria evident when Obama triumphed over John McCain in 2008. This is largely down to Clinton’s long-term prominence in US politics. She may be experienced (nobody else can boast of being a First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State), but she is a known quantity where Obama was a breath of fresh air.

While this will not help her during the campaign, it may well work in her advantage should she win. The great expectations that carried Obama into power turned out to be his greatest curse- in truth he was never going to achieve all that was hoped of him.

In contrast, a win for Clinton may be greeted with sufficiently reserved reactions that she can quietly go about her business and perhaps defy expectations. First things first, she will have to smash through ‘the highest glass ceiling’ there is.

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