The buzzards are circling over the Clinton campaign

Hillary Clinton is “still in a very, very strong position,” an unnamed strategist said. “I don’t think we’re in a free-fall situation here.”[1] Perhaps. But it is increasingly apparent that the buzzards are circling over her campaign. In response to an intensifying email scandal in which it is apparent she broke the law,[2] she said, “I won’t get down in the mud with them. I won’t pretend that this is anything other than what it is — the same old partisan games we’ve seen so many times before.” Not only are there “echoes of the old ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ that she once said was out to get her and President Clinton,” but the campaign speaks of sticking to a plan rather than of responding to what’s actually happening on the ground.[3]

“Clinton argues that she has the experience and the temperament to be a champion for those who feel left out of a changing economic landscape and an imperfect economic recovery”[4] but she equivocates on the Trans-Pacific Partnership[5] and takes entirely too much money from Wall Street.[6]

Few political families are closer to Wall Street than the Clintons. Their family foundation has raised millions from financiers and the foundations of big banks, and recently held its annual briefing for donors in the auditorium of Goldman Sachs’s headquarters in Manhattan. Major financial firms are stocked with Clinton alumni.[7]

Clinton is not—and cannot be—a convincing populist candidate at a time when many people are fed up with corruption[8] and social inequality.[9] “[Bernie] Sanders and Republican Donald Trump are tapping into something . . . more visceral — a grass-roots, antiestablishment anger that is hard for Clinton to address with wonky policy prescriptions.”[10]

And then there’s that email scandal:

“I’m not sure they completely understand the credibility they are losing, by the second,” said one Democratic strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “At some point this goes from being something you can rationalize away to something that becomes political cancer. And we are getting pretty close to the cancer stage, because this is starting to get ridiculous.”[11]

It’s early in the campaign, too early in fact, for a couple of things that have happened. First, the Democratic establishment all but crowned Clinton as their ‘inevitable’ nominee. For all the talk now about how all this is to be expected, with campaign manager Robby Mook writing, “Like any presidential campaign, we face our share of challenges,” several Democratic supporters reportedly worry about “insularity, rigidity and a sense that the operation is tone-deaf to changes happening around it.”[12] Second, even though the elections won’t happen until next year, the polls are making a major move south on Clinton.[13]

The slew of unimpressive poll numbers is exacerbating the situation. Some have shown slippage against her main left-wing rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Others have indicated her losing swing states against Republican opponents. Still others have revealed continuing weakness in her ratings on trustworthiness and favorability.

Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist who has worked with Clinton in the past, argued that the general suspicion that the former secretary of State is concealing something is much more damaging than the specifics of the email matter.

“It’s hard to imagine Americans in the heartland wondering about whether Hillary Clinton gave up an email server or not,” he said. “But [it adds to] this constant battering she’s taking, which is that people don’t trust her. It increases the feeling that something is not being told to them.”

Joe Trippi, who served as campaign manager for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid, concurred.

“The thing that’s hurt has been losing the ground she’s lost on trustworthiness and honesty. It’s on trust, not on the specifics of emails or anything like that,” he said.[14]

It was probably inevitable that Clinton would run. And based on her performance in 2008, I doubt she’ll concede until well after it is apparent she has lost. But with this electorate in this time, I cannot imagine that Clinton can win a general election. Anyone, and I do mean anyone the Republicans put against her would defeat her because even establishment (functionalist conservative) Republicans have more practice and skill at appealing to a populist base. And the majority of the Republican field campaigns on a “Tea Party” (authoritarian populist) platform.

And while the Democratic Party establishment was tone-deaf in anointing Clinton, it is hard for me to imagine that they are so oblivious to what’s going on that they are not scrambling to find a replacement. I now doubt even that Clinton can win the nomination.

  1. [1]Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty, and Dan Balz, “Backers fear old weaknesses stalk Clinton campaign,” Washington Post, August 15, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-campaign-same-old-problems-clinton-hurt-by-familiar-shortcomings/2015/08/15/ce80e2d8-42ad-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html
  2. [2]Jonathan Allen, “Bernie Sanders and “top secret” emails are catching up to Hillary Clinton,” Vox, August 12, 2015, http://www.vox.com/2015/8/12/9137705/clinton-email-top-secret; Trevor Timm, “Sorry, Hillary Clinton fans: her email errors are definitely newsworthy,” Guardian, August 1, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/aug/01/hillary-clinton-email-errors-newsworthy; Jonathan Turley, “Clinton: ‘Pretty Clear’ No Emails Were Classified Despite Contrary Findings Of Inspector General,” July 26, 2015, http://jonathanturley.org/2015/07/26/clinton-pretty-clear-no-emails-were-classified-despite-contrary-findings-of-inspector-general/; Jonathan Turley, “State Department Classifies Dozens of Additional Clinton Emails,” August 3, 2015, http://jonathanturley.org/2015/08/03/state-department-classifies-dozens-of-additional-clinton-emails/
  3. [3]Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty, and Dan Balz, “Backers fear old weaknesses stalk Clinton campaign,” Washington Post, August 15, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-campaign-same-old-problems-clinton-hurt-by-familiar-shortcomings/2015/08/15/ce80e2d8-42ad-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html
  4. [4]Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty, and Dan Balz, “Backers fear old weaknesses stalk Clinton campaign,” Washington Post, August 15, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-campaign-same-old-problems-clinton-hurt-by-familiar-shortcomings/2015/08/15/ce80e2d8-42ad-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html
  5. [5]Maureen Dowd, “Trade Winds Blow Ill for Hillary,” New York Times, June 20, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/21/opinion/sunday/maureen-dowd-trade-winds-blow-ill-for-hillary.html
  6. [6]Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, “Wall Street Offers Clinton a Thorny Embrace,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08wallst.html; Greg Gordon, “Hillary Clinton got nearly $1.6 million from big banks in 2013,” McClatchy, July 31, 2015, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article29711881.html?rh=1; Noam Scheiber, “Hillary Clinton’s Inequality Rhetoric Is Weak: No, we’re not ‘all in this mess together’,” New Republic, July 9, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118632/hillary-clintons-inequality-rhetoric-insulting; Andrew Ross Sorkin, “Hillary Clinton’s Comment on Jobs Raises Eyebrows on Wall St.,” New York Times, October 27, 2014, http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/hillary-clintons-comment-about-corporations-and-job-creation-raises-wall-st-s-eyebrows/; Josh Voorhees, “Why Hillary Clinton Has Moved So Far and So Fast to the Left,” Slate, June 8, 2015, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/08/hillary_clinton_runs_left_why_the_democratic_frontrunner_is_embracing_the.html;
  7. [7]Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, “Wall Street Offers Clinton a Thorny Embrace,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08wallst.html
  8. [8]Bill Curry, “This is why Hillary’s losing: The issue Jeb Bush and Donald Trump understand, which may keep Clinton from the White House,” Salon, July 26, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/07/26/this_is_why_hillarys_losing_the_issue_jeb_bush_and_donald_trump_understand_which_may_keep_clinton_from_the_white_house/
  9. [9]Robert Reich, “The Revolt Against the Ruling Class,” August 2, 2015, http://robertreich.org/post/125702366950
  10. [10]Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty, and Dan Balz, “Backers fear old weaknesses stalk Clinton campaign,” Washington Post, August 15, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-campaign-same-old-problems-clinton-hurt-by-familiar-shortcomings/2015/08/15/ce80e2d8-42ad-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html
  11. [11]Niall Stanage and Kevin Cirilli, “Dems near Clinton panic mode,” Hill, August 13, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/251008-dems-near-clinton-panic-mode
  12. [12]Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty, and Dan Balz, “Backers fear old weaknesses stalk Clinton campaign,” Washington Post, August 15, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/new-campaign-same-old-problems-clinton-hurt-by-familiar-shortcomings/2015/08/15/ce80e2d8-42ad-11e5-8ab4-c73967a143d3_story.html
  13. [13]Jennifer Agiesta, “Poll: New speed bumps for Clinton,” CNN, June 2, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/02/politics/hillary-clinton-2016-poll-gop-field-close/index.html; Mark Hensch, “Poll: Majority believe Clinton lied about emails,” Hill, August 14, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/251192-poll-most-think-clinton-knowingly-lied-about-emails; Niall Stanage and Kevin Cirilli, “Dems near Clinton panic mode,” Hill, August 13, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/251008-dems-near-clinton-panic-mode; Neetzan Zimmerman, “Poll: Clinton’s favorability takes a major hit,” Hill, August 3, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/250148-poll-clintons-favorability-takes-a-major-hit
  14. [14]Niall Stanage and Kevin Cirilli, “Dems near Clinton panic mode,” Hill, August 13, 2015, http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/251008-dems-near-clinton-panic-mode

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