For the past couple of years, it has been viewed as almost a fait accompli that Hillary Clinton will be the next President of the United States.
All the polls show her drubbing all known opponents. All the pundits seem to regard her as a shoo-in. Even Clinton’s own fundraisers seem to regard their biggest challenge as persuading donors that she does not have a lock on the election, thus emphasising the need for these donors to donate.
No disrespect to Mrs. Clinton, but I think this consensus is wrong.
I do not say this as a political expert. I am not a political expert. I am just an American. For fun, though, I just bet a political expert, former editor in chief of Slate Jacob Weisberg, that Clinton won’t win. Jacob took the bet instantly and says he is looking forward to my buying him lunch in early November 2016.
To be clear:
Hillary Clinton is supremely well-qualified to be President. She has strong experience, she’s smart and capable, and she would probably do a great job. She is widely and deservedly respected and admired. She also has deep connections and an immense and talented political machine, one that has been gearing up for her campaign for years.
But despite this, unless the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot and nominate a champion of the extreme right, I don’t think she’ll get the job.
Four reasons, none of which are insurmountable, two of which are politically incorrect:
3) Track record and wonkiness
4) Relative lack of charmingness and likeability
A few words on each:
Age. If Hillary Clinton is elected President in 2016, she will be the one of the oldest President Elects ever. Only Ronald Reagan was older. According to this chart from Wikipedia, the average age of incoming Presidents is 54. Hillary Clinton would be 69. Ronald Reagan was also 69. And by the end of his second term, he was viewed as very old. (I’m not saying age should be a factor. I’m just saying it likely will be.)
Gender. Someday, happily, a woman will be President of the United States. Also happily, I think the country is finally ready to elect a woman as President. But across business and politics, it’s still harder for women to get to the top. I think that cracking this final glass ceiling will likely take a very strong candidate. I don’t think Hillary Clinton will be strong enough in 2016. (Again, I’m not saying gender should be a factor. I’m saying it likely will be.)
Track record and wonkiness. History has shown that experience and wonkiness are not necessarily assets in American Presidential elections. On the contrary, they are often liabilities. Al Gore had tremendous experience. It worked against him in the election, as did his voting record and wonkiness. (Americans chose the candidate who had no Federal voting record — and, thus, nothing to shoot at — the candidate they would rather get a beer with, President Bush.) Similarly, the candidate who eventually trumped Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries, President Barack Obama, also had limited experience. But he was more charming and better at connecting with voters than Clinton was, which brings up the last Clinton weakness.
Relative lack of inherent charmingness and likeability. Hillary Clinton has radically improved her public speaking prowess and campaigning ability over the years, and millions of Americans are crazy about her. But she still struggles to forge an emotional connection with average voters. This natural magnetism was her husband’s greatest strength, and it propelled him to two election victories despite other flaws. As talented and sharp as she is, Hillary Clinton does not share this strength, and it leaves her exposed to more charismatic candidates.
I like and admire Hillary Clinton. I would be happy to consider voting for her (as yet, I’m “undecided.”) I just don’t think she’ll win the 2016 election unless the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot.
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