hillary clinton: the comeback and the backlash

Hillary could become the first female president of the US, but should we be moving forwards instead of returning to the politics of an older generation?

by Tess Reidy
15 April 2015, 12:07pm

It's been a long time coming, but earlier this week, Hillary Clinton, announced that she intended to make a second attempt at becoming America's first female commander-in-chief.

The possibility that the US might elect a woman is pretty exciting. Hillary is a major hero of educated, working women in the States. Girls identify with her and hope to become something like that themselves one day. If she chooses policies that will serve women well, if she starts to talk about improving government support for working mothers, for instance, then she stands to be very inspiring. Female voters are integral to the election and as commentators have pointed out, she could make "the perfect US president", become the future Queen of America, and improve the visibility of older women across the world.

But, on the other hand, following on from Barack Obama, she also represents a return to a previous generation's politics, one that young people may have trouble identifying with. And so, as ever in politics and in social media, the Hillary backlash has already begun.

Along with unkind comments about her personality, critics have been quick to point out the unhealthiness of a Clinton dynasty. When you consider the fact that Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, who is brother and son to recent White House occupants George W and George HW Bush, is currently among the frontrunners in the crowded field of aspiring Republican candidates, his nomination could turn the election into a battle between two of the most familiar family names in modern US history.

For many, it is weird to think that the solution to America's problems lies in the 90s and going back to a past era. But, as Joshua Simon, lecturer in North American Politics at King's College London, points out, these are family dynasties in a different way. "This is a brother of a former president running against a field of many new entries into politics and the wife of a former president, so it's not really a dynasty in the traditional sense," he said.

Another issue, is that this election is Hillary's to lose. The majority of votes in the last elections have been cast for Democrats, including the one where George W Bush came to power in 2000. As the Republican party becomes a more regional, older, whiter party and the US becomes younger and more diverse, it's hard to see how they can make ground. However, to many, Hillary does not really represent a candidate of this new America, and the fear is that she may not be able to capitalize on all the advantages that helped Obama to win and be reelected.

Despite Democrats generally enjoying support among celebrities and the Hollywood set (Lena Dunham, RuPaul, Carole King and Ariana Grande were quick to endorse Hillary this week) from a TV ratings perspective, brand Hillary is considered to be a bit boring.

Obama's campaign was exciting, and managed to rally young people and minorities to vote. Some fear that is something we will not see that during this campaign. "As a long time politician, Hillary Clinton has shown us that she plays things very safe. She watches polls very closely and, like her husband, she will position herself in a way that is most advantageous to her being elected and I think that's boring," said Simon.

But, as Clive Webb, professor of modern American history, at Sussex University, points out, the key link between Hillary and a younger generation is her daughter Chelsea. "Chelsea is a young professional mother who embodies the very demographic that the Clinton campaign team is chasing. We can expect to see her play a very public role in the election race," he said.

Several of the most prominent figures on the so-called progressive wing of the Democrat party, such as New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, are so far refusing to offer their support without a clearer vision from Hillary on a whole host of liberal causes, including climate change and Wall Street reform. As one former Hillary superfan I spoke to, said: "I've gone off her. The problem with Obama is that he hasn't made fundamental changes to the economy and distribution of wealth. But I don't begrudge him that, he's basically a centrist. I think he should be followed by someone to the left of him and Hillary is not that."

Others agree. Simon thinks that as the only Democrat candidate running so far, she should be presenting a clearer campaign vision. "There was a lack of substance to her announcement. She didn't present any policies, she just gave a Madison Avenue image of herself," he said. "She has an opportunity right now to say, without any interruptions, what policies she would pursue and why that would make her a compelling candidate for the US, but so far there's been nothing."

For some, it seems that the Democrats have something of a liability having such a strong singular candidate. The fear is that there will be no policy debate that will excite the left of the party, whereas the Republicans will have plenty of discussion between centrists like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio and more right wing candidates such as Scott Walker and Rand Paul. This, they say, will motivate the base of the Republican party in a way that Hillary will be unable to do. She will just be running on the fact that she is the alternative to any of the Republican possibilities. After eight years of Obama's presidency, perhaps America was hoping for more. 


Text Tess Reidy
Image via Fmcabezadevaca

Hilary Clinton