A Growing Economy, A GOP Freak Show and emoiji-adorned snaps: Can Hillary Lose?
The economy is doing great for Hillary - but is that enough?
According to the US Constitution any article about how to win an American presidential election must include the advice to Bill Clinton ahead of his first campaign: “[It’s] the economy stupid.”
So having got that out the way, it becomes clear that the issue is whether a solid economic recovery will be enough to propel Hillary Clinton into the Oval Office chair her husband vacated 16 years ago.
If this were any previous election, the answer would be yes. The White House administration, of which Hill was a member until 2013, has overseen a solid albeit hardly startling economic recovery since the depths of the downturn following the economic crisis.
The economy has posted average annualised growth of almost 3% since the second quarter of 2014. Household spending and business investment had been increasing at solid rates, while the housing sector has improved further.
Most important for voters, the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.0% as the economy has created, according to official figures, 7.1 million jobs since Barack Obama regained the presidency in January 2013.
Of course, the outlook is far from perfect: the manufacturing sector is close to recession and inequality has worsened. This explains why Clinton has made “raising incomes for hard-working Americans” a key plank in her campaign.
But this isn’t any other election. Clinton must fight on two fronts. On the left she has to overcome the challenge from Bernie Saunders who is campaigning on a “progressive economic agenda” and taking on the might of the “billionaire class” to whom Clinton is quite close.
On the right she may have to deal with a Republican opponent who will want to talk about migration, guns, Muslims, China - anything but the economy. If Donald Trump wins the nomination, the mantra may be “Who cares about the economy, stupid.”
Each Election cycle brings a bigger GOP freak show
Predicting the decline and fall of American hegemony has become an entire media genre. But you do not need to drown yourself in the verbiage of the US political commentariat to assess the accuracy of these predictions. A cursory glance at the Republican presidential primary race is enough to show that the doom-mongers might be right.
To paraphrase the great American satirist PJ O’Rourke, “America is the country where absolutely anybody can be elected President - and, boy, are the Republicans trying to prove it”.
Each successive presidential election cycle seems to produce a bigger right-wing freak show than the last. Recent contests have featured Mitt “The Robot” Romney overcoming Rick “I believe in intelligent design but how does that explain me?” Santorum and Herman “Pokémon” Cain. They have also introduced us to the sadly unforgettable Sarah Palin.
Now, 2016 is surpassing its predecessors. The front runners Ben “really - he was an actual brain surgeon?” Carson and Donald “fascism with a freaky hairstyle” Trump, make it difficult to see how much further the Republicans can go next time around. The logical culmination of their end of empire vibe would be to nominate a Senator Caligula and have him appoint his horse to a safe congressional seat in Texas.
The scariest part of this situation is not that Trump or even Carson will end up President - they will not. It is that their grotesque distortions of the picture will make a less overtly ludicrous but equally extremist candidate like Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio seem plausible to the electorate.
That is something that should worry believers in democracy everywhere, because if Cruz and Rubio (let alone the rest) are the best that one half of the most powerful democratic nation can throw up as potential leaders, then we really could be approaching a crisis in political civilisation.
there are more paths to 270 for a Democrat than a Republican
Forget Trump. Forget the volatile national polls. The first thing any politician has to be able to do is count; and it is increasingly hard to find a Republican who can count to 270.
In the last six US presidential elections the GOP has only won the popular vote once. It is a generation since a Republican has won a significant electoral college victory. The truism of a polarised country electorally favours the Democrats.
The electoral college map is narrower than it has ever been, more states consistently give their electoral college votes to the same party. In 2000 twelve states were decided by margins of five points or less; by 2012 that number had shrunk to just four. So the Democratic nominee will start with a 247 to 206 electoral college advantage, leaving the race to be decided by seven states or by 85 electors. Hold the 247, win Ohio and one other large/medium state and the Democratic candidate will have won; win Florida and it is game over for the GOP candidate; the Dems could lose Florida, Ohio and Virginia but, if they won the remaining swing states, still emerge victorious. Conversely, the Republicans can make gains in blue-leaning Winconsin, and win Colorado, Florida, Iowa and Nevada (all blue in 2012) and still - without Ohio - lose. I could go on...
Put simply, there are more paths to 270 for a Democrat than Republican. But any election is up for grabs. There is no such thing as a locked election. We don’t even know who the GOP candidate will be.
For that matter, we don’t know whether Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. But would you bet your own money against her?
Clinton is slowly cultivating a warmer image
Despite being the default Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton can’t win. If she exhibits anger, she is portrayed as dangerously volatile (“NO WONDER BILL’S AFRAID”, screamed the New York Post). If she laughs, attack adverts and spoofs present her as crazed (“Hillary laughs like she’s mentally ill-ary”). Mostly, she maintains her composure and is accused of being aloof and calculated.
Consequently, Clinton’s communications team are attempting to demonstrate - via social media and popular culture - that their boss is full of “humour and heart”.
For example, Clinton authored a peculiar essay for Billboard, praising the musicians “writing hypnotic dance anthems [and] unspooling intricate rap lyrics”. However, she now has surprisingly strong Snapchat game: her emoji-adorned snaps have included a tiny puppy in campaign merchandise. On talk shows, Clinton delivers zingers, impersonates Donald Trump and dances the Nae Nae.
She is also aligning herself with the most innovative young women on television. In conversation with Girls creator Lena Dunham, Clinton spoke of her own experiences as a twenty-something: taking road trips, swimming in lakes and campaigning against curfews. Better yet, she is due to appear on the upcoming season of Broad City. Writers and co-stars Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson roam New York, committing “reverse rapism”, attending “straight weddings” and accidentally melting dildos in dishwashers. Clinton’s cameo amid the best friends’ chaotic capers will be one to look out for.
Unsurprisingly, when Clinton tries to be fun, she is lambasted for trying to be fun. Yet maybe - just maybe - she will slowly cultivate enough popular appeal to win over the American public after all.
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