I’m going to attempt to synthesize the message I’m taking from three different articles written recently about Hillary Clinton and the 2016 election. I’ll post the links right up front:
Large GOP Field Has Party Leaders Anxious About Their Chances in ’16 by Philip Rucker and Jenna Johnson
What Young Feminists Think of Hillary Clinton by Molly Mirhashem
Clinton is Banking on the Obama Coalition to Win by Anne Gearan
From the first article, I’m not so interested in what Rucker and Johnson have to say about the huge Republican field of candidates. Eventually they’ll pick a nominee and the truth is, there’s not that much daylight between the various candidates on the issues. The primary campaign might or might not get ugly and hurt the Republican candidate in the long run. But for all his failings, Reince Priebus nailed the reality they’re facing – no matter how much the media wants to ignore it because it dispels the narrative they favor about a competitive election.
At last week’s Republican National Committee meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz., party leaders plotted their path back to power and confronted the demographic changes that have made the Electoral College more challenging for Republicans, with their heavily male, overwhelmingly white base.
“To win in a presidential election year, the Democrats have to be good,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. “As Republicans, we need to be about perfect in order to win.”
One of the reasons the field of candidates on the Republican side is so big is that none of them embody the kind of “perfection” that is required to clear the field.
But when Rucker and Johnson veer into a discussion of what’s happening on the Democratic side of the race, they point out something important.
Looming above the GOP show is Hillary Rodham Clinton, the dominant Democratic candidate whom Republican officials brashly dismiss as a scandal-plagued, out-of-touch relic of the past but whose early strength and political durability is nevertheless giving them a serious scare.
Republican officials are dismayed that months of relentless, negative press coverage of her use of private e-mail servers, foreign donations to her family’s charitable foundation and her six-figure paid speeches have done minimal damage to her favorability ratings.
Others have noted that one of the reasons the attacks on Clinton haven’t worked is because most of the electorate says, “been there…done that” when it comes to these issues. Epistemic closure can fool Republicans into thinking they are hitting their mark when conservatives – who already hate Clinton – react. But in terms of the larger electorate, it’s pretty ho-hum stuff.
In the second article, Mirhashem relays what she learned from interviewing 47 young women who identify themselves as feminists about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The larger questions aren’t so much about whether or not they will vote for Clinton in the end, but how enthusiastic they are about that and their views on what feminism means to them. Given that many of the women Mirhashem interviewed were women of color, the intersectionality of gender, race and class was their biggest concern.
Some of the concerns raised by the women I spoke to about Clinton were traditional “women’s issues” like reproductive justice and equal pay. But just as many brought up police brutality, criminal-justice reform, and environmental issues as primary concerns—and as integral to what they mean by “feminism.”
In addition to the ones mentioned by Mirhashem, I would add immigration reform as something that is of primary concern to young feminist Latinas who have been so central to the DREAMers movement.
What’s interesting about that is how little the white male challengers who are positioning themselves to Clinton’s “left” have to say about some of those issues. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ platform includes the need to address climate change, but doesn’t mention police brutality, criminal justice reform or immigration reform. And while Martin O’Malley has addressed these issues, his record in Baltimore has pretty much destroyed his credibility on police brutality and criminal justice reform.
This is where Anne Gearan’s article comes in.
Hillary Rodham Clinton is running as the most liberal Democratic presidential front-runner in decades, with positions on issues from gay marriage to immigration that would, in past elections, have put her at her party’s precarious left edge.
The moves are part of a strategic conclusion by Clinton’s emerging campaign: that it can harness the same kind of young and diverse coalition as Barack Obama did in 2008 and 2012, bolstered by even stronger appeal among women…
Clinton’s full embrace of same-sex marriage in the first days of her campaign was followed by clear statements in favor of scrapping get-tough immigration and incarceration policies — many of which took root during her husband’s administration. She has also weighed in with liberal takes on climate change, abortion rights and disparities in income and opportunity between rich and poor.
That kind of positioning is going to make Hillary Clinton a formidable candidate who will be tough to beat. At this point, she has two remaining questions to answer: can she also embrace a feminist foreign policy and who will she pick to be her vice-presidential running mate?
On the latter, I would suggest that if she choses the former mayor of San Antonio and current HUD Secretary Julian Castro…she seals the deal. There is a reason why President Obama chose him to give the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic Convention and then picked him to serve in his Cabinet. Julian Castro represents the future of the Democratic Party.