I watch as many New Zealanders and other people around the world are, with our usual mix of fascination, revulsion and derision, the early stages of the Democrat nominee race. As current occupiers of the White House, the Democrats find themselves in a fascinating, but difficult spot. With their incumbent two term, history making White House occupant now in his final year, the race is on to find a replacement. But it is turning out to be anything but easy if the pre-race jockeying is anything to go by.
Unlike the Republican race, which has developed into a four horse race with a number of stragglers some distance off the pace, the Democrat nominee race only appears to have two horses in it. Also unlike the Republican race where Donald Trump is the leader of the forward pack with Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson following, the Democrat race seems to be fairly tight. And yet the Democrat race could be the one that the world looks to for glimpses of a candidate who can offset the perceived madness of the Republican circus. So who are the contenders and how are they going?
One might think that Hillary Clinton is essentially a shoo in for the Democrat nomination. Having permitted President Barak Obama to hold the office after fighting all the way to the end of the 2008 Democrat primaries, many Democrats thought that Mrs Clinton was therefore deserving of another go at the White House. Certainly she has the campaign machinery necessary for such a big campaign. Despite commentary to the contrary Mrs Clinton is by no means assured of the Democrat nomination. She has the albatross of Bill Clinton’s sexual misdemeanours hanging around her neck, with vultures circling in the Republican camp waiting for their opportunity. And then there is the widespread perception not just among Americans, but among people overseas that Mrs Clinton, like her husband is too closely linked to corporate banks, which puts her appeal with the left-wing of the Democrats in jeopardy. Mrs Clinton also has two major problems largely of her own making to contend with as well:
- The e-mail scandal about whether she misused her personal e-mail to conduct the affairs of the state is grinding on, and some think it may lead to court action before the Democratic Primaries end
- Her conduct in handling the Benghazi consulate attack has given Fox News and its viewers substantial ammunition and the Republican candidates have begun to use it against her
Feel the Bern is the chant that often rings out at rallies for Bernie Sanders. Here we have, hot on Mrs Clinton’s heels a Vermont Senator, who many think might be too old to stand for President or too socialist based on his policy platform. This Vermont Senator, who was as recently as April 2015 actually an independent only joined the Democrats because they were his best chance of getting into the White House. His polling has been largely positive, and the most recent suggest that Mrs Clinton is by no means assured of New Hampshire or Iowa, when the Democrat primaries start in February. Mr Sanders has plans for closing tax loopholes that successive U.S. Presidents have failed to close. He does not support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, which President Obama does and he believes the use of military force is an absolute last resort. If Mrs Clinton cannot fix her problems or make them irrelevant, perhaps she will “Feel the Bern” on her prospects of returning to the White House.
Although both Mrs Clinton and Mr Sanders represent better prospects for America and the rapidly changing world it finds itself in than any of the Republican prospects, both have their pitfalls. Mr Sanders preference for diplomacy might not inspire Americans who are scared of the threat that Daesh pose, and those on the right will try to make this work against him. Likewise the vision he has for jobs will not inspire all Americans, but it will go further towards addressing poverty than any of the others including Mrs Clinton have managed.
As for Mrs Clinton, even if she were to somehow win the nomination, the combination of history and her mistakes as Secretary of State may be her undoing. If she finds herself pitted against the likes of Donald Trump or Ted Cruz who could tear stripes of her and the American voters decide that perhaps Fox News was onto something after all over her mistakes, I do not fancy her chances.