The progressive website Vox Populi asked me to write a complete analysis of Hillary Clinton’s positions on the entire range of issues which will—or should—dominate the presidential campaign. You can find my complete article and three other articles about Hillary’s campaign at Vox Populi.
I wanted to share a few excerpts from this lengthy analysis on the OpEdge blog. Today’s excerpts speculate on why Hillary’s early campaign has largely avoided talking about the issues:
Hillary Clinton has herself to blame at least in part for the news media covering extraneous issues in the early stages of her campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. She has said hardly a word about her positions on the issues. There is nothing about her platform on either or her two campaign websites, hillaryclinton.com and readyforhillary.com, or on her Facebook page. In speeches, we get brief tidbits, but nothing substantive.
In a sense, Hillary is saying, “You know who I am and what my capabilities are,” and there is a certain logic to this approach. Let’s start with the reality of the situation: a number of serious constraints have always prevented presidents from veering from the basic direction in which the country is headed—the courts, the legislature and the continuing federal government that goes about its job of running things no matter who is the boss.
Thus, our presidential candidates can be—and usually are—evaluated not just in terms of their political and social stances, but also on their ability to manage the processes of government. And when it comes to the criteria that define an effective chief executive, there are few candidates in American history as qualified as Hillary, at least on paper:
- High intelligence: How can anyone deny that Hillary is both highly gifted intellectually and a lifetime learner?
- Past experience: Only the rabid right would call her time in the Senate and as Secretary of State anything other than successful.
- Lack of hypocrisy: Hillary has never said one thing and then hypocritically did something else, for example, rail against the Affordable Care Act and then sign up for Obamacare, as Ted Cruz has done, or advocate against gays all the while trolling public bathrooms for same sex quickies, as Republican Senator Larry Craig did.
- She has a cross-cultural understanding of social cues, which means that she won’t embarrass herself by saying or doing the wrong thing, as Mitt Romney constantly did during the 2012 presidential campaign, e.g., when he publicly revealed a secret briefing that many had undergone over the decades but that everyone else who received it had the good sense to keep confidential; or when Romney broke the cardinal sin of retired Chief Executive Officers, which is not to criticize the new administration unless involved in a hostile takeover; Mitt criticized the London Olympics (unfairly, too, as it turned out), even though he was a past CEO of the Olympic games. Far from making these “bull in a china shop” mistakes, Hillary seems to enjoy tremendous respect among the people of the world and world leaders.
- She is competent running an organization: Despite the increasingly incredulous claims of Republicans, Hillary seemed to have done a good job of running the State Department, even in the Benghazi disaster. There were media reports that her 2008 campaign was a mess, but I wonder if that was just exaggeration to win eyeballs and sell papers.
- Science-based decision-making: Hillary has never said or written anything that tried to deny science. Contrast with the Republican candidates, announced and unannounced: all of them deny science in one way or another, regarding a wide variety of issues, including global warming, science teaching, women’s fertility issues and economics. I’m not saying Hillary is always right, but that she always reasons from the facts, and not from what she wants the facts to be.
By focusing on Hillary the person, I believe the campaign wants to communicate that Hillary is the most competent presidential candidate around, regardless of one’s political positions. They want us to encapsulate all the positive personality traits and management skills a president needs into one brand name, Hillary!
The subtext of focusing on Hillary the person (read: the celebrity) is the assumption that we all know what the former Secretary of State, U.S. Senator and First Lady stands for.
Not immediately presenting a complete platform thus postpones the inevitable intra-party clashes, e.g., between those who favor the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, such as Hillary herself, and those who worry that it gives corporations the right to sue countries; and between those who embrace charter schools, again like Hillary, and those who see them as subtle attempts to destroy public unions. Moreover, there can be little doubt that even if Hillary had opened with a full program, Republicans and the rightwing media would still be wallowing in a mud bath of hysterical accusations and bold-faced lies about her. The frenzied and rabid opposition to the Clintons consists primarily of accusations regarding their character flaws. Perhaps to battle this constant character assassination explains why the early campaign message is that Hillary is competent, ethical, caring, effective, flexible and…Well, you know…She’s Hillary!