The Hillary Clinton phenomenon

By Michael Lashley

Before I delve into the phenomenon that is Hillary Rodham Clinton, it may be useful to raise a few points of order.

First, let us bear in mind that in politics perception is very, very often a more decisive factor than the truth. Consequently, it is meaningless to pursue any doubts as to whether Hillary Clinton is in fact a phenomenon and whether it is worthwhile to talk and write about her.

Finally, it is nevertheless relevant for non-Americans to ask themselves whether it really matters to them who becomes the next U.S. president.

Having said that, I will now outline my own subjective views on the aspect of this subject which most of you deem paramount: I believe that, if she runs, she will win the presidency.

However, because of the overwhelming influence of the various powerhouses that together comprise the American Establishment, and because of her own politics, I do not expect her to make a major difference in terms of her policies and the face of America inside and outside of its borders.

And now we can take a look at the issues that, in the minds of American voters, will work in her favor in the next presidential elections.

Mrs. Clinton is seen as a competent, experienced and respected candidate for the top job. She is not generally loved but she is respected, even by many of her rivals in her own party and among the Republicans.

She is so strong and strong-willed that she will not flinch in the face of any challenge or any crisis: just the type of rival who can and will please her fellow Americans by standing up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin with an aggressiveness that many non-Americans may view as excessive and counter-productive.

She drives a very hard bargain and is likely to fight the Republican-controlled Congress with less diplomacy than President Barack Obama.

That comparison with the current president is worth noting. She is no Obama fan, she never has been. So, rather than continuing to defend him as she did when she was a member of his Cabinet as secretary of state, she is now seeking to distance herself from him to bolster her own electoral acceptability, not only among undecided voters and broad-minded Republicans, but especially among Democrats.

And yet, there are equally numerous factors working against her electoral success. The most striking aspect of the so-called “public perception” of her is her image as an “Iron Lady” in her own right. Clinton is perceived to be a Democrat with a strong dose of characteristics normally associated with Conservatives and Republicans.

She is neither a populist like Ronald Reagan nor a leader with a feel for the sensitivities of America’s grassroots like Obama. She is seen as aloof and heavy-handed in her interpersonal relations. The public sees no warmth in her. She is respected but not loved. And people prefer to see something in their leaders that they can love.

Shortly after she left Obama’s Cabinet, this Iron Lady publicly indicated a greater openness to using military options in addressing international conflicts, clearly criticizing her former commander-in-chief while he is still in office.

In spite of all of that, I still believe she will win the White House. There are some more typically American electability factors that will be in play. Let us begin with the “put in a Democrat and save us from the Republicans”, be they the Tea Party favourites, Mitt Romney, Pat Buchannan, Ron Paul, his son Rand Paul and, you-guessed-it, Sarah Palin.

Clinton will be expected to usher in a period of relative stability and continuity, in a society that has been yearning for it for some time now. This will be easier for her, because she will not be handicapped with the race issue in the harassed environment in which Obama has been functioning.

Moving forward with all those positive and negative considerations, there is one earth-shattering reason and consequence that makes Clinton’s elevation to the American presidency eminently worth the trouble: like her former rival Obama, she will break a very significant glass ceiling. In becoming the first female U.S. president, she will open the skies to more and more women who deserve to attain the highest offices in politics and in all other fields, based on their own merits.

Over to you, Madame President!

Michael Lashley
Michael Lashley