Let me start off by saying that I like Hillary Clinton. I really do. My family voted for Bill in 1992 and 1996, and for Hillary to be our Senator in 2000 and 2006. By this time I had become politically aware, and supported Hillary against Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries.
But the political winds have shifted during the Obama presidency. America has become far more polarized than ever before. While Obama ran both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns like a progressive Democrat, in practice he is more of a left-leaning centrist. This has upset the large progressive wing of the Democrats, which oppose his proposed cuts to Social Security and free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Likewise, Republicans of all stripes have fought with Obama tooth and nail over Obamacare, various proposed jobs bills, extending unemployment insurance and raising the minimum wage.
This climate does not bode well for a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016 for a number of reasons. While Bill presided over a prolonged period of economic prosperity during the 1990s, a few of his policies would soon prove to be detrimental in the long run. NAFTA has cost about one million jobs since it was enacted in 1994, and has contributed to lower wages, the shrinking of the middle class and increasing income inequality. The repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999 rolled back financial regulations that would have prevented the Great Recession in 2008.
Now, I’m not saying that Bill wasn’t a good president, because he was. But while she was a senator, Hillary voted for the Iraq War and had a mixed record on free trade. Before I throw my support for Hillary in the primary, I would like for her to highlight her differences from Bill, take responsibility for some of her poor votes in the Senate and embrace an economic populist platform that can appeal to a wide swath of the electorate.
I also understand that people are clamoring for Hillary to be the first women president. And yes, that is all well and good. However, people shouldn't support a candidate just because of their race or gender. No one supported Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann just because they're women, so I find this argument to be a moot point. I'd much rather vote for Elizabeth Warren, but I don't think that she is going to run.
And even though Hillary is leading the pack by a wide margin, I take presidential candidate polls this early with a grain of salt. Anything can happen, just ask Chris Christie. And Hillary was the presumed frontrunner in 2008 until Obama seemingly came out of nowhere.
Furthermore, I find it strange that Hillary has been essentially crowned the Democratic nominee since Obama began his second term last year. Yes, she already has a PAC called Ready for Hillary all set up just waiting for her to declare, but it feels incredibly premature and gives the sense that they are looking to move past Obama. Writing off any of the possible contenders for the nomination, from Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio to former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, is not a fair contest. To keep Hillary honest, there should be at least one, if not several serious candidates running to her ideological left.
Hillary is also an incredibly polarizing figure, and is reviled by nearly all Republicans. She is arguably a weaker candidate than she was in 2008 due to her tenure as Obama’s Secretary of State. I’m not saying that she was wrong on Benghazi. In fact, it was a totally contrived scandal by Republicans that was meant to tarnish Hillary in anticipation of a 2016 presidential run. But while any notion of a conspiracy or negligence on the Administration's part was squashed with a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Hillary came out wounded politically from the ordeal that the Republicans put her through.
While Hillary is not my first choice, I will end up supporting whoever becomes the Democratic nominee. I can say the same for most Democrats as well, who are far more unified as a party and more ideologically similar to one another than the Republicans, who are so divided a split in the party is likely in the coming years.
But at a time when Americans are sick of hyper-partisanship and long-time Washington insiders, I just don't think Hillary is the answer.