Published in Athens Views (print – no longer in circulation) on 17 April 2015
As rumours were circulating the past few weeks, Hillary Clinton’s announcement last Sunday that she will run for president of the USA in the next presidential elections in 2016 came as no surprise as it confirmed the obvious. For the past years there were many speculations on whether Clinton would run and although many denials her 2016 presidential bid had become America’s – or the Democrats’ – worst kept secret.
Before Hillary actually runs for president she needs to win the primaries which will determine the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for the general elections which will take place on 8 November 2016. At this point only Hillary Clinton features on major polls and actually has chances of winning. However, amid speculation other potential candidates who have expressed interest themselves or their names feature on media rumours include Vice President Joe Biden, who had run for president in 2008, former Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano, and former Vice President Al Gore among others.
No Need for Bragging
Two points differentiate Clinton’s campaign from what we have seen in the past. First of all, Clinton’s candidacy was not announced in a stadium full of reporters and supporters holding huge banners. Rather it was announced with a two-minute video uploaded in her website, which soon became viral on social media. This shows that Clinton – and her people – want to keep it simple – at least in the beginning. Hillary does not need to be recognised to gather supporters or to make a statement, she has gained global superstardom during her career; her Twitter description sums her profile perfectly ‘Wife, mom, grandma, women+kids advocate, FLOTUS, Senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate.’ She was Bill Clinton’s First Lady; the first female New York Senator; Barack Obama’s Secretary of State; survivor of (several) scandals; a women’s rights advocate; a fashion icon to many – she doesn’t need fanfare to prove her record. What she does need is to connect with voters and young people as she had been criticised of being distant from her voters. In her announcement video she appears halfway through the video, and only after a people from various backgrounds tell their personal goals. ‘Everyday Americans need a champion, and I’m gonna be that champion’ she declares and sets the tone for her presidential bid making every day Americans her priority.
The second point is that she chose Iowa as her first stop. Iowa is the state that ended her 2008 bid as she came third after Barack Obama and John Edwards. As CNN’s Stephen Collinson points out, Iowa voters want to connect with their candidates before they make a final decision, they want to get to know them and see what they have to offer. Obama had realised that in 2008 which is why he won the Democratic nominations as well as the general elections; Hillary Clinton on the other hand preferred to play it safe and rely on her legacy – something that cost her. This time, however, is different. Instead of pompous speeches, huge crowds, and reporters she decided to hold a small discussion with 22 young people and a few reporters. Her first visit during her campaign tour shows that young people and their struggles through education will be the first thing in her agenda; Hillary wants to reconnect with the youth and distance herself from the upper class profile that is only appealing to rich voters.
Hillary Clinton’s political career shows that she has been preparing for the White House and not as the First Lady only. She is the only First Lady to be elected to the US Senate, and the only First Lady to be a Secretary of State, and it is very possible that 2016 might be the year that will make Hillary Rodham Clinton the only First Lady, and first woman, President of the United States. She is more prepared than she was in 2008, the first days of her campaign show that she is very aware of the mistakes she made during her previous campaign, and she had quite a few years to prepare and know what the American voter wants and needs. Her campaign will most probably focus on improving the economy and on the middle class; social issues and women’s issues will be on the top of her agenda, and of course foreign policy as, even with mixed reviews, she served well as the Secretary of State.
One point that needs to be mentioned is that although her agenda has not been announced yet, she will give much emphasis on gender issues. In contrast to her previous effort, Hillary Clinton now openly supports marriage for LGBT couples and through her spokesperson has urged the Supreme Court to guarantee same sex marriage as a constitutional right. But even without any statements, her announcement video made it very clear as it featured a gay couple sharing their future plans. In addition to that members of the LGBT community have already launched a campaign in support of Clinton’s bid.
Moreover, Hillary Clinton has always been an advocate of gender and women’s rights. Her previous campaign had gained the support of women’s organisations in the USA and the same thing will happen now as well. Women’s rights and more precisely reproductive rights have played a major role during the mid-term elections and are still under attack by the Republican Party which relentlessly tries to repeal important legislation. This is Clinton’s chance to get closer to women voters and show her support more vocally. However, she needs to distance herself from the corporate model of ‘Lean-in’ feminism which ignores the variety of feminisms as well as the variety of women’s backgrounds and identities.
It is still very soon to make any predictions and Hillary Clinton is, at the moment, the only serious candidate. However, even if more household names announce their candidacy, 2016 seems to be Hillary Clinton’s year. She has all the potential for a US president, and she has been preparing for this role for years – even from the years she was a First Lady. Although she is an easy target due to a variety of scandals, she has proven that she can handle criticism and rise as a winner. Democratic voters need to take the coming elections very seriously and make sure they elect someone who will keep the White House from the Republican Party which has full control of the Congress. That person might as well be Hillary Clinton.