The voters’ message in the 2014 midterm elections was “It’s the economy, stupid!” and “We want competence!” That spells trouble for Hillary Clinton because her ability to grow jobs and the economy and her competence in any office she has held are condemned not just by the right but also by prominent voices on the left.
Harper’s magazine, which has been described as “literary, brainy, and left-leaning,” had as its November cover story “Stop Hillary! Vote No to a Clinton Dynasty.” According to the liberal-left Huffington Post, one “takeaway” from that Harper’s story is: “Hillary Clinton didn’t do much during her time in the U.S. Senate.”
For example, Mrs. Clinton failed to fulfill her Senate campaign pledge to create 200,000 jobs in upstate New York. In fact, upstate New York actually lost jobs during Mrs. Clinton’s term in office. Former “Meet the Press” anchor Tim Russert made this point in his interview with Senator Clinton when she ran for president in 2008. Then, Senator Clinton claimed that, if elected to the Oval Office, she would generate five million new jobs!
Five million new jobs from President Hillary Clinton? Fast forward to today where jobs and the economy remain at the forefront of voter concerns. What in Mrs. Clinton’s past experience suggests that she would be anything but long on promises and short on performance?
Mother Jones, the mother of all left-wing magazines, answers with this headline: “If Hillary Runs, What Exactly Will She Run On?” It quotes blogger Andrew Sullivan, who wrote, “I was having dinner with a real Clinton fan the other night, and I actually stumped him (and he's not easily stumped). What have been Hillary Clinton's major, signature accomplishments in her long career in public life? What did she achieve in her eight years as First Lady exactly? What stamp did she put on national policy in her time as Senator from New York? What were her defining and singular achievements as secretary-of-state?”
Regarding her tenure as secretary of state, Ted Rall on Daily Kos—the go-to blog for left wingers—quotes an article in Foreign Policy that assessed Secretary of State Clinton this way: "she's hardly racked up any major achievements…” As Rall puts it: "‘Rock star diplomat,’ as The New York Times Magazine called her? Hardly.”
As Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton liked to point out that she racked up nearly one million miles traveling. But did any of that frequent flying improve the national or economic security of the United States? A growing number of her critics on the left are saying “No!” And that’s even before the discussion turns to Mrs. Clinton’s incompetence on Benghazi and other foreign policy failures like the Russian “reset.”
In an exhaustively researched post called “Hillary Clinton, Empty Pantsuit: Her Track Record from the Senate” Daily Kos noted that, “only 2 out of 337 bills she has sponsored have become law” and went on to say that Senator Clinton’s “leadership…has been marginal, and her effectiveness over her Senate terms has been extremely poor.”
That same Daily Kos post wrote: “Hillary Clinton introduces a ton of softball legislation. Likewise, there is a fair amount of pork…she lacks follow-through…[and] is more concerned about the symbolic trappings of her bills than their actual effect on Americans.”
Particularly damning for Mrs. Clinton’s claims of competence is that the author of that post was a future superstar statistician, writing under the pseudonym “Poblano.” As Daily Kos later acknowledged “Poblano” was Nate Silver, who created the fivethirtyeight.com blog, which had a near-perfect record of political predictions in the 2008 presidential campaign. The New York Times later licensed Silver’s blog and Silver currently is a special contributor for ABC News on politics and elections.
It will be interesting to see how Mrs. Clinton pushes back on all of the pushback from the left regarding her claims of competence. Her husband, Bill, will unquestionably continue his role as her strongest, most influential defender. But that begs some questions.
How much—and how credibly—can Mrs. Clinton ride on the coattails of her husband? True leadership requires your own voice and your own record. America’s first female president needs to present herself as someone more than the embodied shadow of her husband.
Further, if so many of the liberal left disparage her competence now, how will she win them over in a presidential campaign? If she swings too far left, Mrs. Clinton risks not just alienating more centrist voters that she’ll need among Democrats and independents; she also risks reinforcing lingering doubts about her.
Who is she, really? Does she have any authenticity beyond her ambition for higher office and power? What competence has she actually demonstrated and whom has she really served—beyond herself?
Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.