Thursday, May 5, 2016

Trump v. Clinton

It's pointless, I think, to pretend like there are still races going on for the Republican and Democratic nominations for President. There's still a fair amount of "it's not over yet!" talk out there, but it's rooted in fantasy at this point.

Trump is going to win the nomination outright; there will be no second, third, or fourth ballot at the Republican National Convention. Neither Paul Ryan nor anyone else will swoop in at the last moment and save the Repubs from Trump. And the powers that be in the RNC are fully aware of this now. They're already starting to justify shifting their support to the man they claimed would doom the Republican Party. It's something they have to do, after all. There's more than just the Presidency at stake, come November. Supporting Trump is an absolute necessity in order to maximize support for the rest of the Republican ticket in each and every State.

On the other side, the surety of Hillary Clinton's nomination is finally an actual surety, after a mere nine years (because in 2007, Clinton was regarded as an absolute lock for the 2008 nomination). Sanders pushes on, but not so much to win as to continue to have a voice, to keep his message front and center, and perhaps to influence the platform of the national party. But Clinton will be the nominee. And in this regard, her supporters feel certain she will then be the next President of the United States. Their surety here is akin to their surety of her winning the nomination: it's founded on the assumption that Hillary Clinton is awesome and unmatched, with regard to her knowledge, her experience, and her political acumen.

To be sure, Clinton's knowledge withe regard to policy and foreign affairs dwarfs Trump's. Ditto for experience: she's been a First Lady, a U.S. Senator, and a Secretary of State. Trump's been a reality TV star and a WWE sideshow. But what about that political acumen? Trump dispatched his Republican rivals largely by being himself. That is to say by acting like an obnoxious, overbearing bore, insulting everyone without a second thought, and treating the truth like it was a foreign land. Ask a Clintonite how such a strategy will go over in a race against Clinton and they'll probably laugh it off.

They'll say Clinton is too smart to get caught up in the kind of back and forth insult-fest that has characterized much of the Republican race. They'll say Clinton is too experienced to get knocked off message by such nonsense. They'll say Clinton's team is too professional to allow a descent into the gutter.

Ten will get you twenty, supporters of Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz were singing this same song not all that long ago. And we know how they all held up to the non-stop attacks from The Donald. Don't we?

Speaking of Jeb Bush, here's an interesting thing that many people perhaps overlooked when he announced his candidacy: the man had never really won a tightly contested political contest. He was governor of Florida, true, but he ran against, well, weenie opponents in both 1998 and 2002 (no offense to Mackay and McBride). Don't get me wrong, Bush ran good campaigns, mostly because he had a lot of money and because he had access to his father's political machine, but he wasn't facing stiff competition. Especially since that competition was dumb enough to alienate minority voters in 1998. And the 2002 race was something of a walkover, given 9-11 and who was in the White House. It's also worth mentioning that in 1998, Bush basically ran unopposed for the nomination, as well. In 2002, he was the incumbent, so the nomination race was practically non-existent.

Source: The Independent
Of course...Bush lost his first run at the governorship in 1994, even though that was the year of the Republican Wave. Why did he lose? Well his opponent then was Lawton Chiles, who is to pushovers what Gary Busey is to sanity. The contest eventually turned nasty and Chiles eked out a win. As far as tight, difficult contests go, that was it for Jeb Bush: one tough race, one defeat.

What does this have to do with the price of tea in Chappaqua? Well, consider this: Clinton has been in exactly three political contests prior to this current one. She ran for Senator in New York in 2000 and defeated Rick Lazio fairly easily. But she did so primarily because of her name, her husband's political machine, and the fact that Rudy Giuliani had to withdraw from the race, due to health reasons and personal problems. Lazio stepped in late in the game and got creamed. And she basically was handed the nomination. Her reelection campaign in 2006 was a snooze-fest. The Republicans ran John Spencer, an almost unknown quantity outside of Yonkers, and he was crushed by the Clinton machine (in much the same way as McBride was crushed in Florida in 2002 by the Bush machine). In both races, Clinton out-fundraised and outspent her opponents with ease (again, not unlike Jeb Bush).

Then came the 2008 race for the Democratic nomination. We all know what happened there. Clinton had her name, she had the Clinton machine, she had experience, and she had the cash (she outspent Obama by over $20 million). The Clintonites assumed she would win with ease. And of course she lost. Let's be clear here: she lost big. The race was the costliest primary in U.S. history, and this is because Clinton went balls to the wall with her spending in an effort to fend off a challenger who was, quite simply and quite apparently, a better candidate: better at campaigning, better at connecting with people, better at giving speeches, better at debating, just better.

And I think on balance, all of this begs a question: just how good is Hillary Clinton, really? She failed her only real test (just like Jeb Bush). Now, we're supposed to believe that her skill set is just so damn impressive, no one can go toe to toe with her, especially not a loud-mouthed horse's ass like Donald Trump? Pardon me for doubting the narrative.

Hey, I don't want Trump to be President. I don't want Clinton, either. But I can't shake this feeling that Clinton's weaknesses are going to be exposed and exploited by Trump, that his constant needling and jabbing is going to get under Hillary Clinton's skin, and is going to make her come across as even less likable (let's be honest, no one really wants to sit down and have a beer with Hillary Clinton). She might even end up in the gutter with Trump, at which point the race will be over and our next President will be a reality TV star with a bad hairpiece.

God, that's a depressing thought. But only slightly less depressing is the thought that our salvation is in the hands of Hillary Clinton. Because I don't think she has the game that most are assuming that she has. She never did.

We will see.