Political Hay

Hillary’s ‘Not One of Us’ Problem

She's not Obama and thus not in tune with his base.

By 7.7.14

UPI
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It did not take Hillary’s book fiasco to show she is no Obama. Hillary Clinton’s problems predate and far exceed her currently botched book tour. They extend to her relations with the Democratic base. If she cannot correct these, and quickly, she is likely to relive her 2008 humiliation at their hands.

That Hillary Clinton’s book tour — ostensibly promoting Hard Choices, but really paving the way for a 2016 White House run — has been terrible goes without saying. What should not go without noticing is just how unlike Obama it is.

In just weeks, Hillary has brought back the bad memories that cost her the nomination six years ago. To attain it two years from now, she needs to be far more like Obama and far less as she was then and is now.

The book tour shows the dramatic difference between her and Obama. Obama, for all his vaunted communication skills, can fail to have his message resonate — just as all politicians can. However, rarely will you see him take himself off-message as Hillary has with her “dead broke” quip. Right now Hillary could not get back on-message with a roadmap — she may need to write another book just to get out of the jam she has gotten herself into with this one.

We should not overlook that this book was intended to make up with the Democrat base, particularly liberals, she estranged in 2008. Nor are liberals her only problem in the Democrat base. Hillary’ problems go well beyond one gaffe, one group, or one episode. They go back much further and likely to haunt her far longer.

Obama united a Democratic base unlike anyone from his party in decades. No Democrat had won a presidential election with such a large percentage of the popular vote since LBJ in 1968, and no Democrat had won two presidential elections with over 50 percent of the popular vote since FDR.

In contrast, Hillary has been unable to unite either her logical base — women — and real reasons why she will be unable to so with the other important parts of Obama’s coalition in 2016.

Over his two presidential elections, Obama averaged 94 percent of the black vote and 69 percent of the Hispanic vote. Together, these have been two important parts of his coalition. Comparatively, Kerry and Gore averaged 89 percent of the black vote and 58 percent of the Hispanic vote.

While Bill Clinton drew strong support from the black community throughout his presidency, there is no reason to believe Hillary will fare better with these groups than either Kerry or Gore did.

While Obama’s united these two minority communities around him, Hillary has never been a unifying force for women voters. From her beginning on the national political stage in 1992, it appeared she purposely made demeaning remarks — from Tammy Wynette and standing by your man, to staying home and baking cookies — about home-centered women’s roles. How alienating these have been (imagine remarks slighting other women’s roles) can be seen from the fact that Hillary ostracized large portions of women voters. In contrast, Obama averaged 56 percent of the women’s vote in his elections.

Another important part of Obama’s coalition have been young voters. Obama was just 47 when he won in 2008, attracting strong support among those 18-29 years old. Young voters increased as a percentage of the electorate in Obama’s two races, in which he averaged 63 percent of their vote. Hillary will be 68 in 2016. While she and Bill represented youth in his run 22 years ago, that will not be so in two years.

Finally there is Hillary’s problem with liberals. Liberals were 25 percent of voters in 2012 and Obama averaged 87 percent of their votes in his elections. Clinton is particularly vulnerable here and her book — with its attempted explanation of her Iraq war support — was intended to mollify them. With her comments about her wealth dominating the book’s coverage, it has done anything but placate the left.

If anything, it has exacerbated liberals’ unease with Hillary. This unease cost her in 2008 and could well again in 2016. This will be especially true when not simply the extent of her wealth, but its origins are examined. As cognitively dissonant as 99 percent and income inequality may seem when these rallying cries have been raised during Obama’s presidency, they resonate with the left. For Hillary, there is the real threat that to the left she will not appear to be “one of us.”

Not being “one of us” is actually a threat Hillary faces across important components of Obama’s coalition. It runs throughout her career. Since graduating Yale law school, she has progressively — both intentionally and unintentionally — distanced herself from increasingly larger segments of the electorate.

This vulnerability goes beyond her performance in public office — though there is assuredly plenty there — to who she is. In a Democrat party ever more embracing populism, Hillary is increasingly not one of the “populace.” She is therefore not as strong with the Democrat base as polls may suggest — or should she be challenged. She is not simply “not Obama,” she is in fact not particularly one of who the Democrats are now.

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About the Author

J.T. Young served in the Department of Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a Congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.