Ready for Action (Hillary)?

When a friend flagged this to me on Facebook, I was instantly sold. Created by FCTRY, a small product design studio in Brooklyn, this miniature Democratic heir-presumptive is both a promotion of positive female role models for children, and a fun way to show Hillary Clinton that the grassroots support her.

FCTRY's Hillary Clinton action figure

FCTRY’s Hillary Clinton action figure

Currently at $13,289 of their $15,000 goal, with some 23 days to go, there are certainly people out there willing to put down $15 for the toy and a postcard to Mrs Clinton urging her to run.

To paraphrase something someone once said, “the board is set, the pieces are moving.”

It’s the deep breath before the plunge – we come to it at last.

All the expectations are that Hillary Clinton will announce around mid-April that she “is in, and in to win.” The process has all but become inevitable as official and unofficial channels ramp up their preparations for #Hillary2016. Super PACs that once plumped for Obama have quietly been refocusing their grassroots connections towards the Clinton campaign, and new groups like Students for Hillary have sprung up on campuses and in towns across the United States.

Her teflon-esque ability to deflect criticism reared its head again this last few days, as congressional Republicans attempted to turn yet another non-scandal into the latest #gate – this time over the former Secretary of State’s use of personal email accounts whilst in office. Polls show that, for a majority of Democrats, this is simply the latest in a long-line of partisan attacks on their as-yet undeclared presidential candidate; for Republicans, another talking point for the Fox News pundits to pull into their “bubble”. And a story over the weekend in the Washington Post that Jeb Bush was guilty of the same thing when Governor of Florida has largely put paid to any further substantive attacks from the right against Hillary on this particular issue.

That isn’t, of course, to say that the right won’t go back to their old talking points: Benghazi, Whitewater, Rose Law, etc – and try and drape these around her neck once again. However, poll after poll shows that Americans are tired of hearing these arguments, and continue to view Hillary consistently more favourably than at any previous time. In every opinion poll going back for any significant period of time, the former First Lady sweeps the floor with all of her likely Democratic challengers with super-majorities in the polls. Similarly, when put up against her likely Republican opponents, Hillary makes mincemeat out of all of them: even Fox News, hardly Hillary’s biggest fans, show her handing an ass-whooping to the entire Republican field.

One begins to wonder if we need to go through the rigmarole of the traditional Democratic primary season of caucuses and debates, and instead just “do a Hillary”:

Madam Secretary, I move that the convention suspend the procedural rules and suspend the further conduct of the roll call vote. All votes cast by the delegates will be counted, and that I move Hillary Rodham Clinton be selected by this convention by acclimation as the nominee of the Democratic Party for president of the United States.”

Is there a second?

Grandmother to the Nation?

Before we start, Hillary Clinton is still yet to declare whether or not she will be running for president in 2016, but the starting gun has all but been fired. The colossal machine that surrounds the former Secretary of State has, in recent months, stepped up its behind-the-scenes preparations for the inevitable announcement of a presidential exploratory committee, and staffers are getting restless to get going. There has been much speculation in recent weeks over the image that Mrs Clinton will wish to portray, given the criticisms from 2008 that she failed to show compassion for the plight the average American, and the bounce she experienced in the polls when she eventually did show some emotion the day before the New Hampshire primary. Many are expecting the message to be a combination of two strands:

  • Firstly, there are still those eighteen million cracks in that glass ceiling with, to steal an Obama phrase, the Democratic base is fired up and ready to go under a Clinton banner. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll showed support for Hillary at 73% amongst those voters who identify with the Democratic Party, with Joe Biden trailing far behind on 12% and Elizabeth Warren, who has categorically ruled out running in 2016, on 8%. I’ve expanded extensively on Hillary’s polling data previously, but suffice to say it seems inevitable that she will be the front runner amongst women with a consistent polling advantage of 61 percent.
  • Secondly, that the Clinton campaign will coalesce around the idea that a second President Clinton, at this stage in her life, could act as a ‘Grandmother to the Nation'; a maternal matriarch, the saviour of her people.

This is certainly not a new idea amongst female politicians. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is affectionately known as ‘Mutti’ in the popular press, or ‘mummy’. Both Presidents Dilma Rousseff of Brazil and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia campaigned on platforms of maternal instinct when it came to sweeping industry and politics clean. So could this be a viable and legitimate platform for Clinton to run on? There is certainly a strong resonance with the idea that, as grandparents, Hillary (and Bill) would be tempered into pursuing policies and philosophies that will leave the world in a better place for future generations, rather than go back to the oft short-termism of the last decade. That is a message that many middle-class families, with children and grandchildren of their own, will understand and agree with, if coupled with strong legislative proposals on opportunities for the next generation, and promises to deal with the pressing issues of energy independence and climate change.

Twelve month to Iowa

Well, as much as my Hillary spidey-sense might still be tingling, my prediction last year that the former Secretary of State, US Senator from New York, and First Lady would announce her candidature for President in early January seems to have ill-judged. I had thought that we’d have seen some decision by the Clinton camp on or around January 12th, especially as four days ago was the [url=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/20/hillary-clinton-2008-campaign_n_6507254.html]eighth-year anniversary[/url], back in 2007, since Hillary announced her 2008 White House bid.

The race continues to be Mrs Clinton’s to walk away from. Polling consistently shows that she would wipe the floor with any contenders, Democrat or Republican; a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that Mrs Clinton tops Republican presidential hopefuls by wide margin. Indeed, she enjoys a lead over Jeb Bush of 54 percent to 41 percent (among registered voters) and over Mitt Romney by 55 percent to 40 percent. All that remains is when the Clinton campaign monolith will roll into action; the Iowa caucuses are now less than twelve months away..

Why the Democrats might lose in 2014 and 2016

A recent study conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics suggests a worrying trend amongst 18-29 year-olds, and one that Democrats most of all should be very concerned by. Voting intentions of 18-29 year-oldsPolling in April shows that less than a quarter (23%) of Americans in this age bracket are definitely sure they will be voting come November 4th this year – a drop of some 11% since the same question was asked back in November 2013.

More importantly, for President Obama and the Democrats, is the finding by the same survey that Republicans seem to be much more enthused about voting this November; 44% of those who identified as Romney-voters say they are definitely voting in the Midterms as opposed to only 35% of Obama’s supporters. This is bad news if the Democrats wish to retain control of the Senate, and disastrous if they even have a hope of taking control of the House as House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer predicts they might this year. For those who think this is a long shot which – given the number of uncompetitive seats up for election – it might be, Hoyer points to a fundraising advantage for Democrats, lower poll numbers for congressional Republicans, divisions inside the GOP ranks, and a good recruiting class of Democratic challengers. Indeed, the Democrats need only to win 17 House seats to take overall control of Congress.

Voters in this 18-29 year-old age bracket, the ‘Millennials’, take much more liberal positions than older generations on the major policy issues of the day and are at the forefront of the recent surge in public support for equality in marriage and legalization of marijuana. A majority say that abortion should be legal across the country in all or most cases, are supportive of immigration reform with a path to citizenship, and tend to express support for a more ‘activist government’ with a large social safety net. 68% of 18-29 year-olds favour same-sex marriage, compared to only 38% of those aged 65 and over. The gap on marijuana legalization is even larger; 69% of those born between 1981 and 1995 support such initiatives whereas less than 30% of those born before the Second World War would be in favour. There are twice as many old folks (31%) who think that illegal immigrants should not be allowed to stay legally as opposed to the youth vote (16%).

The defining issue, however, for young voters is clearly emerging as action on climate change. A bipartisan study last year, commissioned by the League of Conservative Voters, shows that politicians – particularly those within the GOP – need to make some quick decisions about which mast they are going to pin their colours to. An overwhelming majority of voters under 30 understand the threat of climate change and already see the harmful effects of it, or expect to in their lifetime. 66% of young voters say climate change is a problem to address, while just 27% say climate change is a natural event that humans can’t affect, and only 3% don’t believe climate change is really happening. Around 80% of this demographic of voters support the action President Obama is taking to address climate change:

  • 79% say they are more likely to vote for someone who supported these steps;
  • 73% say they are less likely to vote for someone who opposed these steps;
  • Notably, over half of young Republican voters (52%) would be less likely to vote for someone who opposed the president’s plan.

However, none of this disguises a growing political disquiet amongst young voters; many Millennials seem to be gripped by a combination of angst and apathy when it comes to American politics. During the past year, trust in the president to “do the right thing” all or most of the time has decreased to 32% from 39%; the U.S. military has seen its level of trust drop from 54% to 47%, and the U.S. Supreme Court has fallen to 36% from 40%. Wall Street is trusted by around 12% of young Americans, roughly the same levels as in previous Harvard polls.

Why does this matter to Democrats, specifically? Using the excellent site 270towin, I plotted two electoral maps which highlight very clearly the threat of leaving 18-29 year-olds at home come election day. With the help of state-by-state exit polls from presidential elections in 2008 and 2012, and the swing between the two parties amongst different demographics, I was able to show what might happen to the electoral college in 2016 if only 18-29 year-olds voted (in the first map), and the result (in the second map) if only those aged 65 and over were allowed to vote.

2016 Electoral College Map (18-29 year-olds)

2016 Electoral College Map (18-29 year-olds)

2016 Electoral College (65 year-olds and over)

2016 Electoral College (65 year-olds and over)

If ever the Democrats needed a ‘get out the vote’ push, it was right now. Congressional candidates must find policy platforms to stand on which will attract the youth vote to them, and must ensure that this base of voters is as energised and “fired up, ready to go” as they were for Barack Obama’s inaugural election year. If not, then Hillary Clinton’s job in 2016 will be all that much harder.. and President Obama will be left as a lame duck for the remainder of his presidency.

Forget UKIP, what about Swindon?

With UKIP making a couple of seat gains already, it’s easy to get distracted by what appears to be the surge of UKIP support. Sunderland has given the party some 24% of the vote, mostly in line with last year’s local elections support nationally, but the question remains as to whether this is mostly a protest vote in safe Labour wards.

More interesting is what is happening between the two national parties who stand a chance of forming the next government in the May 2015 General Election.

One area to consider is Swindon. Swindon Borough CouncilThis borough, centred on the town centre and parts of the ceremonial county of Wiltshire, is the top of the Labour target list to wrest overall control away from the Conservatives.  The current make-up of the Borough Council is 29 Conservative councillors, 23 Labour, 4 Liberal Democrats and 1 councillor sitting as an independent. This gives the Conservative Party an overall majority of 1 councillor.

Now, early signs from Swindon are looking very very good for the Conservatives. Not only have the Tories picked up another seat so far – projecting them to have an increased majority overall on Swindon Borough Council – but Councillor Emma Faramarzi, of Priory Vale ward, has apparently achieved the highest ever majority for the Conservatives.

Obviously this is still early into the early hours and the London results are just beginning to come through, but these are interesting and positive trends for the Conservatives. Let’s see how this develops. My own eyes are on Hammersmith & Fulham, where I campaigned on the doorsteps for the Conservative-led council, and whether the party can translate low council tax bills (third lowest in Britain), support for a “flyunder” to replace the Hammersmith flyover, and other local issues into an increased majority on the council. Currently 31 out of 46 councillors are Conservative; 15 are Labour.

This is not, so far, proving to be such a good night for Labour, and does not bode well for Ed Miliband in 2015.