Democratic Party honchos who wanted Hillary Clinton’s coronation are having some regrets as her weaknesses become obvious, her poll numbers sink, and Donald Trump surges toward the lead, reports Robert Parry.
Last year when Democratic insiders looked forward to Election 2016, they expected a run-of-the-mill Republican, possibly even legacy candidate Jeb Bush. So they countered with their own “safe” next-in-line legacy candidate, Hillary Clinton, who would supposedly win by playing up the prospect of the first woman president.
In such an expected match-up, the concern of rank-and-file Democrats about Clinton’s hawkish foreign policy would be negated by the GOP nominee still defending President George W. Bush’s Iraq War and again surrounded by neocons pounding the drums for even more wars. With both parties putting forward war candidates, anti-war Democrats would accept Clinton as the lesser evil, or so the thinking went.
The likely Republican nominee also would be burdened by reactionary domestic proposals, including GOP plans for privatizing Social Security and Medicare. By contrast, centrist Clinton would look reasonable in promising to protect those popular programs, albeit with some modest trimming of benefits to please the budget hawks.
But the Democratic insiders didn’t count on the unlikely emergence of populist billionaire Donald Trump, who repudiated Bush’s Iraq War and the GOP’s neocon foreign policy and rejected Republican orthodoxy on “entitlement reform,” i.e., slashing Social Security and Medicare.
The unabashed Trump also has made clear that he is not afraid of countering Clinton’s “woman card” by playing his own “man card,” including attacks on her troubled marriage and her tolerance of Bill Clinton’s notorious womanizing, even claiming that she was her wayward husband’s “enabler.”
At first, the Democratic hierarchy couldn’t believe its luck as the Republican Party seemed to splinter over Trump’s disdain for the GOP’s neocon interventionism and rejection of the party’s cutbacks in Social Security and Medicare. Trump’s mocking attacks on his rivals also shattered the decorum that Republican leaders had hoped would mark their primary campaign.
So, the Democratic insiders initially rubbed their hands with glee and imagined not only an easy presidential victory but major gains in the House and Senate. However, new polls show Trump running neck-and-neck with Clinton nationally and in key battleground states, while other polls reveal strong public doubts about Clinton’s honesty, thus wiping the premature smiles off the Democrats’ faces.
Indeed, some Democrats reportedly are slipping into panic mode as they watch Clinton’s poll numbers tank and the Republican Party come to grips with the Trump phenomenon. The new story line of Campaign 2016 is the tale of top Republicans reconciling to Trump’s populist conquest of the party. At least, these GOP leaders acknowledge, Trump has excited both average Republicans and many independents.