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Can Hillary Clinton smash the biggest glass ceiling in November?

Larry Donnelly says it is “shameful” that Sanders has not already conceded gracefully.

Larry Donnelly Law lecturer, NUI Galway

MUCH HAS BEEN made of billionaire Donald Trump’s improbable capture of the Republican presidential nomination this year.

What may be just as surprising, though, is that the self-avowed socialist US Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, battled former First Lady, US Senator from New York and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, from February all the way to June.

His campaign became a movement that attracted millions of followers from different age groups, ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds and races. Moreover, lots of women, especially young women, opted to vote for this 74 year old man, forsaking the chance to make Hillary Clinton the first female presidential nominee from either of the two major parties.

Nonetheless, Hillary Clinton has more than the 2,383 delegates needed to prevail and is all but certain to be officially confirmed as her party’s standard bearer at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia next month.


While some die-hard backers of Senator Sanders refuse to accept numerical realities and maintain that he will somehow convert the overwhelming majority of super-delegates (ie, Democratic Party grandees who can vote for whomever they like at the convention) to his side between now and then, the fact is that Hillary Clinton has won an historic victory.

Indeed, she has garnered millions more votes across the US than her opponent and hundreds more pledged delegates, in addition to amassing an enormous lead among super-delegates.

Source: John Locher

It is, frankly, shameful that Senator Sanders has not already conceded gracefully and endeavoured to unify progressives around Hillary Clinton and against Donald Trump. It is expected that he will do so fairly soon, yet the longer he prevaricates, the more his quest for the presidency may be remembered for its ignominious end than for the important issues it raised.

Still, that someone as unlikely and unusual as Senator Sanders managed to mount such a strong challenge to a woman who is objectively exceptionally well-qualified to be the next president leaves many long-time supporters of Hillary Clinton and her husband scratching their heads.

They may have felt that way in 2008, too. But that defeat was to Barack Obama, a rare force of nature as a political candidate, not to a septuagenarian widely regarded beforehand as quirky or “out there” by virtually all American political watchers.

A hate figure

Hillary Clinton has been a hate figure for those on the right in the US for nearly a quarter of a century. Since her infamous comment in 1992 during her husband’s successful run for the presidency that she could have eschewed a career as a lawyer and instead “stayed home and baked cookies,” to her failed advocacy of health care reform in the 1990s, to more recent alleged malfeasance, it is no wonder that staunch conservatives look upon her as an implacable enemy.

At the same time, however, she has struggled to win the hearts and minds of her own party’s grassroots, particularly men and women who identify as left-wing or very left-wing. While their refusal to more enthusiastically embrace Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambition may not be totally comprehended by those close to her, it is a consequence both of her persona and her politics.

Source: John Locher

She has been under a microscope at the highest levels in public life and in public office for decades now. It is impossible for someone who has necessarily interacted with so many people and taken so many difficult decisions not to have made some profound enemies.

While most involved in politics understand that this comes with the territory and have developed quite a thick skin, some insiders say she has been extremely cold-hearted, arrogant and duplicitous at times.

A not insignificant number of Democrats and progressives who aren’t members of the party simply don’t like or trust Hillary Clinton and have been only too happy to support her rivals in 2008 and 2016. Whether she is held to a different standard because she is a woman, even by people who would loudly declare that they are not sexist in the least, is an open question.

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Free trade

With respect to policy, her broadly pro-free trade stance and past approval of the use of American military force have provoked the ire of liberals. Her ties to Wall Street financial interests cause some Democrats to question her commitment to their party’s traditional constituency of people who work with their hands for a living and live pay cheque to pay cheque.

In mitigation, her positions on trade agreements and interventionism have their roots in an era when Democrats’ inability to win the presidency was oft attributed to being under the thumb of labour unions and soft on national defence. Also, one does not become US Senator from New York without some degree of support from key players in the world’s financial capital. Yet her voting record in the Senate shows that she sided more often with the less fortunate than with the wealthy.

Crude political calculations have surely informed some of her actions, but context is important. There is no one who has spent any length of time in elected office and paid no heed to political reality (see Senator Sanders’s past votes on gun control, for instance). Further, Hillary Clinton has indicated in this campaign that her views have evolved on these and other matters. And she is not personally responsible for all the initiatives embarked upon in her husband’s presidency that many liberal Democrats were harshly critical of.


In the coming months, she faces her toughest fight of all against someone who has equally excited and disgusted millions of Americans. Donald Trump calls her “Crooked Hillary” and has begun to attack her repeatedly on the issue of her trustworthiness. She has responded vigorously by stating that Mr Trump is “temperamentally unfit” for America’s highest office and reminding women and immigrants of the disgraceful things he has said about them. Clinton vs Trump will be an epic clash.

Much will be written and said between now and 8 November when Americans will elect their next president. Every aspect of campaign strategy will be dissected; every realistic and unrealistic possible turn of events will be mooted.

But the bottom line is that Mr. Trump’s path to victory will probably require his winning Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, as well as holding every state won by Mitt Romney in 2012. Given his horrendous poll numbers with women and minorities, and some other factors unique to each of these states, that is a very tall order – even on Mr. Trump’s best day.

As such, my guess is that Hillary Clinton will smash the last remaining glass ceiling in November. It would be the most extraordinary feat of an extraordinary lifetime.

Larry Donnelly is a Boston attorney, a Law Lecturer at NUI Galway and a political columnist with TheJournal.ie and IrishCentral.com.

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About the author:

Larry Donnelly  / Law lecturer, NUI Galway

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