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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019

The 4 reasons why voters are hesitant towards Hillary

A politician who should have young voters flocking towards her has polarised a lot of people.

Image: Carolyn Kaster/PA Images

HILLARY CLINTON HAS always divided public opinion – be it for her liberal comments in the 90s or her hard-fisted approach to American Foreign Policy.

She’s been repeatedly knocked down in her attempts to rise to the top of the American political system, most notably in the autumn of 1994 when her attempt to take on US health insurers resulted in Republicans gaining control of Congress for the first time since 1954.

Now, in her second attempt to become the first female president of the United States, with a much more likely chance than her 2008 attempt, we’re looking at the reasons why so many voters don’t like the Democratic nominee – with some voters taking a greater aversion to her than to her Republican opponent.

Washington Post Hillary poll 22 May 2016 Source: Washington Post-ABC News poll

1. They don’t believe she embodies change

At least, not anymore.

Clinton began her political career with a remark that was labelled as controversial at the time, but is now seen to be progressive – showing that Hillary was ahead of her time.

During her husband Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign, she came under criticism for keeping her job at the Little Rock law firm, and when she responded to that criticism in an interview on ABC’s Nightline, 1992, she said:

You know, I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.

Since then, Clinton has held a number of hugely influential roles in US politics: First Lady of the US, then as Secretary for State, then a 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, and now, the Democratic presidential nominee (that’s just naming the big ones).

She has been in the public eye for decades now, introduced to it through her husband, and seduced further and further into the House-of-Cards-like depths of American political intrigue.

Though she may have started off with good intentions, she’s spent years battling to get legislation she felt passionate about (see the aforementioned health insurers encounter) through Congress.

President and Mrs. Clinton - Congressional Luncheon President and Mrs. Clinton toast on Capitol Hill. Source: Press Association Images

2. They don’t believe she’s trustworthy

Writing in the New York Times in May of this year, the American political commentator David Brooks explored the personality traits that might lead to the momentous dislike people feel towards Hillary:

“At least in her public persona, Clinton gives off an exclusively professional vibe: industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful. It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role.”

This formal, career-oriented persona puts her in direct contrast with the mores of the social media age, which is intimate, personalist, revealing, trusting and vulnerable. It puts her in conflict with most people’s lived experience. Most Americans feel more vivid and alive outside the work experience than within. So of course to many she seems Machiavellian, crafty, power-oriented, untrustworthy.

Although this is true, insofar as people have low-rates of trust in Hillary, this doesn’t really differ her from the line of political figures that have preceded her in the race for the presidency.

Clinton 2 2,000 respondents between May 27-30. Respondents were asked to pick two reasons, so the percentages won't add up to 100. Source: Morning Consult

The fact that Clinton has been downgraded for her power-hungriness, would suggest that people aren’t used to seeing that embodied in a female figure, rather than the outlandish suggestion that she is the first presidential nominee to embody that trait.

3. She has a serious track record

She voted for the war in Iraq, which the United Nations Secretary-General at the time Kofi Annan called an “illegal war”, as it involved a regime change.

Then there’s the private email account she used to receive emails while she was Secretary of State –  a security breach that some have claimed is a federal crime, but for which she hasn’t been charged.

This also lead to a lawsuit against Clinton from the relatives of two men killed in the 2012 attack on a US consulate in Libya. They blamed their deaths on Clinton’s “reckless” handling of classified information on her private email server.

There is also the lesser-known debacle involving the Clinton Foundation charity, which has repeatedly come under fire from Republicans who claim that it accepts donations from overseas countries with shaky human rights records, such as Saudi Arabia. Just this week, the Boston Globe’s editorial board called for the charity to stop accepting donations, as it posed a conflict of interest during the election.

Any one of these scandals would be enough to bring a candidate in any other year to their knees, but because of the number of scandals attached to her presidential opponent, Hillary still stands.

It hasn’t helped her honesty and trustworthy ratings though.

Poll attributes Trump Clinton Source: Washington Post/ABC News poll

4. Young people don’t know her history

If you’re young, chances are you won’t have heard of the liberal anti-corporate Hillary Clinton who was hugely influential during the 80s and 90s.

Liberals who now support Senator Bernie Sanders used to be staunchly loyal to Hillary, and donned buttons that read “Elect Hillary’s Husband”, in a move not totally unfamiliar to First Lady Michelle Obama’s current admirers.

If you spoke to Democratic voters aged 45-plus who were around when the Clintons first took office, and brought up examples of when the Clintons flirted with right-wing politics, they’ll say they did what they had to do to win, when no other Democrat could.

While younger voters are quick to tag her as the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with American politics, the reality is more complex. Hillary is so dismissive of the popular policies suggested by Sanders because to her they’re the same type of policies she fought for in the past and that proved too impractical to implement.

Either standards have been raised, or else people are quick to forget.

There are those as well, it’s worth stating, who just plain disagree with what her policies are. But the vitriol against Clinton, almost on par with that of her controversial presidential opponent, is a phenomenon in itself.

It will be interesting to see whether this weather-beaten politician who started off with a controversial, ambitious and memorable statement will defy the odds all the way to the Oval Office.

Read: Parents of two men killed in Benghazi attack sue Hillary Clinton

Read: Citizens in the US don’t actually elect the president – it’s more complicated than that

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