Opinion

The Great Debate

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton may be a cure for political apathy

Former U.S. Secretary of State Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Citizens awards ceremony for the 2014 CGI in New York

Like her or not, Hillary Clinton may be a cure for political apathy

America is often described as an increasingly divided nation, and when it comes to Hillary Rodham Clinton, that couldn’t be truer. A recent poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News found her negative rating to be just two points less than her positive rating, at 41 and 43 percent respectively.

The point, though, is that people care about Clinton — and that’s usually the case whenever there’s a woman on the ballot, according to a new study.

Researchers at Arizona State University reported a demonstrable link between women senators and women’s political engagement. When women voters are represented by senators of their gender, they are more likely to vote, donate to a candidate, belong to a political organization, or get other people “to vote for a particular candidate.”

This is all good news as, if you take voter turnout as a measure, Americans are awfully apathetic about politics. The US ranks 120th out of 169 countries when it comes to voter turnout. Just 54% of eligible voters showed up at the polls on election day in 2012, and in the 2010 midterm elections, turnout was a dismal 37%.

The apathy problem is exacerbated by the fact that women, who represent half of the population, are less informed about and invested in politics than men. “Even at the start of the 21st century,” write Kim Fridkin and Patrick Kenney, the authors of the report, “women know far less about their senators than men.” Other studies show that women tend to be less informed about national and international politics than men are.

Is this Obama’s ‘malaise’ moment?

Obama addresses the White House Summit on Working Families in Washington

Malaise is back.

President Barack Obama’s situation is getting perilously close to President Jimmy Carter’s in 1979.

Americans see little evidence of an economic recovery, more and more workers are giving up hope of ever finding a job, the burden of student loan debt — now larger than credit-card debt — is crushing the hopes of young people, the president’s signature achievement, healthcare reform, is broadly unpopular, our borders are overrun by migrant children, Iraq is falling apart, Syria and Ukraine are in turmoil and the president seems hapless and ineffectual.

“Malaise” was the term used in 1979 to describe the deep pessimism Americans felt about the way things were going in the country.  That year, inflation was soaring, unemployment was rising, the United States faced a debilitating energy crisis, a tax revolt had broken out, Americans were waiting in long gas lines, and Iran had a revolution, further roiling the Middle East.

Why Hillary Clinton needs to follow a California dream

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about Syria during an event at the White House in Washington

Given the historic enmity between California Governor Jerry Brown and former President Bill Clinton, it is ironic that Brown may have written the political playbook for Hillary Clinton in her possible 2016 presidential bid.

During the Democrats’ nasty 1992 presidential primaries, Clinton and Brown clashed –and clashed over Hillary Clinton — in increasingly heated exchanges. In a one fiery Illinois primary debate, Brown jabbed his finger at Clinton and accused the Arkansas governor  of “funneling money to his wife’s law firm for state business.”

Clinton jabbed back and angrily responded, “I don’t care what you say about me, but you ought to be ashamed of yourself for jumpin’ on my wife. You’re not worth bein’ on the same platform as my wife.”

Obama: Ineffectually Challenged

President Barack Obama is in a funk. Americans are coming to see the president as ineffectual. That is a dangerous perception.

Obama’s job approval rating is at risk of dropping below 40 percent. Democrats may lose their majority in the Senate this fall. It may be difficult for the president to accomplish anything during his last two years.

In the March NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, 42 of registered voters say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate endorsed by Obama. Only 22 percent say they would be more likely to vote for Obama’s candidate.

Ukraine: U.S. hawks regain their voice

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression is having an unintended effect on U.S. politics. It is generating a backlash against America’s retreat from world leadership.

That retreat was itself a backlash against President George W. Bush’s overextension of U.S. military power in Iraq and Afghanistan. Putin’s actions spotlight the consequences of America’s world wariness. Internationalists in both parties are expressing alarm about the shrinking U.S. role around the globe.

Republican hawks, long on the defensive after the war in Iraq and the missing weapons of mass destruction, have found their voice again. They are attacking President Barack Obama as weak and feckless. Even some Democrats are calling for a tougher response.

Why the NSA undermines national security

Questions about the legitimacy and efficacy of the mass-surveillance techniques used by the National Security Agency continue to swirl around the globe. The debate in the United States has mostly focused on a misleading trade-off between security and privacy.

“If you don’t have anything to hide,” goes the refrain, “you shouldn’t mind if the government collects information to prevent another terrorist attack.” In this trade-off, security will always trump privacy, especially when political leaders rightly see preventing terrorist acts as their top national security responsibility.

But this zero-sum framework ignores the significant damage that the NSA’s practices have done to U.S. national security. In a global digital world, national security depends on many factors beyond surveillance capacities, and over-reliance on global data collection can create unintended security vulnerabilities.

The first woman president is not about the past

Want to know the latest meme in U.S. politics? Here it is: Hillary Clinton is a candidate of the past.

It’s been spreading through the political press. Now Republicans are beginning to echo it.

“Elections are almost always about the future,” says the Washington Post, “and Clinton is, for better and worse, a candidate of the past.” The woman who ran for president most recently, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), contrasts Clinton with President Barack Obama. Obama, she told Politico, was “new and different,” while Clinton is an old-timer less likely to excite voters.

Troubled Ties: The Clintons and populism

What’s behind the sudden outburst of populism in the Democratic Party?

Partly the weak economic recovery. Most economic indicators have turned positive — economic growth is up, unemployment down, the housing market is in recovery. But ordinary Americans are not feeling it. In last month’s CNN poll, two thirds of Americans said the nation’s economy was poor. More than half expect it to remain poor a year from now.

People at the top of the income ladder have been raking in the money while wage growth for working Americans has stagnated. That’s a recipe for a populist explosion.

Remember the “Occupy Wall Street” movement that started in 2011 and spread across the country? Most pundits don’t believe it had any impact, especially compared with the Tea Party. They’re wrong. In a stroke of marketing genius, the Occupy movement introduced the phrase “1 Percent” into the nation’s political vocabulary. That’s what defeated the Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Romney was Mr. 1 Percent.

from Nicholas Wapshott:

2016: The women’s election

Democratic state Senator Wendy Davis (L) speaks at a protest before special session of the Legislature in Austin, Texas, July 1, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Stone

Governor Rick Perry of Texas made little impression on the 2012 election.

Once billed as a class act, he emerged as a comic turn. There was the “I’ll never forgetwhatshisname” debate flub when he couldn’t remember one of the Cabinet departments he was committed to abolishing was Energy.  And there was his tired and emotional stump speech in New Hampshire when, well, I’m not quite sure what he was talking about. Perhaps it was his Dean Martin impression.

But Perry is sure to make a strong impression on the outcome of the 2016 election. When he signs into law the Texas anti-abortion measures, he will spark a women’s revolt that is sure to reverberate across the nation.

Democrats must overcome Clinton nostalgia

President Bill Clinton salutes supporters at a campaign rally Oct. 31, 1996. REUTERS/Archive. 

Democrats now delight in watching Republicans flounder as they try to free themselves from the failures of President George W. Bush and the extremes of the Tea Party. But the GOP’s tribulations should not blind Democrats to their own challenge. The party must free itself from the legacy of former President Bill Clinton and the centrism of his New Democrats.

Clinton’s successes in office have little relevance for Democrats today. The 1990s were a very different time both politically and economically. In fact, many of Clinton’s policies led to the travails now facing Americans. They are part of the problem, not part of the solution. And Clinton’s strategy of co-opting conservative themes offers no way out.

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