What if the establishment decides to rig it for Hillary?
Having found that she can't rely on women to vote for her, Clinton is playing the race card, says Ruth Dudley Edwards
Published 14/02/2016 | 02:30
Consider this scenario: It's the last week in July 2016 and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia has to choose a candidate to take on Donald Trump (70 by then), who was crowned Republican presidential candidate the previous week.
The Republican establishment had looked on aghast for months as the contenders knocked seven bells out of each other, leaving Trump - whose self-confidence had remained intact as he broke every rule about how candidates should behave - the undisputed winner. The Republican people have spoken; they wanted an outsider who would "tell it like it is" and who financed himself. "Unelectable", the pundits are still saying, but with diminishing conviction.
The Democratic Party establishment had also had a terrible few months, as Bernie Sanders, the 74-year-old, Jewish, self-styled democratic socialist continued to out-perform Hillary Clinton (68) and ended with a clear lead among the delegates. The Democratic people have spoken; they also wanted an outsider (crowd-funded in Sanders's case) who - in their view, unlike Hillary - was honest and trustworthy.
But in July, it wouldn't be all over for Hillary, because of the superdelegates and the Clintonian sense of entitlement. She and Bill haven't planned for years, only to give up with victory - however dubiously achieved - still attainable.
Women, whom she had taken for granted would support her, had let her down. Her image consultants - aware that she was perceived as cold and unapproachable - had persuaded her to try being folksy. Her Twitter biography runs: "Wife, grandma, women+kids advocate, FLOTUS [First Lady of the United States], Senator, SecState, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate."
She had wheeled out young stars such as Lena Dunham (29) and Katy Perry (31) to bang the celebrity feminist drum, only to find that a lot of young women dislike being pigeon-holed by gender and were rallying to Sanders' non-sexist call for political revolution.
The old guard made things worse. Feminist theologian Gloria Steinem (81) had to apologise after saying in an interview that Bernie Sanders was proving popular among young Democratic women because "when you're young, you're thinking, 'Where are the boys?' The boys are with Bernie".
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (78), who next day told a Clinton rally in New Hampshire that "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other", would also have to grovel publicly to furious female voters.
Camille Paglia (68 but ageless), who for years has been a ruthless spokeswoman for dissident feminists like me, said that for almost 25 years, Hillary Clinton, "with her simmering subtext of contemptuous bitterness about men, has been pushed along and protected by a host of powerful women journalists in print and TV, Steinem chums or sympathisers who have a lot to answer for".
People like Steinem, she said, had distorted "the true universality of feminism" to become "backstage secret agents for the Democratic Party". How, she enquired, had Hillary "allegedly become a feminist icon? Her public prominence has always been based not on any accomplishment of her own but on her marriage to a charismatic politician, now in his dotage".
The female electoral rot started on February 1 in Iowa, the first primary, where the candidates virtually tied and 83pc of women under 30 voted for Sanders. In New Hampshire, where he trounced Clinton the following week, the figure was 82pc, and he had a majority of women of all ages.
As polls began to show that Hispanics (whom Clinton had counted on to win Nevada on February 20) and African Americans, (whom she relied on in South Carolina a week later) could not be taken for granted either, and that young and old were protesting against what they saw as an uncaring establishment, the woman who is accused of being the Wall Street candidate (which, unfortunately for her, she is) desperately played the race card, wrapping Obama around her like a comfort blanket.
"The kind of criticism that we've heard from Senator Sanders about our president, I expect from Republicans," she said. "I do not expect it from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama."
"Madam Secretary, that is a low blow," said Sanders. "One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate."
In my July scenario, like Trump, Sanders will have continued to resonate with the political insurgency that has voters remorselessly showing their disgust with old politics. In the view of the public, he'll have won.
The Clintons will think otherwise. There are 4,763 delegates, of whom 712 are superdelegates: these are made up of every democratic member of Congress and every Democratic governor, of 432 nominees of the Democratic National Committee from the ranks of local party dignitaries, and 20 "distinguished party leaders". Today, after only two primaries, Sanders has acquired 36 committed delegates and Clinton 32, but with 355 pledged superdelegates, she's way ahead.
Fast forward to July and in this scenario the gap between her and Sanders is bridgeable if the party establishment rallies to her, in which case Democrats can expect an outpouring of rage from the grassroots about a rigged outcome followed by a torrent of defections.
There is little love for Hillary. As Camille Paglia rightly said: "After two national campaigns, it should be obvious that Hillary has no natural instinct or facility for understanding and communicating with the public on the scale that the presidency demands. Sexism has nothing to do with it."
In which case, if Michael Bloomberg (74), ex-Republican, ex-Democrat, a billionaire who was a very popular Mayor of New York City, has opted to run as an independent, Hillary and Donald could both be toast.
Ruth Dudley Edwards's 'The Seven: the Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic', will be published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.