Since leaving her post as Secretary of State in early 2013, Hillary Clinton’s path to her current status as the runaway favourite for the Democratic Party Presidential nomination for the 2016 election has been remarkably smooth. She joined in the work of her husband’s foundation, got in on the paid speechmaking circuit and published a well-received book, encapsulating her experiences as the United States’ chief diplomat. With speculation about a looming candidacy, Clinton has repeatedly demurred such discussions, stating that she will decide at a later date. As elaborated by many political commentators, the infrastructure awaiting a Clinton candidacy can only be described as formidable for any potential competitor.
As the academic semester came to a close, I sat down with the University of Melbourne’s Dr. Timothy Lynch, one of the foremost experts on American politics on the Australian academic scene. Currently the Director of the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, at The Faculty of Arts, Dr. Lynch teaches a variety of subjects on American politics and contributes to a variety television and print media with expert commentary.
Over the course of a half-hour interview we discussed a variety of issues that reflected upon the current state of affairs in Washington, the fracas that was the Government Shutdown, President Obama’s increasingly challenging second term and concluded with us casting our eye to 2016 and who may contend for the White House.
When President Barack Obama came into office in 2009, it was under a wave of optimism and hope for a more conciliatory, robust and bipartisan policymaking process between Democrats and Republicans. The country was in crisis at the time of Obama’s election, and there was the expectation that out of such a situation would come genuine compromise on both sides of the political aisle for the long-term national interest. What we observe in mid-2013 however is a policymaking process frozen from gridlock across many dimensions, none more reflective of this new confrontational reality than the development of fiscal policy.
I wonder what President Obama was contemplating as he joined the four preceding Presidents to formally open George W. Bush’s Presidential Library in late April. Perhaps he was disquieted about the legislative travails suffered during negotiations with Congressional Republicans on the budget deficit and gun control, or maybe he was comforted by the bipartisan negotiations to move forward on immigration reform, or even the sudden resurgence of security as an issue in the wake of the tragedies in Boston.
How things change. In my last article on the Presidential Election, from the United States, I suggested that the election hadn’t really engaged the voting public, with the coverage at the time focusing on the missteps within Mitt Romney’s campaign and the support the President was receiving in public polling.
If I’ve learned anything during my two-week visit to the United States it’s that this a country of unparalleled contrasts. There’s the powerful marriage of individuality and a sense of community, unlike anywhere else on earth. There’s an often cringe-worthy sense of introspection and a general lack of insight with the world at times. But conversely there’s a really intuitive sense of direction and that entrepreneurial spirit that built so many great American businesses over the last two centuries.
I have been in the United States for the last week, travelling across the country from Los Angeles to where I am now, in the nation’s capital (with stays in San Francisco and Chicago along the way), and the most lasting impression I have is that this Presidential Election campaign hasn’t taken off.