Most Americans do not trust Hillary Clinton. For many doubters, that lack of confidence is because of her slippery answers when confronted by a scandal—from Whitewater to Benghazi to the current email server situation. But for others, including many who otherwise share her positions, it’s Ms. Clinton’s record of compromising and adjusting her political stances for political expediency that renders her unworthy of their support.
Barack Obama exploited her tendency to say whatever she thinks wins her more votes, and led to her defeat in the 2008 Presidential Democratic Primaries, despite her significant initial lead as frontrunner. In 2016, Hillary Clinton is suffering the same downfall. According to a new Washington-Post ABC poll, 52 percent of Americans view Hillary Clinton as untrustworthy in the wake of criticisms the personal e-mail server while she served as Secretary of State and her ties to multi-million dollar donors of the Clinton Foundation such as Boeing and Exxon Mobil.
Clinton is making many of the same mistakes that lost her the 2008 Presidential Democratic Primaries against Barack Obama. She once again underestimated the emergence of a worthy adversary, and is now trailing in polls in Iowa and N.H. because of this oversight. Her stances on important issues have either been silent or reactions to those of her opponents based on what will win her more votes.
Hillary Clinton has been using gun control as a political tool against her primary adversary, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, attempting to portray him as a gun nut, when in fact they vary little on the issue. Clinton supporter, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, last month called Sen. Sanders positions’ on gun control at a meeting in Clinton’s campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H., an “anathema to my own. I don’t understand it. I think it’s political expediency.” Hillary herself has not openly criticized Sanders on guns, but her emphasis on portraying herself as an activist on the issue is meant to highlight a contrast between herself and her main rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, in her favor.
In 2008, Hillary Clinton also used gun control as a political tool, but this time in the other direction, portraying herself as more gun friendly than her main opponent, Barack Obama. In a 2008 Democratic Primary debate, Ms. Clinton was asked about her stance on gun control and she responded, “I respect the Second Amendment. I respect the rights of lawful gun owners to own guns, to use their guns, but I also believe that most lawful gun owners whom I have spoken with for many years across our country also want to be sure that we keep those guns out of the wrong hands. And as president, I will work to try to bridge this divide, which I think has been polarizing and, frankly, doesn’t reflect the common sense of the American people. We will strike the right balance to protect the constitutional right but to give people the feeling & the reality that they will be protected from guns in the wrong hands.”
During the campaign she also bragged about how her father taught her how to shoot a gun as a child. “You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl,” said Clinton while campaigning in Indiana in 2008, where her support with white working class Democrats gave her a narrow victory over Barack Obama. “You know, some people now continue to teach their children and their grandchildren. It’s part of culture. It’s part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it’s an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter.”
In her New York Senate campaign in 2000, she was much more aggressive on gun control, advocating for a national gun registry, but political motivations caused her to switch stances when facing Barack Obama, in hopes of winning over more moderate democratic voters. In Bill Clinton’s memoir, My Life, he attributed Al Gore’s 2000 presidential election loss in part to backlash from potential supporters in states like Arkansas and Tennessee over his administration’s 1994 ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. Clinton suggested that his vice president, Al Gore, lost the 2000 presidential election in part because of backlash in states such as Arkansas and Tennessee over the Clinton administration’s 1995 ban on assault weapons, which has since expired.
Now, in 2016 the political climate on gun control has changed a lot since past presidential elections. High-profile shootings across the country have sparked debate on gun control, with popular consensus shifting more toward favoring reforms, at least among primary-voting Democrats. Despite Mr. Sanders’ voting record on gun control earning him a D- rating from the NRA, Hillary Clinton supporters accuse him of being sympathetic to the organization. Mr. Sanders voted in 2013 for bans on assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to list all people prohibited from buying a firearm. Despite his support of these bills, they failed to pass due to Republicans and Democrats that continue to undermine attempts at any gun reforms. Mr. Sanders has clearly demonstrated he supports gun reform and stricter gun laws, yet Hillary Clinton is suddenly attempting to appear more progressive on the issue, when overall her record and stances on issues align more often with what will win her more votes and support than evoking positive changes for this country.
Clinton also attempted to capitalize on the interruption of one of Bernie Sanders’ rallies in Seattle by Black Lives Matter activists in early August. Her stances on racial issues have come as reactions to incidences that don’t directly involve her as a way to capitalize on them. Before Black Lives Matter activists could interrupt a Hillary Clinton forum in New Hampshire, the activists were stopped by security, and a private meeting was held. CNN reported that Hillary Clinton was “not sure” she agreed with the claims of the activists that many of Bill Clinton’s policies were racist.
Ms. Clinton has often refused to take a stance siding one way or another on many other controversial issues, such as Keystone XL, on whether or not her email server was wiped clean, and began her campaign by avoiding answering journalists altogether. Her silence and avoidance of the media has made it easier for opponents, especially the GOP, to use Hillary Clinton and any controversy surrounding her as a punching bag, but her refusal to fight back is taking its toll on her favor with voters.
Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primaries to Barack Obama largely because Mr. Obama was able to establish to voter biases that Hillary Clinton would say anything, or nothing at all, to win votes. In 2016, not much has changed. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is once again attempting to capitalize on any space found on issues like gun control and race relations between herself and her main opponent. In the case between Sen. Sanders and Hillary Clinton, not much polarity exists, as they both support stricter gun control, yet Ms. Clinton is trying to fabricate a different story to win over voters who strongly support gun control.
The reinvention might land Ms. Clinton in a place that’s acceptable to primary voters, who seem very willing to forgive past departures from orthodoxy as long as one “lands” in the right place. After all, it was only a decade ago, on July 13, 2004, when then-Sen. Clinton said, “I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.” Here’s the video. Changing one’s mind is part of life. What is discomforting about Ms. Clinton’s changes is how nakedly they serve her political interests.
Ms. Clinton’s desperate scramble to undermine the Sanders surge won’t work. Mr. Sanders is changing the game on how a campaign should be run and if Ms. Clinton doesn’t learn how to play, and play fair, voters will hold her accountable by supporting Sen. Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.