To state the obvious, it’s better to make mistakes early in a campaign rather than late in a campaign. Luckily for Hillary Clinton, it is very, very early in the 2016 campaign. But are her latest personal income-related gaffes the result of fatigue or from being rusty in free-for-all interviews — or do they suggest a disconnect that could haunt and ultimately sink her campaign for the presidency? The former secretary of state is on the brink of establishing a pattern of being tone-deaf and in denial about her own position as a one-percenter. And given that the Democrats want income inequality to be their wedge issue against Republicans, is she really their best messenger?
Clinton’s latest faux pas is stunning. Regarding her family’s financial status, she told the Guardian newspaper that they are not “truly well off.” This constitutes a politically poisonous blend of Leona Helmsley and Mitt Romney. For those who don’t remember, another New Yorker — the late, very wealthy hotelier Mrs. Helmsley — was infamous for her remark before she went to prison that “only the little people pay taxes.” It sounds like Clinton would agree, but she wants us to see her as one of the little people. Really? She thinks that because she pays regular tax rates on her multimillions in income that she isn’t really “well off”? I don’t think voters will see it that way. I’m not writing this just to heckle her, but to make the point that the Democrats might be better off if they had a real race to test and groom their nominee for president in 2016 rather than a uncontested coronation.
Since Clinton is a Democrat, she won’t be hammered as Romney was in the 2012 campaign after his breezy reference to the cars he owns, when he famously asserted that his wife “Ann drives a couple of Cadillacs.” But, Clinton and her backers are on notice: She doesn’t have much margin for error. Clinton is rich and she better act like she knows it. At least a dozen younger, ambitious Democrats are half-hoping she steps on a banana peel and opens the door for them to run. The anti-one percent Occupy activists and their sympathizers are needed to supply a lot of energy for the 2016 Democratic nominee. If Clinton can’t see herself for what she is and relate better to those activists, they might begin to look someplace else.
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