Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced last Sunday via a two-minute video that she would officially be campaigning for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in the 2016 election.
Clinton also tweeted, “I’m running for president. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion,” with a link to her newly unveiled campaign website. The short video released on her website and YouTube channel features a diverse array of American families, including a gay couple. The First Lady also emphasised the difficulties faced by everyday Americans who have struggled to recover from the economic recession with “the deck… still stacked in favour of those at the top.” Clinton ended the clip with the news that she would be initiating her campaign with a road trip through Iowa, a critical state in the U.S. presidential election. The Iowa caucuses serve as the first electoral event in the bid for presidency and act an early indication of which candidates will win their party’s nomination. Thus the state receives huge political and media attention during election years.
After beginning her journey in New York the day after her campaign announcement, Clinton is now travelling West across the country in a minivan reportedly nicknamed ‘Scooby’ (a nod to the famed Mystery Machine of the Scooby-Doo cartoon franchise), stopping along the way to meet with supporters and owners of small, family-owned businesses.
This is a significant departure from her usual travel by private jet, a well-known habit that has fed into her sometimes-contentious public image. Though 2014 poll indicated that 55 per cent of Americans felt she could relate to average citizens and their issues as well as other White House contenders, Clinton has continuously faced claims of inaccessibility from conservative critics. The greatest hurdles on the path to a 2016 presidency, however, will likely be overcoming the recent email scandal from her time as Secretary of State and inconsistencies over the 2012 Benghazi attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
In what some news sources have dubbed “Emailgate,” Clinton was found to have used a personal email to conduct official government business from 2009-2013, shielding all correspondence from federal record-keeping and potentially violating federal law, depending on a foggy timeline of updated State Department regulations and their definitions. Clinton apologised and turned over more than 30,000 work-related emails—including those related to Benghazi—to the State Department, stating that she hadn’t wanted to carry two mobile devices for two different email accounts.
Though dogged by criticism over these issues, Clinton is still a hugely popular figure within the Democratic Party, and her bid for what could be the first female presidency has been widely celebrated on social media. Currently uncontested within the party, there has been speculation of an unopposed run. However, experts predict former governors Martin O’Malley from Maryland and Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island to declare their candidacies in the near future, with several other possible contenders.
In her time in the public eye, Clinton has a lengthy track record of personal and occupational achievements. The first First Lady to hold a postgraduate degree and the first since Eleanor Roosevelt to take an active role in policy-making, Clinton has played a prominent role in American politics since her term as the First Lady of Arkansas during her husband’s governorship.
More recently, she was awarded an honorary degree from St Andrews in 2013, where she spoke at the University’s 600th anniversary graduation ceremony. Praising Clinton’s work as a women’s rights advocate and global diplomat for education and human rights, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: “As one of the most influential women in the world, Hillary Clinton, as stateswoman, senator and policymaker, never shied away from tackling difficult questions, working to make the world a better place, inspiring others, speaking out for the voiceless and striving ever to excel. We are honoured that she will participate in our celebrations.” Upon receiving a Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of her political and diplomatic contributions, Clinton commended St Andrews for its role in the Scottish enlightenment and for being the first Scottish university to be led by a woman.
Clinton has played a major role in promoting gender equality across the globe since her time in the political sphere. In 1995 she gave an address in Beijing to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, condemning worldwide abuses and calling for the end of distinction between human rights and women’s rights.
She also visited Northern Ireland six times between 1995-2000 where, according to the Washington Post: “She was very much involved in encouraging the emergence of women in the political process… which was a significant factor in ultimately getting an agreement,” referring to the diplomatic negotiations that led to the historic 1998 Belfast Agreement on power-sharing. During her several visits, Clinton gave the Tip O’Neill Memorial lecture at the University of Ulster in 1997, additionally acting as keynote speaker at a women’s conference two years later; most memorably, Clinton and her husband turned on the Christmas lights in Belfast one year after the first IRA ceasefire.
With the Democratic Party nomination likely under her belt, Clinton’s next obstacle will be overcoming attacks from Republican adversaries about her transparency or supposed lack thereof. But with an opposition overcrowded with presidential hopefuls – and with support and financial backing split further and further between them – Clinton is a definite contender for the 2016 U.S. presidency. Only time will tell if she proves as formidable a candidate as she currently appears.