It’s always fun to talk about a presidential election. 2016 is sure to bring drama, political intrigue and plenty of gaffes from the usual cast of presidential hopefuls. (I personally can’t wait to hear what Vice President Joe Biden cooks up this time around.) At the same time, I can’t help but feel as though discussion surrounding 2016 right now is silly.
Take the Democratic primary, for example. It’s rather boring — so boring, in fact, that discussing it with other Democrats around campus is almost unnecessary. Virtually nobody is seriously considering anybody other than Hillary Clinton LAW ’73; the “Yale for Hillary” Facebook page popped up in my news feed mere minutes after her announcement. We’ve clearly been “Ready for Hillary” for months — and for good reason. Biden has turned into little more than a caricature of a politician, continually providing fodder for internet memes by making ridiculous public statements and acting in a questionable manner around women.
The rest of the field is mediocre at best, if not entirely non-existent. Poor Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland is trying — effectively jumping up and down and begging for any column space at all. Liberal icon Elizabeth Warren has refused to run so often that it’s not even worth asking her at this point. Self-proclaimed Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders and a pair of New York politicians, Andrew Cuomo and Kirsten Gillibrand, exist too, but certainly aren’t mentioned in the same breath as Clinton or Warren. The New York Times appears to have completely given up on searching for other candidates too. The country’s leading newspaper has resorted to running tongue-in-cheek pieces scrutinizing Clinton’s Chipotle preferences with a level of attention that exceeds anything O’Malley has received from them.
So it seems we’re left with Clinton. I actually think she’d make a great president, but it concerns me how lazy the coverage surrounding her candidacy has gotten. Somehow, over the course of this still-nascent election cycle, Clinton has already turned into a progressive icon. I almost fell out of my chair laughing after watching her announce her candidacy. An Ivy League-educated career politician — a figure who rakes in over $200,000 per speaking engagement — is seriously trying to position herself as a “champion” for “everyday Americans.” This seems disingenuous. It’s fine that she makes money; it’s not fine that she makes money and simultaneously suggests that she understands the struggles of everyday Americans. Last year, she claimed she and her husband were “dead broke” after his presidency ended. But in the aftermath of her drawn-out announcement, it’s her campaign logo, not her dubious connections to foreign donors and questionable affinity for secrecy, that has borne the brunt of the media attention.
Both the scandals surrounding Benghazi and her email account have just sort of fizzled out. Few even recall her vote on the Iraq War, much less her hawkish history on foreign policy. From fracking to the Patriot Act, there are a number of issues where Clinton diverges from the progressive platform. Why are we not using these primaries to shape her inevitable stump speech come the general election?
I’m not quite sure why Clinton’s candidacy has escaped skepticism. One compelling argument is that there are no titans in the field. Without Clinton, the Democratic field pales in comparison to some of the heavyweights that the GOP is considering. From the formidable Jeb Bush juggernaut to the youthful dynamism of Marco Rubio to the undeniable intellect of Ted Cruz, the Republican primary promises to be a gladiatorial contest. But I also think our collective obsession with poll data compounds the perception of Clinton’s inevitability.
Rather than poke and prod, we read the daily Gallup numbers revealing Clinton’s record-breaking lead among the Democratic contenders and shrug our shoulders. We’re nine months out from Iowa, and most candidates haven’t formally announced their intention to run. I’m of the belief that the proliferation of quantitatively fluent institutions such as FiveThirtyEight and UpShot is a net positive for our media ecosystem. But in this case, their excessive focus on polling data rather than political principles is hugely problematic.
We owe it to ourselves to make this race far more meaningful. We should be challenging Clinton’s views on policy — not letting her casually stroll into the Oval Office. It’s time to put down the polling numbers and pick up a policy brief. It’s time to make the discussion about 2016 far more worthwhile.
Shreyas Tirumala is a freshman in Trumbull College. His column runs on alternate Thursdays. Contact him at email@example.com .