As part of a continuation of hacks targeting the Clinton campaign throughout this election cycle, last Friday’s revelations forced her campaign onto the defensive, as the leaks framed her as someone with uncomfortably close ties to Wall Street. In these leaked excerpts of speeches to major financial institutions, Clinton spoke of reforming Wall Street “from [within] the industry itself,” which might draw the ire of disenchanted supporters of Bernie Sanders, who repeatedly throughout his campaign urged the former secretary of state to release the transcripts of speeches she had made in the past to eliminate lingering doubts about her loyalties.
Unfortunately for Clinton, these revelations will only exacerbate those widely held suspicions by many Americans. Her most damnatory remarks included ones on trade policy (“my dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders”), as well as her connection to the middle class (“I’m kind of far removed because of the life I’ve lived and the economic… fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy”). Also troubling was her candid admission that her success in politics depended in large part on a dichotomy of public and private positions: “…so, you need both a public and a private position.”
It will be especially interesting to see how all of these comments factor into her appeal as the election draws to a close. Of course, Clinton’s remarks couldn’t have been leaked at a better time as they coincided with Friday’s major bombshell that was the lewd remarks Donald Trump made in 2005 about women in a privately recorded conversation. The tape grossly overshadowed the WikiLeaks controversy. Had it not been for the Trump tape, the Clinton revelations would have almost certainly impacted the Clinton image more than it has and would have almost certainly given Trump a nice edge heading into the second of the presidential debates after his campaign suffered a number of setbacks following his lackluster performance in the first debate.
In reality, these tapes will likely not surmount to anything beyond a minor pebble in a shoe of a campaign that has looked increasingly insurmountable as this election enters its final month. But they ought not to be entirely dismissed, given that they lend credence to the accusations that Clinton is a deceptive candidate who will say anything to get elected president, which has dogged her from both sides of the aisle.
Moreover, some of the remarks will prove particularly acerbic for Clinton, such as her suggestion that a moderate Democratic platform is preferable. These will not bode well for some of the more cantankerous, radical factions who wish to push the party further to the left in what is already a Democratic Party more diverse and liberal than at any other time in American history.
Clinton’s campaign is greatly contingent on the burgeoning millennial demographic, alongside young women, African Americans, and Hispanics to counteract the majority support of white voters for Trump. Given that this unique and increasingly influential cohort champions views that are recalcitrant to the candidate’s comparatively moderate positions on free trade, financial reform, and globalization, she has been forced to temper her stances on these poignant issues. If such comments further alienate voters naturally predisposed to the Sanders/Warren ideology, it may prove costly for Clinton on Election Day, as many of them might decide to vote third party or stay home altogether.
It must be reiterated that Clinton still fared significantly better than her opponent, and she is exceedingly fortunate that these disclosures emerged when they did. While Trump is unlikely to advantage “bigly” from Clinton’s remarks, he could use them nonetheless to reassure on-the-fence Republicans that Clinton is indeed the two-faced candidate he makes her out to be.
Upon being pressed about his running mate’s remarks on CNN this past weekend, Sen. Tim Kaine mostly curtailed a direct response, claiming ignorance of the disclosures and pivoted to clarifying Clinton’s positions on issues of trade and immigration reform. While Mr. Kaine’s cleaning up might have been less than spectacular, stalwart Clinton supporters are likely to remain unshaken by these revelations over the next thirty days. They will certainly provide Trump with much needed ammunition for the remainder of the cycle, which will serve mostly to bandage the wounds of his own gaffe.
But even if Clinton makes it through the rest of this tumultuous cycle relatively unscathed, she will be walking on an extremely fine line if she does ultimately win due to a combination of her severely tarnished image and the widespread polarization of the country at large.