Non spoiler alert – the least shocking announcement in US political history has been made: Hillary Clinton is putting herself forward to be elected as the Democratic nominee in the 2016 presidential race.
A former First Lady, and Secretary of State under the Obama administration, she’s no stranger to the White House. The campaign to get reinstated there in her own right began with an online video including a single mother, two same-sex couples, and a phrase that might just become the American version of ‘hard-working’ people…
“Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion,” Clinton says, in her first appearance towards the end of the video. That’s tactical placement for someone who has been described by her critics as self-serving (the timing of her book release last year), and dangerously out of touch (charging top universities hundreds of thousands of dollars for her recent guest speaker appearances). This video seeks to push a message that she’s putting herself forward for ‘everyday’ people, and not to fulfill her own political ambitions.
Those ambitions were dashed last time round, when she lost out as Democratic candidate in 2008 to the man who went onto to become America’s first black president. But that was nearly eight years ago – and there’s no Barack Obama to win hearts and minds this time. While the scraps between the two of them back then were heated, it’s likely that the biggest fight she’ll have on her hands this time round will not be with another potential nominee in her own party, but with whoever is flying the Republican flag in the presidential election itself.
As she says, “I’m hitting the road to earn your vote – because it’s your time.” Here’s where Clinton stands on a few key issues that will help determine whether voters decide that it’s hers:
On gay rights
Clinton is, perhaps unsurprisingly, held to greater account than many other presidential candidates who have historically opposed gay marriage (Obama included), as she’s often forced to defend decisions that her husband made when he was President from 1992-2000.
During his time in office (1992-2000), Bill Clinton implemented the ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ (1994) policy in the US army, which prohibited homosexual or bisexual people from disclosing their sexuality while serving in the US forces. The Defense of Marriage Act (1996) allowed states to refuse to recognise same sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. Both Acts have since been ruled ‘unconstitutional’ by The Supreme Court.
When Clinton ran for Democratic candidacy in 2008 she was opposed to same sex marriages. It wasn’t until 2013 that she publicly backed them saying her views on the issue had "evolved over time". When, in a recent interview, a journalist suggested that her view had changed for political reasons she vehemently denied it. "I think you're trying to say that, you know, I used to be opposed, and now I'm in favour, and I did it for political reasons - and that's just flat wrong," replied the politician.
Marriage issue aside, she’s always been a staunch supporter of gay rights, and won support from the LGBT community in 2011 after speaking at a UN conference in Geneva. "Being LGBT does not make you less human. And that is why gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights," she said.
Expect to see more of Robby Mook, her campaign manager - and the first openly gay individual to be appointed this role - over the course of the next year.
On the contentious use of drones
In 2012, Clinton defended the US government’s decision to use armed drones in conflict zones, particularly their use in Pakistan:
"We will always maintain our right to use force against groups such as al Qaeda that have attacked us and still threaten us with imminent attack."
"In doing so, we will comply with the applicable law, including the laws of war, and go to extraordinary lengths to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life," she told the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a U.S. and Turkish-chaired group.
The loss of innocent life is exactly what critics have a problem with - estimates cite civilian deaths caused by drone attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan as plentiful, and that includes the deaths of four US citizens.
On the controversy surrounding her personal email address
Clinton’s usage of her personal email account instead of an official White House address to discuss confidential matters during her time as Secretary of State has caused her political difficulty in recent months. The issue of whether she breached federal rules by doing so isn’t going away – and questions about whether some of the emails in question were deleted inappropriately, and by whom, remain unanswered. It might all sound very petty and technical, but some Republicans such as their last presidential candidate Mitt Romney, are calling for a congressional inquiry into the matter.
"I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two," Clinton told more than 200 reporters crowded into a corridor at the United Nations. "Looking back, it would've been better if I'd simply used a second email account and carried a second phone."
On gun control
Clinton seems to have conflicting views when it comes to gun ownership. Most recently, she’s acknowledged a need for a debate regarding the ownership of guns:
"We've got to rein in what has become an almost article of faith that anybody can have a gun anywhere, anytime. And I don't believe that is in the best interest of the vast majority of people."
However, she still respects the Second Amendment, which states that people have the right to keep and bear Arms.
“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.”
On the conflict in the Middle East
In her time as Secretary of State, Clinton was at the forefront of US government strategy in a post-Bush, anti-interventionist political climate. Her and Obama have followed more of a hands-off approach to military intervention, compared to the Bush administration. This is evident in the symbolic withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq under their watch. It is, however, important to remember that unlike Obama, she supported US intervention in Iraq in the first place.
When it comes to relations between Israel and Palestine, Clinton made statements in support of a two state solution:
“A strong Israeli military is always essential, but no defense is perfect. And over the long run, nothing would do more to secure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic state than a comprehensive peace," Clinton said, attempting to explain that a two-state solution was the only solution for Israel's future.
However, she remains a strong supporter of Israel, and maintained that the country had a right to defend itself, when it retaliated against attacks from Hammas (the Islamist movement in Palestine) last summer:
"I think Israel did what it had to do to respond to Hamas rockets. Israel has a right to defend itself. The steps Hamas has taken to embed rockets and command and control facilities and tunnel entrances in civilian areas, this makes a response by Israel difficult," Clinton said.
The biggest threat to the region’s stability in the immediate future at least, comes from radical Islamist groups like IS – who are fighting against different factions of Islam in Iraq and Syria. While Obama has sanctioned airstrikes in both countries to combat that threat, his critics have said he’s done too little too late. Clinton has made statements to this effect too, which may give some indication that she’ll have a different strategy as Commander in Chief if she becomes the next president:
"The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad - there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle - the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled," she said.
Clinton has always remained pro-choice when it comes to the hotly-debated topic in America.
"I am and always have been pro-choice, and that is not a right any of should take for granted. There are a number of forces at work in our society that would try to turn back the clock and undermine a woman’s right to choose, and [we] must remain vigilant,£ she said.
Words: Lucinda Day, Photos: Rex Features