Hillary Clinton is inevitable. Everybody says so. She has the name, the recognition, the mighty war chest and the huge Democratic machine behind her. She hasn't even said she's running for president, and she already has her party's nomination locked up. No serious Democrat would be foolish enough to challenge her.
But Ms. Clinton's inevitability should make serious Democrats want to stick hot pokers in their eyes. She is a purely manufactured candidate, as artificial as plastic flowers in a cheap restaurant. She has no gift for inspiring or moving people, and if she has any ideas beyond the utterly banal, she has yet to express them.
This week, she gave a speech to an audience of women who work in Silicon Valley. Every gesture she made was studied and familiar. The sentiments were familiar, too. She reminded her audience that despite her dazzling accomplishments, even she knows what workplace discrimination feels like. "When I was a young lawyer and was pregnant, I worked in a small law firm and there was no family leave policy," she said. The first thing her boss asked after she gave birth was, "When are you coming back to work?"
The audience chuckled appreciatively. Unfortunately, the story didn't have a very good punchline. The young lawyer didn't get fired or redirected onto the mommy track. Instead, she told her boss she'd be back in four months, and he said "Okay." One detail she neglected to mention was that at the time, her husband was governor of Arkansas.
So much for being marginalized and downtrodden. Ms. Clinton's attempt to brand herself as someone who has shared the struggles of middle-class women is completely unconvincing, especially when she's collecting $300,000 a speech. That's a lot for someone who's as pale and stale as a loaf of six-day-old white bread.
Ms. Clinton is mindful that her brand may need work. According to a much-discussed Washington Post piece, she is seeking help from some of America's top marketing specialists – people like Coca-Cola's Wendy Clark, who's a whiz at putting the fizz back in an overly familiar product. Welcome to The Making of the President, 2016. As a long-time marketing strategist told the Post, "It's exactly the same as selling an iPhone or a soft drink or a cereal."
One problem with Brand Hillary is that Ms. Clinton strikes people as overly programmed. So one challenge for the consultants is to make her appear more authentic. How they do this will be interesting to see, since, as Yogi Berra might have said, authenticity is awfully hard to fake.
Ms. Clinton's husband Bill was authentic as president – but he didn't have to fake it. You got the sense from time to time that he had original and interesting things to say. She, alas, does not. Her best qualities are earnestness and diligence. Is there anything she truly, deeply, passionately believes in? Beats me, and it seems to beat her, too. I suspect she believes in whatever she thinks the voters want her to believe in. If she ever did sincerely believe in something on her own, as I suspect she did, she seems to have long forgotten what it was.
Meanwhile, if the voters want her to be a bit (but not overly) religious, well, she can do that. If they want her to be a grandmother and bake cookies, she'll do that too. If they want her to tell them why she should be president – well, she'll have to focus-group that one first. Because she can't exactly tell the truth, which is that she deserves it. And she's worked so damned hard for all these years. And she put up with Bill. And she's a woman. And it's her turn.
As for how she'd tackle the ills that ail America, don't expect many revelations. Ms. Clinton is nothing if not cautious. To come up with bold new economic policies, she has convened 200 leading experts to give her their best ideas. But something truly bold might offend someone, so her strategy seems to be to add them all up and go with the average. Here's her boldest idea so far: She wants to help the middle class!
Unfortunately, the Democrats no longer understand the middle class. They no longer hang out with the middle class, and an increasing number of them no longer come from it. Like Ms. Clinton, they belong to the media-lawyer-academic-coastal class. They are overly worried about things like the under-representation of women in $150,000 Silicon Valley tech jobs. They do not seem to be aware that while millions of middle-class men scrounge for work, millions of middle-class women are newly prospering in the booming fields of health care and government administration. Across vast stretches of the U.S. middle-class economy, it's already a woman's world. Ms. Clinton's rhetoric about women's disadvantage is simply obsolete.
The Making Of Hillary 5.0 was the Washington Post's headline, as if all the candidate needs is a few upgrades to make her fly off the shelves. But what if the candidate is obsolete? What if she's like a VHS player in a live-streaming world?
If the Democrats run Hillary, they deserve to lose. And they probably will.