In a crazy, tumultuous political year, Hillary Clinton is the exception not the rule. She is both highly qualified to be president — and she’s kind of boring. In those two qualities lies the root of her political success.
Now to be sure, there are plenty of memes that have developed around the Democratic presidential candidate, but the problem is that most are more media creation than accurate depictions of her as a candidate or a person.
For example, there’s the argument that Clinton is supposedly not generating much enthusiasm among voters. The problem with that line of thinking is that she has received 1.1 million more votes than the next closest candidate, Republican front-runner Donald Trump, and 2.5 million more than Clinton’s Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.
And then there’s the charge that she’s bad at politics, and let’s be honest, she’s no Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, or Ronald Reagan. But then again, she’s well on her way to being the Democratic nominee and largely because she had the best theory of how to win her party’s nomination — mobilizing African-American and Hispanic voters. Of course, white men don’t like her, and that will be a big problem for her in November, or so the argument goes. But, truth be told, Obama won around a third of white male voters in 2012, and he still beat Mitt Romney by 5 million votes. The reality is that Clinton could do slightly worse with white men and still win the election comfortably.
Certainly, one could talk about how Clinton is a lousy speech-giver. And she is. But she’s also the single best debater of any of the candidates running, which is likely a more important skill than how well she can give a speech.
I could write about her trustworthiness gap and the fact that so many voters seem to think she’s not honest. But the truth of the matter is, she’s probably the most honest politician running this year.
Bernie Sanders makes big promises, doesn’t get caught up in the details of what he’s proposing, and presents every policy issue in terms of black and white, good guys vs. bad guys. Donald Trump offers no nuance, no complexity and no caveats. He lies all the time and it doesn’t matter. This is not to suggest that Trump and Sanders are two sides of the same coin: The differences between them are legion.
But compared to Clinton, they are very different politicians. She speaks in nuance. She is, ironically, rigorously honest in how she talks about policy issues. She shades and diverts when answering questions she doesn’t want to answer. If anything, she often seems to go out of her way not to say something that is untrue; not to over-promise on something she can’t deliver. She appears to abide by the seemingly outdated notion that lies in politics actually matter.
Even her supporters are nicer. If you dare to suggest on social media that Bernie Sanders isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread, his supporters literally fall over themselves to denounce you in such harsh terms that you’d think you had punched their dog. When you say something critical of Clinton, her supporters are painfully earnest. Sure, there are a few jerks, but, more often than not, Clinton fans try patiently to explain why you’re analysis is wrong.
If anything, the one meme that deserves more attention is that Clinton is so far and away more qualified to be president than any other person running, it’s almost comical. Sanders might elicit a great deal of passion, but he’s at sea when it comes to foreign policy, which is kind of an important part of the job.
Of course, being the most qualified candidate doesn’t mean you’re going to win the White House. But, in a year of such political upheaval, it is a decidedly underrated asset. The fact is, Americans generally are wary of political change; they prefer a steady hand in the White House; they take experience seriously and they’re unlikely to warm to a candidate who talks about wanting to punch people in the face.
In the end, Clinton is only really boring if you don’t think the idea of electing the first female president is kind of exciting — but boring is her m.o. It’s also her ace in the hole.
Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.