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Opinion: US primaries - ending without a winner

Herbsttreffen der Medienfrauen 2017 Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl
June 7, 2016

Even before the last batch of key polls in six US states, due to so-called super delegates, Hillary Clinton had enough support to become the Democrats' presidential candidate. But hold the champagne, writes Ines Pohl.

Bildkombo Hillary Clinton Donald Trump USA Präsidentschaftswahlen 2016
Image: Getty Images/J.Raedle/picture-alliance/dpa/D.Van Tine

The primaries in the US are a drawn-out and complicated process. But now both political camps have their candidates. The battle over the White House will see Hillary Clinton run against Donald Trump and vice versa. Both winning candidates, however, share a predicament - they are not fully and wholeheartedly supported by their own parties as they move from the primaries to the national presidential campaign.

Trump's biggest enemy: Trump

But the problems plaguing both candidates could hardly be more different. Donald Trump's biggest enemy is called Donald Trump. An aging, wealthy man, who has made many enemies among Republicans with his hateful, narcissistic and eruptive rants and will continue to do so in the future.

Hillary Clinton, however, has to fight on at least two different fronts at the same time. In her long political career she has made or been responsible for many mistakes. She also has lots of opponents and detractors. That's why Hillary Clinton is her own biggest enemy. But in addition to that there is also a very real person that can cause Clinton plenty of trouble even after her nomination.

Revolution in the comfort zone

Bernie Sanders has challenged this passionate politician in a way no one expected. With his flaming speeches about a revolution Sanders (74) has made his rival Clinton (68) look old. Just like a powerful woman whose only goal is to keep the system alive, because it brought her power and wealth.

USA Cathedral City Bernie Sanders in Kalifornien
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/D. Dovarganes

Especially young Americans took to Sanders' revolution rhetoric driven for instance by real worries like mounting college debts. But also by rather misty-eyed dreams of a revolution, that should preferably be accomplished without leaving one's personal comfort zone.

It is undisputed that Sanders has catapulted crucial issues like social justice into this strange election campaign. Without him these issues would not have featured in the presidential race. This is and remains an achievement for which Sanders deserves credit. This however won't be enough for his supporters. But these committed followers have lost. Clinton, not Sanders, has gathered the necessary support. And to make matters worse the delegate threshold was crossed by some wealthy super delegates. All of this leaves plenty of room for the making of political myths. Who doesn't know that the first love lost hurts the most.

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DW Washington correspondent Ines Pohl

Unknown terrain for Clinton

But what does all this mean for Hillary Clinton, likely the first woman in the history of the United States to become the presidential candidate for one of the major parties? With her nomination she will enter uncharted waters. While Clinton has campaigned for it once, she never was her party's chosen candidate.

Can she use this moment to liberate herself from her historic baggage? As an opportunity to toss aside her often calculating verbiage, to speak and present herself as she can be when she feels secure? Will she allow herself to admit mistakes and show her personality in a way people can believe her, because they think she is honest? And what will Bernie Sanders do? Can he show solidarity in his defeat? Or is he simply out to cement his own legacy, and his assertion that there's no right way if you're on the wrong path?

It's all about authenticity

Populism and unproven promises have shaped this primary election campaign. If Hillary Clinton wants to succeed the first black president in the White House she has to develop a weapon with which to defeat the arguments of her opponents. She possesses the necessary analytical skills to do that. Interestingly however, Clinton, the first female presidential candidate, must succeed in showing the matching emotions to go with it. Not learned, but lived - and in a convincing manner.

Because this, after all, is what it is all about here in the US: The voters want authenticity more than platforms and strategies.

Herbsttreffen der Medienfrauen 2017 Ines Pohl
Ines Pohl Bureau head of DW's Washington Studio@inespohl
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