With Senator Bernie Sanders set to win the New Hampshire Primary, evening the Democratic race at 1-1, the competition has never been tighter. Evidence of this could be seen at last week’s impromptu MSNBC debate. Before the first commercial break both Clinton and Sanders were shouting. Clinton had Sanders on the defensive for most of the night and at one point challenged, “If you’ve got something to say, say it.” in regards to the accusations that she is not Progressive enough.
Unlike past debates, she was able to tread water when Sanders invariably honed in on her Wall Street ties. Although she may have received speaking fees from Goldman Sacs, it was one of a number of stops along a rather benign speaking tour that focused on the positive (and Progressive) topic of female entrepreneurship. Although she was compensated for her appearance, she insisted that payment is not prerequisite for capitulation.
Hillary Clinton is appealing to Reasonable America at a time when mob rules.
Just ask the Dr. Frankenstein/Monster ticket about the pitfalls of running for office in counties with high pitchfork and torch turnout. Sanders gets this and is banking his entire campaign on that simple arithmetic. He, and to an even larger success, Trump, both understand that to get to the White House it will have to be on the backs of the populace. When they engage in typical “us versus them” binary stump speeches, regardless whether the topic is the plucky unwashed masses against the bloated atavistic plutocrats or the real Americans with real American values versus (insert demographic here), they at least remember the most fundamental principle at play- find your mob and stay with it.
While the Obama administration appears to have allowed Clinton to attach herself to their successes, this puts her in a difficult position of finding a successful counter-message when Sanders becomes critical of the Obama’s shortcomings. Regardless of the virtue of the man or his message, Sanders is also an undeniable cult of personality. Ironically, the oldest man running for office is also the first one to live or die by social media. While others have awkwardly stumbled through Snapchats and Livestreams like a child forced to finish their lima beans, Sanders has used the same opportunity to bank roll a potent Presidential campaign from enthusiastic donors, a significant portion comprised by Millennials. It cannot be denied that Donald Trump has carved his own niche in the Twitterverse, but he is a roadside attraction, a gibbering demagogue at Delphi that exists only to reinforce his own ego.
If you ever wanted to catch a nasty infection of groupthinkism or misinformed-self-righteousitis, then consider social media the motel bed sheet of the internet. The current talking point is that Hillary, a politician for over thirty years is guilty by association to her connections in Wall Street and other financial sectors. While the Clintons were never shrinking violets when it came to making a buck (re: the Clinton Foundation), Sanders’s indictment that “show me someone who’s taken money from the banks and hasn’t been influenced” is not how the American model of justice works. One is innocent until proven guilty. To this end, Clinton’s open challenge to the Sanders campaign, “show me one example where my influence has been swayed. It can’t be done,” still stands.
The allegation that she is a tainted politician has flummoxed her husband and former President, Bill Clinton. Presiding over one of the more robust economies, Clinton was quoted in New Hampshire that, “We’d be better off if any of these young people could remember it.”
And there lies the rub.
Whatever your battle, you can never hope to win if you fight against what is sure to pass. Age always cedes to youth. Talking at the American people as if they were school children that need to be reprimanded is a failed premise in a nation of proud and entitled citizens and it is why hard-line Conservative disciplinarians have trouble making the General Election transition. It never ceases to amaze that there are those that think they can win by separating themselves from nearly half of the nation by the time the Primaries are over.
Clinton needs to be very wary. She needs to staunch the misrepresentation of her record by younger voters who do not have the frame of reference to appreciate her service to Progressive issues, both social and economical, while not alienating herself from the same faction of voters she will need to see her to the White House. Calling them “young people” and sighing in disappointment at their choices is not going to get the job done.
To move forward, Hillary Clinton needs to look backward. She needs to mount an information campaign that highlights her life as a young activist. In short, she needs to offer a simplified and engaging timeline of her achievements by which first-time voters can be inspired. The Sanders campaign can only be accused of an “artful smear”, as Clinton chided during the last debate, if they have room to fill in the blank. To their credit, the Sanders camp saw Clinton’s guarded and disciplined persona and used it as an empty mad lib booklet, filling it in with whomever they wanted the rest of America to see her as. The sooner she learns that she will never be part of whatever the youth movement may be at any given time, the better.
It is unlikely Hillary will ever be a friend to Millennials en masse. If she cannot appeal to their hearts she will have to settle for their heads. In this, she must thread a dangerous needle of informing them while never attempting to chastise them. She must find a way, and soon, to talk with them, rather than about or to them.