Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hillary still doesn't get it

Hillary Clinton is about to publish a book about the election campaign. In it she complains that her positions were about the same as those of Sanders and that Sanders instead attacked her integrity by highlighting contradictions.

She still doesn't get it.

Hillary used the same opportunistic strategy as Bill: having a good look at opinion polls and taking those positions that appeal most to leftish and centrist voters. What is missing is a vision that connects those points. And that is the big difference with Bernie Sanders.

Bill Clinton lacked such a vision too and we saw the result in rightish policies like concessions to Wall Street and an aggressive foreign policy.

Both Hillary and Bill surround themselves with the 1% and have taken over much of their world view. The difference is that Bill is a more empathic person than Hillary. That gave him at least a bit of understanding of the point of view of the rest of humanity. It also helped to make him look more understanding even when he wasn't. Bill's skirt chasing didn't hurt either: it brought him in close contact with at least some people outside the 1% bubble.

Neither Bill nor Bernie are so alienated from poorer people that they would put them away as "deplorables". Let's face it: this was not a mistake. This is how Hillary thinks. If she hadn't been caught with this there might have been another incident. And even without it many of her potential voters sensed the disconnect: there were too many signs like her refusal to publish her speeches at Goldman Sachs. It was part of Sanders' strategy to highlight such signs. Trump would double down by calling her a liar.

Hillary had rather few public appearances. Her age and some kind of strategy may have played a role in this. But it may also have been that - given her large disconnect with her audience - each appearance cost her too much energy. Anyway, by taking so few opportunities to meet her target audience Hillary wasted opportunities to reconnect as each appearance is also an opportunity to get a feeling of how the audience thinks and feels.

Part of campaigning is to control what is being said about you. The best way to do that is to make the news yourself. Trump is a master at that. Wave after wave of (usually well deserved) bad publicity comes rolling in his direction and then he makes some outrageous statement that his followers like and it just disappears. Sure, waiting out a crisis of bad publicity is a time honored strategy too. But it is not very smart when other candidates have a really appealing message. And it is a risky strategy in a time of elections when the media will pick up any kind of news about you - no matter how insignificant they might consider it in other times.

"She deserves it". It was an argument that worked - to a certain extent - within the Democratic Party apparatus. Within a political party there are a lot of jobs to allocate and people will be more inclined to support an insider like Clinton than an outsider like Sanders. Even if they might sympathize with Sanders they know it is better for their career to support Clinton: Clinton can hurt or reward them: Sanders not. But for the average voter this is irrelevant. They ask "what's in it for me?" and they look at her behavior in the past and the present. When they hear Clinton fans tell them that she deserves it it mainly tells them that they don't have real arguments.

Poor Hillary. She just doesn't understand what she did wrong. She did everything according to the book and yet she was defeated by an obvious lying crook. Unfortunately her incapacity to understand is a good illustration of what she missed as a candidate: a vision that people can buy into. If she had understood that she would at least have been able to take compensating measures like choosing a vice-presidential candidate with a vision. By freezing out Sanders and his followers after she had won the primaries she did exactly the opposite.