When Senator Hillary Clinton was a presidential candidate in 2008, her biggest problem was not her husband's dalliances, or her opponent (then senator) Barack Obama for that matter, it was her inability to connect to the voters and a failure to appear authentic and empathetic to the plight of an average working class that saw her as a Washington insider who appeared as if she deserved the office rather than trying to earn the position on her own merits (despite her eight years in the White House as the first lady or her two terms senatorial stint in New York). Mr. Obama on the other hand appeared genuine, impassioned, personable, and with an oratory skill that eclipsed Hillary's credentials--style over substance as usual in politics: he offered a different view of America that voters were hungering for after eight years of George W. Bush's dismal record, leaving a country that found itself in shambles after war cost overruns and an economy teetering on the brink of collapse ala 'The Great Depression'.
So why does Ms. Clinton have this perceived or earned persona in the court of public opinion as being non-trustworthy and a bit shifty? Some of it can be attributed to decades of vicious campaigning against her by political foes and against her husband when they unsuccessfully tried to impeach him and in the process spent nearly 80 million dollars of tax payer's money with nothing concrete to show for it except that he lied about having an affair under oath--a president who was one of the most successful economically in terms of job creation (22 million) and economic prosperity. Mr. Clinton left us a balanced budget and a surplus to boot during his eight years in the oval office.
This disdain of her husband wasn't just limited to him. Her sworn enemies, a group of misogynistic conservatives, talk show hosts and some Washington political PAC, dislike her ideologically--for all that she represents (despite her mostly centrist right positions when she was in the senate), perhaps because of a more liberal political past or simply because she is a woman with opinions which threatens the status quo, i.e. the old boys club in Washington.
But some of this earned reputation has something to do with the way Ms. Clinton reacts after verbal missteps, trying to overcompensate instead of simply recanting, or trying unsuccessfully to invoke a classic evasive verbal maneuver (a la her lawyer's training), only to regret it later and come clean once irrevocable damage has been done, which further bolsters the undeserved 'untrustworthy' persona. For many on the fence it only adds to her besmirched reputation because it gets repeated in the press.
After defending a barrage of allegations for decades--whether Whitewater, Healthgate, Clintongate, Bengazi, some damning report from the personal email server fiasco (a practice that never got her predecessor in trouble), or the failed presidential run in 2008--one would think that by now she would have honed her political demarche and stagecraft into a fine art. But she has yet to find an adequate balance between authenticity and artifice which leans on the side of believability, and that failing of style despite mountains of substance (her manifold experience advocating for the less fortunate, her work as first Lady of Arkansas and the United States, and her work as the two terms Senator from New York passing some key bipartisan bills) has held sway.
Perhaps her biggest political mistake was trying to pass an ambitious health bill without taking the temperature of the political climate at the time; the bill was doomed even before the boiler plate was drafted not because it was poorly hatched: the Republicans and their health industry lobbyists were having none of it, and they made sure that this would be the albatross around her neck for years to come. But that wasn't the end, her detractors found more fodder from her years at state department - a matter that would have been put to rest had she handled it better. But surprisingly nothing was dug from the time when she was the senator from New York? Hmmm!
Having had her eye on the White House for some time, she was the 'chosen one' early in the presidential cycle, and perhaps was handed that opportunity on a silver platter. With a Republican primary that looked like a farcical vaudevillian revue at times or a room full of squabbling school children, one would expect her to trounce the victor by high double digits--a Republican candidate who is more like a carnival hawker, a cunning and egotistical charlatan who is a pathological fabricator, has committed innumerable verbal faux pas, and fomented hatred and incited riotous rage through his supporters against certain sector of our citizenry: undignified behavior of the basest form.
His portfolio of misdeeds, dishonest business practices, myriad fronts of dubious nature designed to dispossess unsuspecting customers of their monies, a trail of bankruptcies, unpaid bills, unsavory acts of fund usage from his foundation for personal use and campaign donations for persons to look the other way on his fraudulent business dealings, should be grounds for imprisonment.
Mr. Trump's disdain for the Mexicans, Muslims, and African Americans is well founded and reflected in the comments he has made all through the primaries. Some of those statements are patently racist and unconstitutional. His name calling of women, making crude remarks, and having little or no reverence for women, is quite obnoxious. He has made numerous sexist remarks, even questionable comments about his own daughter. His latest incessant salvo against Ms. Machado is further proof of his nature. His bravado about making money on the backs of the less fortunate, not paying taxes, and gaming the system to get rich is revolting. His call for Russia to hack into sensitive information of our country, and his reverence for the Russian President is downright treasonous, yet few conservative commentators called him out.
I will be honest, I am not gaga over either of these candidates but I am certainly not impervious to reason: it is not even a matter of lesser of the two evils. Albeit, both the candidates are a bit slick for my taste, but the difference is that Mr. Trump is dripping with the type of slickness you taste when a diner has neglected to change the griddle oil for a while and the food that had the misfortune of gracing that griddle finally hits your palate--the unsavory, thick, nauseating, and rancid film of grease that lingers for hours afterwards.
So who are these working class white Americans or even educated middle class independents that are willing to ignore Ms. Clinton's decades of experience? Sexism is one explanation, and lack of traditional jobs is another: the sort of job that didn't require any sort of degree or certification that still paid well. A lot of the workers supporting Mr.Trump have sat on the sidelines waiting for the tide to turn while not seeking further education or different training, but those jobs are gone for good!
Steve Jobs chose to produce the iPhone in China (and admitted as much that it wasn't possible to produce it here) because when he was furious about a design flaw in the original iPhone, which had a plastic screen that scratched: he ordered his team to change the screen to glass in a matter of weeks before 1st iPhone shipped out, and the company that undertook the challenge and retooled their factory to meet his requirement was Chinese, even though the glass would be sourced from Corning. The majority of corporations look out for themselves and convenience, not their workers.
As more and more women are outpacing men in education, out-graduating them in college and at times (but still not often enough) out-earning them: a further source of consternation for these men. The role reversal is a bitter pill for a lot of these men to take, and for many Ms. Clinton is the zenith of that trend: a woman who is going to be possibly calling the shots at the highest level possible in this country.
Ms. Clinton is favored to win this election mostly due to demographic statistics--her goodwill with urban women, Hispanics, and African Americans is still in good stead. Her staid mannerism, straitlaced style, and wry humor will not beguile any millennials: she urgently needs to find a voice of her own - and not her surrogates' - that resonates. Whether the white working class and educated independents see her formidable experience as the stronger argument remains to be seen--her poll numbers and her admirable debate performance notwithstanding. But none of this should be taken for granted.
She is not going to move the voters with her oratory skills, or by making promises that everyone already predicts. She needs to narrow her communication gap with the voters by dispensing with the guarded persona that muddles her message--even though the content in her message is far more defined, corporeal, and nuanced than her opponent's rather murky "plans" (declarations only, no details). She runs circles around Mr.Trump in terms of substance but the fool's gold of style may still be her undoing. She needs to discard her carefully drafted talking points and just go off the script and speak off the cuff--letting the passion that drives her deeds also fuel her words. With the election less than month and a half away, Ms. Clinton is the most experienced and prepared candidate for president we have had in our lifetime, but what the public really want is to feel the authenticity and emotion behind her plans.