Hillary Clinton generated another telling campaign moment Saturday as she waged her finger and angrily said, "Shame on You Barack Obama". Her statement came after increasingly effective attacks by Obama on the Clinton administration's North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) -- a pact that is widely despised by the working class Ohio voters upon whom largely rest her hopes for keeping her candidacy alive.
But it's the style and tone of her response that tells volumes about why her campaign against Barack Obama is gradually sinking.
Granted, her "shame on you Barack Obama" was aimed at her opponent, not the voters, but it is symbolic of the tone of her entire campaign, and that tone is what is heard by the voters.
Hillary Clinton tends to lecture. She tells voters to "get real". She wags her finger, and reminds them of the way they felt when their sixth grade teacher told them that if they didn't stop talking in class and turn in their homework, they would never amount to anything.
People respond to being inspired and uplifted -- called upon to live up to their potential. They don't respond to being shamed, scolded or hectored.
Inspiration makes people feel empowered. It gets them to behave differently -- or vote differently -- through positive reinforcement. It makes them feel that they can do and be more than they are. People like being in the presence of someone who inspires them. Barack Obama is all about inspiration.
Clinton's tone is anti-inspirational. A lecturing, scolding tone makes people feel un-empowered. People don't like to be lectured. That's because lecturing tries to change people's behavior through negative reinforcement -- by scolding them. The fact is that positive reinforcement trumps negative reinforcement almost every time.
And that's not some "softheaded" liberal notion. The research on business management and motivating employees is almost unanimous: inspiration and positive reinforcement get results. Negative reinforcement gets results too, but often unexpected and counter productive results.
In Clinton's case, her scolding, "get real", "shame on you" tone just enhances the doubts of the many Americans who feel negatively about her in the first place. They don't like the prospect of her finger wagging at them on the TV and being lectured and scolded for the next four years.
Voters like the brief glimpses of the generous, personable Hillary that they saw at the end of the last debate. But the "shame on you", scolding Hillary drives them right into Obama's inspirational corner.
Much of the blame for this grave political problem rests with the Clinton campaign's early decision that she would run as the "Margaret Thatcher", iron-lady of American politics. That might have worked if she had been paired against many, run of the mill opponents. But it was a fatal decision in a race against a master of inspiration.
Being the anti-inspirational candidate is even more disastrous in a context where the overwhelming majority of Americans want fundamental change. Barack Obama says: "Yes we can change the way things are done in Washington." However she intends it, Clinton's anti-inspirational, finger waging style translates to: "Get real, you don't really think things are going to fundamentally change, do you?"
The contrast of inspiration and anti-inspiration has also contributed mightily to Obama's superior field operations and fundraising. Of course, tapping into the promise this inspiration presented required excellence in execution as well. But in things big and small the Obama Campaign has executed flawlessly and out hustled the Clintonistas at every turn.
Obama's grassroots, Internet-driven fundraising superiority required an inspirational candidacy to work. And the Obama campaign harnessed the grass roots energy with precision, vision and sophistication.
Obama's spectacular field operation has been fueled by the massive influx of inspired volunteers. And its superior organizational skills successfully turned motivated volunteers into phone bankers and canvassers.
I'm not of the school that it's all over but the shouting. With all of her negatives, Clinton may very well hang on for weeks or months. But with every wag of Hillary's finger, Obama's odds get better and better.