Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has five challenges she faces in her acceptance speech. Not one of them has to do with her GOP rival Trump. The first is personal, very personal. She has to make people want to vote for her not just because she's the most savvy, experienced, prepared and knowledgeable about foreign and domestic policy issues, which she is. But because they like her. Unfortunately, her unlikeability rating runs dangerously close to that of Trump. The difference is that Trump's dislike numbers have been high from day one, Clinton's have edged up steadily during the course of the campaign. And that's especially worrisome.
The importance of the likeability factor in politics versus having a steady command of the issues and governance has been endlessly debated and hashed over. Yet, people aren't automatons, they are feeling, caring and emotional beings, and if there's the perception that someone is aloof, cold and distant, that does color their view of that person, and almost never favorably. The big knock against Clinton is she's too cool and distant, and this is the very thing that can make the difference in bumping up the number of even those who agree with and support her to make the extra effort to get to the polls.
Clinton will also have to walk a tightrope on President Obama's legacy. That legacy is worth its weight in political gold to millions who made up the winning Obama coalition, and Clinton will have to reaffirm her commitment to it again and again as she has repeatedly done; that she will carry on and extend his administration's accomplishments in everything from health care to job creation. At the same time, she'll have to put some distance between that legacy and her to affirm that her administration won't be just an Obama term three. That there are areas of healthy policy disagreement over issues such as TPP, and that her administration will be her administration's and not Obama's.
This segues to the third challenge. That's sealing the deal with Bernie's supporters. Ninety percent of them say they'll vote for her. But the real question is how many of them will actually turnout on Election Day. She'll have to make sure most of them do by reaffirming that she's truly a progressive and will be tough on financial regulation, wealth and income inequality and TPP, expand tuition free college education and health care coverage.
The election will be won or lost by the candidate who can turn the election into more than a Civics 101 exercise in casting a ballot. She'll have to do or come close to doing what Obama did in 2008 and that's turn her campaign and the election into a crusade. This means giving people the sense that they are truly making history by voting for her, turning back the dark forces that Trump supposedly represents, and making people believe that she can affect real hope and change. This doesn't mean simply hoping that enough people are so scared stiff of the possibility of a Trump White House that this will be motivator enough for them to dash to the polls. This won't make her campaign a crusade. The key is to give people something and somebody not to vote against but to vote for.
Now here's Hillary's greatest challenge. That's making people trust her. Polls show that a lot of people just don't like her and that's based a lot on the endlessly heard refrain to put it more charitably, that she shades the truth, and less charitably is a liar. The GOP and Trump have pounded this into the ground. The aim from the start was to embarrass and discredit her not because of her alleged missteps as Secretary of State, but as a 2016 presidential candidate. Republicans got what they wanted when their phony accusations against her of cover-up and incompetence in the Benghazi debacle got tons of media chatter and focus and raised the first shadow of public doubt. Congressional Republicans double downed on this by flailing her for supposedly hiding, deleting or misusing her private emails for some sinister and nefarious reason during her stint as Secretary of State. There was no deliberate wrongdoing, but it left a bad odor, and this just convinced even more that trust and Clinton were an oxymoron.
Hillary should give the American people a strong look in the eye, vow that transparency and openness will be the two watchwords of a Clinton administration and then make it clear that she expects to be held to that pledge. This won't make the Hillary loathers into sudden friends, but it will tackle this issue head on and help soothe the doubts of those including many of her backers who are bothered by this.
These challenges are formidable. But in meeting them she will go a long way toward removing much doubt that she's the candidate who is the presidential candidate who is the complete package when it comes to a president.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of How "President" Trump will Govern, (Amazon Kindle) He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.