The Hillary Advantage


Photo Credit: Marc Nozell A while ago Warren Buffett told Fortune writer Carol Loomis, "Hillary is going to run... Hillary is going to win." As an outspoken Clinton supporter and legendary investor, Buffett put his money where his mouth is, "I will bet money on it. And I don't do that easily." The prospect of having the first female president is encouraging. Indeed a woman in the most powerful political office will empower and inspire millions of young women. 

Almost eight years ago when I was in college, I had an inkling that Senator Barack Obama would win the presidential race. Maybe it was an easy call back then, as voters all over the country were fed up with a Republican-led leadership under President George W. Bush. The masses wanted change and change meant different parties. I wasn't an expert on American politics but I was confident that Obama would win. I was just beginning to understand the U.S. political system and its nuanced differences. Obama harnessed and projected a positive image to the electorate, which could not have been said of his opponent John McCain and Mitt Romney, his opponent in the 2012 election. 

Our current president leveraged voters which could be swayed toward his side. At the height of a presidential race, "swing states", as the name suggests, often decide the election. In Western countries, voter turnout is historically low. According to the Pew Research Center, voter turnout rate of African-Americans increased by 4.9 percentage compared to 2004. Depending what data you consult, Obama also got more than four fifth of the African-American vote. What's more, a large number of millennials who had never voted before voted for Obama. His eloquence, authenticity, and his confrontation of matters that actually concerned the American public, were the basis of what appealed to the younger generation. This made the difference in Obama's campaign and if Clinton adopts this strategy it can make all the difference in her campaign, as well. 

Conversely, John McCain and Mitt Romney, in 2008 and 2012 respectively, were unable to sell themselves in a positive way. They created a disconnect between voters and themselves. This became evident to me when Mitt Romney recently visited the Harvard Law School. His discussions reflected a wise individual with an original sense of humor, but he wasn't able to carry that over to his election campaign. For example, the Republican party, he said, is a party that is trying to help people of modest income, but that was not the image that was transmitted to voters. Romney's perception was that the policies appeal more so to the rich rather than to the entire American public. Therefore, unless the Republican party can fix that image problem, it will be difficult for any Republican candidate to win in the 2016 election.

Donald Trump for example is a better candidate in some ways than Clinton, but his image and language is too aggressive. He is so aggressive that there is a camp within the Republican party that will vote Democratic just to make sure Trump does not get elected. In fact, the Harvard Republican Club, for the first time in 128 years, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee. 

Don't get me wrong, neither of the choices are very appealing. But it seems in light of these factors, she will have an easier time winning. Over the last couple of months Clinton has tried to loosen up, but she is still far from showing authenticity at all times. 

In the spring of 2008, Obama was capable of redirecting the negative energy that was dispersed by Reverend Jeremiah Wright's inflammatory remarks, by speaking directly to the nation that he now represents. By appealing to the emotional side of Americans, he displayed authentic leadership and ultimately won the election. "A More Perfect Union," as the speech is known today, and what the Pew Research Center called "arguably the biggest political event of the campaign", was a historical moment in Obama's campaign. It is due to that passion and appeal that he was able to get elected. 

In truth, we need someone who can appeal like Obama and get things done like Elon Musk. Unfortunately, the political landscape today doesn't seem to be able to produce such a candidate. There hasn't been much evolution in political thought happening. Instead there is just fighting over petty issues, rather than tackling real problems, and moving the country forward. We need to build an environment that will support these kinds of leaders to emerge and take the country into a new direction.