I'm rooting for Hillary for a simple reason; I think she'd be the best president. She served New York well in the Senate and was an effective Secretary of State. As has been clear in the debates, she has an extraordinary command of not only the issues but the process of governing and is by far the most experienced of any candidate on either side. As we saw in Obama's first few years in office, it's one thing to get people inspired by talk of hope and change, it's another to actually make change happen.
After voting for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary because his campaign showed a promise for a complete change in the political system, with citizen engagement via new technologies replacing entrenched special interests as a source of power, I was impressed that Hillary took this message to heart and made technology and citizen engagement a priority at State.
Thus it's been disheartening to watch Hillary's 2016 campaign fail to learn so many lessons from 2008, most notably the need to inspire voters and make them feel ownership in the campaign. Also, Hillary stands a good chance to be the first woman president, yet she's allowed herself to be painted as the "establishment" candidate, the conventional vote.
I see this week's news that Hillary is considering a staff shake-up as welcome news that couldn't come soon enough.
As someone who has given the campaign no indication that I'm a definite voter (apart from a grand total of $3 for a Love Trumps Hate bumper sticker), I've been amazed at how the campaign has taken my support for granted. The campaign has been using all the mechanics of the Obama campaign - especially constant emails - but none of the magic. Despite my being a close follower of the election, I've received almost no communications that seek to inspire me or that make me feel a part of a movement. Rather, the campaign treats me like an ATM with solicitations multiple times a day.
Unlike the Obama campaign or Sanders campaign, I've seen virtually no viral messages from trusted friends and community members supporting the campaign or the candidate on social media. Where in 2012 I was invited to be a member of a Tech for Obama group with campaign staffers, which, if nothing else, made me feel ownership in the campaign, I'm seeing no comparable affinity group efforts for Hillary. And any opportunity to get anywhere near the campaign comes at a high price tag. For example, several months ago Hillary had a fundraiser for the New York tech community that cost $1,000 to get in and $2,700 for a picture. At the same time, Marco Rubio held small gathering for New York's tech community for free, at which he talked about his interest in helping entrepreneurs. What better way for Hillary to send a message to potential influencers that she doesn't need our support, just our money?
Further, the campaign has shown almost no interest in grassroots democracy groups such as MoveOn and Netroots Nation that are most likely to influence friends / relatives who are primary voters. Of course these groups have concerns about her vote for the Iraq war and her ties to Wall Street. But all the more reason she needs to reach out to show that her views are largely in line with their priorities.
The campaign has also done a poor job of messaging to define the candidate and her vision for our nation's future; rather they have allowed others to define her. And they haven't shown an understanding that 8 years later, people are even more desperate for a change to our political system.
Some messaging that Hillary needs to own include:
- Our current political system is corrupted by money and special interests and she has a clear plan to fix it. Of course this will be harder for Hillary, as she's been part of the system for a long time and has earned millions from Goldman and others. But she needs to triangulate and own the issue rather than run from it. Acknowledge that banks / corporations are a critical part of economy, but that money in government is a systemic problem. By better understanding how the system works, she'll be able to reform it.
- She needs to clearly communicate that her experience will allow her to get more done than Sanders, especially as most of his idealistic agenda depends on getting support from Congress that will never happen.
- She should communicate that inequality is more than a talking point. She needs to talk more of her lifetime of work combatting inequality and communicate a clear plan of what she will do as president.
- She should own her rightful place as the person who worked for decades to make Obamacare happen and who will protect it. She needs to talk more about how critical it is to not let GOP take insurance away from 15 million Americans. And talk of how Sanders' incomplete proposal would require a significant tax increase to the middle class - a virtual impossibility with Congress even his proposal otherwise made sense.
- She needs to show why it matters that she'd be the first woman president and what she'd do differently.
- Finally, Hillary needs to show more of her personal side. Her best moments in the campaign have been unscripted - meeting with Black Lives Matters activists, the debates (which ironically her campaign worked so hard to limit) and even the Benghazi hearings. She should do more events to meet with real people, rather than celebrities. She could make impromptu visits to Meetups of groups supporting her. Have low dollar fundraisers. Assemble affinity groups of supporters.
I look forward to seeing what effect a campaign shake-up will have. Even if she's still likely to win the nomination, especially as Iowa and New Hampshire are among her least favorable states, the general election will be a huge battle and she's going to need all the support she can get, especially from those who are inspired by the Sanders' idealism.