Not Feeling the Bern? How Hillary Can Win.

This election isn’t a rejection of establishment candidates, it’s a rejection of establishment politics.

Hillary Clinton can’t get out of her own way. Even as she claims she’s not part of the establishment, she’s turning to establishment politics to stem the Bernie tide: putting her husband on the stump, pointing to a tired list of establishment politicians and aging feminists who’ve endorsed her, and using negative rhetoric and advertising to attack Sanders. If she’s hoping to peel off some of Bernie’s support—which is what she should be doing—her campaign is going about it all wrong.

To begin with, going negative is the worst possible strategy. Bernie’s supporters are excited and enthusiastic. They see what’s possible: what this country is capable of if people become aware of the issues Bernie’s passionate about. They’re angry too, but they’re angry at the focus group, big-money politics that have been practiced in the last 30 years; angry at seeing corporate billionaires and Super Pacs flood our airwaves and television screens with lies, hate, and fear. To put it bluntly, barraging liberal voters with nasty attacks on Bernie is going to backfire. They won’t support politics as usual: the mudslinging ads that work on Republican voters (who, let’s face it, are angry, afraid, and not all that smart) don’t work on liberals—and certainly not on the people who support Bernie. They’ve evolved, and they’re going to be insulted if team Hillary goes down that road.

Aug. 22, 2015 - North Charleston, SC, United States of America - Senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters during a rally August 22, 2015 in North Charleston, South Carolina. A crowd of about 4,000 people gathered to hear the Democratic presidential candidate speak. (Credit Image: © Richard Ellis via ZUMA Wire)
(Credit Image: © Richard Ellis via ZUMA Wire)

Likewise, parading old, tired politicians and members of the media around telling Bernie’s supporters they’re stupid or naïve for being passionate and/or angry about the issues Sanders is raising, or that “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support Hillary,” is fucking ridiculous. People don’t generally respond well to being talked down to and told they aren’t smart enough to make their own decisions. It’s patronizing, and again, it’s going to backfire.

Finally, as awesome a President as Bill was, he’s also responsible for compromising with Republicans on some pretty disastrous policies (for instance, the 1996 Telecommunications Act and the “tough on crime” bills responsible for the largest prison population in the world) and moving the Democratic Party to the right. So if team Hillary’s going to put him out on the stump, make it more along the lines of his speech at the 2012 Democratic Convention; be positive and inspiring. Bill Clinton is probably the most gifted politician alive—make that a strength, not a weakness.

OK, so how does Hillary win?

1) Deliver a landmark speech on economic inequality and the lack of opportunity facing young people, African Americans, Latinos, etc.

But unlike Bernie, be specific about how we can address these issues. Maybe team Hillary feels they’ve already done this, but this is an election—say it again! It certainly won’t hurt. Issues she should touch on and develop policy for include:

  • K-12 EDUCATION: how can we reform our system of education to offer students what they need to succeed in the 21st century? How can we address some of the systemic issues regarding length/timing of the school year? How do we reform teacher training and compensation? How do we increase administrative effectiveness? And how can we go about bringing industrial arts and manufacturing classes back into middle and high schools?
  • HIGHER EDUCATION: it’s OK to say we can’t make college free, but how are we going to lower the cost of college? What alternatives are we going to provide for young people? How do we address some of the excesses in administrative and other costs that have been foisted on to people paying tuition? Finally, what can we do to ease the massive burden of student debt has on those who’ve graduated?
  • HOUSING: rent, in many places, is absurdly high—how do we provide more low-cost housing? What programs can we put in place to help first time home buyers, and encourage more building and development?
  • INTERNET: free nationwide wireless internet. Why not? It wouldn’t be that difficult to provide, and arguably, it’s the single biggest equalizer there is—with universal internet availability, every American could educate themselves on any number of topics, apply to any job or college available, access information they need to make better decisions in every aspect of their life, and interact with other Americans on issues of the day. Universal internet access would be a massive boon to business as well as democracy, and if you don’t like the idea of the government running it, allow states or cities to contract with Google, Comcast, or whoever else to provide it. And develop a program alongside to put computers into the hands of impoverished students.
  • INFRASTRUCTURE: Beyond that, promise to repair, replace, and renew our roads, bridges, railways, ports, airports, sewers, and electric grid. This would create millions of high-paying jobs, make our businesses more efficient, and act as an incredible stimulus to the economy.


HEY, BUT HOW DO WE PAY FOR ALL THIS? Answer: a transaction tax on Wall St., a 25% tariff on goods manufactured outside the U.S., an end to oil subsidies, and by taxing capital gains and other investments the same way we tax everyone else—through our income tax, including the FICA tax for Social Security and Medicare.

If Hillary made such a speech, studded with specific, laudable policy proposals, really, what the hell could Bernie say? Not much. It’d be exceedingly hard to criticize her ties to Wall St. when she’s proposing to increase their taxes, and where Bernie’s been vague about how he’s going to transform our economy into one that works for everyone, she’d be laying out a specific, workable vision of how to get there.

2) Make Climate Change a Central Focus of the Campaign.

Team Hillary should go all in on saving the planet. Sure, Bernie’s raised the issue as well, but unlike his attack on the rich and powerful, he can’t claim exclusive ownership on the environment. No one can. And climate change is an issue that resonates with 70% of all Americans, not just liberals and Democrats. Plus, if Hillary can win the nomination, it’s a potent issue she can carry into the general election, because on climate change, the Republicans have nothing—there isn’t any cogent defense that can be made at this point for A) not believing in it, or B) not doing anything. Even the, “hey, but doing something will hurt the economy” argument has been thoroughly debunked. Republicans have their pants down on this issue, which means anyone who fancies a go can kick them squarely in their tiny balls.

3) Make Democracy a Central Focus of the Campaign.

Demand a Constitutional Amendment stating that corporations are not people and money is not speech. Say that at every campaign event, because again, this weakens one of the Sanders campaign’s core criticisms of establishment politicians–specifically, Hillary. Indeed, go so far as to promise that this will be a central issue in Hillary’s first four years of office.


Along with this proposal, advocate for universal voter registration and making election day in November a national holiday so that every American has the opportunity to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice. This will undercut Bernie’s appeal to democratic values and shows that Hillary isn’t beholden to special/moneyed interests. Plus, it’s a really difficult position to attack. Why wouldn’t you want people to be able to vote? And who actually wants to claim that corporations are people or that the rich should have a greater voice in government than ordinary Americans? Both are losing arguments.

4) Aggressively attack the Republican Party, and at the same time create policy proposals to address the problems Sanders identifies.

Come out aggressively against the Republican Party. Attack them at every opportunity. Mock the absurdity of their views. Lambast them as the racist servants of the rich that they are. And then tell voters that Hillary Clinton wants this nomination in the worst way so she can kick their fucking asses and embarrass them in November (without swearing, of course).

Also, in this light, don’t denigrate Bernie or try to scare people with the term “socialist.” Instead, embrace him like a little brother—like hey, I love this guy, I love his passion, and when I win the nomination, I will consult him regularly–but I’m the adult in the room. I’m the person that can make his vision happen. Where he’s been vague, I’ve laid out a specific vision for the kind of country Bernie Sanders would be proud to live in. Where he’s made promises that—though admirable—would be difficult to keep, I’ve presented realistic policies that we can get done in my first four years of office.

In other words, stop resorting to the focus group, Washington-insider, big money strategies people are sick and tired of. Stop bothering with the foolish independents who can’t decide between the two parties—there aren’t that many of them, if they haven’t decided yet, they’re idiots, and building your campaign around idiots is… well, kind of the opposite of smart.

Be authentic. Be original. Be positive. Don’t be afraid to lose. Lay out a vision of an America in which every man, woman, and child, no matter where they grew up or what color their skin happens to be, can have the opportunity to succeed and thrive.

That’s how Hillary wins.

(Happy to quit my day job to be a paid consultant, btw)

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About The Author: Jay Scott


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