Convening in Philadelphia this week, Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party must counter Donald Trump’s fear and loathing GOP convention by offering a practical and promising economic message targeted at beleaguered and persuadable middle class voters in the Midwest, especially western Pennsylvania and Ohio.
It won’t hurt to aim a few reassuring words at the Medicare and Social Security generation in Florida, either.
As a tactical matter, Clinton, her moderate vice presidential pick, Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, and other allies would be smart to calm down the hot-headed lefty backers of the vanquished Sen. Bernie Sanders. They are newly aroused by the Wikileaks disclosure of Democratic National Committee emails confirming their bitter allegations that soon-to-be-ex chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz secretly influenced the nomination process on Hillary’s behalf.
The Sanders portsiders aren’t all that thrilled about Kaine either, particularly given his DLC style and previous support for the TPP trade agreement, which he flip-flopped on last week; a few are wary of his Jerry Brown-like stand on abortion rights — publicly pro-choice but personally opposed, and his “mixed choice” record as Virginia governor — although NARAL now says he’s 100% with them on the issue.
The verdant threat: A danger for Clinton is that small but significant numbers of inflamed Bernie-bots, despite the Sanders endorsement of the nominee, might switch and fight on behalf of Green Party nominee Jill Stein; she plans to crash the party in Philly to lead protests on behalf of what she calls the “economic justice” of her party’s progressive “Green New Deal.” Said Stein in a worth-checking-out interview by NPR:
And we are here especially for the Bernie Sanders movement that does not want to go back into that dark night, into the Hillary Clinton campaign, that for so many people represents the opposite of what Bernie was building and what they were building.
Although Stein now is little more than an annoying asterisk in national polls, winning even a few percentage points in key states — a possibility given the number of Sanders voters who still reject Bernie’s lead and say they’re not ready to vote for Clinton — could damage Hillary in the same way Ralph Nader screwed Democratic Al Gore in the 2000 election.
That worked out well.
The Donald’s long shot: Trump’s only hope of overcoming Clinton’s natural Electoral College dominance is to cash in on the economic frustrations and resentments of independent and up-for-grabs white working class voters in the Midwest.
So Clinton needs to fiercely fend off Trump’s industrial state strategy by offering believable solutions for un-and-underemployment, lagging wages and fury at smug Beltway elites and the 1 percent.
You know, people like Clinton.
Specifically, Philadelphia and its suburbs have become more Democratic in recent years but Pennsyltucky out west has become more Republican.
If she captures Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Trump was running even before his ghastly convention, and also wins Kaine’s Virginia and Florida – the would-be veep’s Spanish fluency won’t hurt, as demonstrated by the enthusiastic reception he won in Florida in his debut campaign appearance over the weekend — she’ll be on the verge of a landslide.
Whatever happens in the streets or back rooms, there is likely to be little genuine controversy inside the hall, with Sanders already on board, as second-place GOP finisher Sen. Ted Cruz decidedly was NOT for Trump.
It’s the economy, knuckleheads: Overall, Democrats need to present a message and persona that is compassionate but hardheaded, caring but tough, bold yet sensible – not smug, self-regarding, ultra-liberal and elite.
To date, Clinton’s economic message has been a combination of substantive, if incremental, programs like increased government infrastructure spending, tax reforms to punish companies that outsource jobs and insurance against college students being crippled by debt; she also can credibly argue that her decades of Washington experience and mastery of policy details position her to succeed in actually passing some of her agenda, or at least fighting congressional Republicans more effectively than President Obama. How much the latter sells in a year of pitchfork populism remains unclear.
Whether her wonky promises are enough – or if she unveils some more sweeping thematic approach – may determine whether she wins a landslide or Trump threatens a stunning upset.
Her damn emails: There’s little chance that Clinton can do anything in four days to overcome the baked-in public opinion — a result not only of the Clintons’ trademark guileful, parsing style, but also of decades of GOP propaganda — that she is dishonest, sneaky and untrustworthy.
More: her high-profile backers – including Obama and Big Dog qua wannabe First Husband Bill Clinton – need to scare the hell out of people about Trump’s whack job personality, Kim Il Jung authoritarianism and nationalist aggression – without overshadowing Hillary.
It also wouldn’t hurt for her to show a glimpse of personality behind all the eat-your-spinach-in-the-principal’s office earnestness.
Oh never mind.