If you are a Democrat of a certain age, that is, if you grew up before social media consumed our lives and the 24-hour news cycle, you have to feel for Hillary Clinton. Valedictorian at Wellesley, law degree from Yale, campaign staffer for George McGovern, staff attorney for the Watergate Committee, child and women’s rights advocate, First Lady of Arkansas and the United States, United States Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary was Tracy Flick before anyone knew who that was. She has been a trailblazer and a pioneer, someone who was speaking truth to power on topics that are now de rigueur long before it was popular to do so.
But a funny thing happened on the way to an expected addition to her already pages-long CV – that of the first woman to ever receive a major party’s nomination for President of the United States – a self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont has electrified a party he did not belong to a year ago and is threatening to snuff out Mrs. Clinton’s long-held dream of being the first woman President.
If you believe the media, there is no shortage of blame to go around, starting with (naturally) the candidate herself, but trickling down to her surrogates, campaign staff, message, questions about her honesty and trustworthiness, and on and on. That the media treats her differently is something they no longer deny and kvelling about “Hillary Fatigue” was openly spoken about in November … of 2014!
And it seems that the harder Clinton and her team push to “vet’ Senator Sanders, whether it is questioning how he will convince Congress to pass his agenda or what he knows (and does not know) about foreign policy, the more the media blanches at her tactics and the firmer his support among his true believers becomes. This is unsurprising both because of the aforementioned bias the media has for her and the fact that like Donald Trump, Sanders’s supporters are hard core – no amount of logic will get them to change their minds.
So what should Clinton do? Walk away. Cease and desist from going after Bernie Sanders - attacking the underdog, the authentic hippie from Vermont who wants nothing more than a socialist paradise is a losing argument because his supporters will not listen and the media will make you look bad for doing it. Flush all your opposition research down the toilet and focus solely on your own message. You have an amazing story to tell about what you have done and intend to do to help the American people fulfill their hopes and dreams. You served as our nation’s top diplomat for four years, traveling the globe to meet, build bonds and negotiate with almost every world leader. You served in the U.S. Senate for eight years and forged bipartisan agreement on key issues. You have survived every sling and arrow shot your way for 25 years, you do not have to apologize for who you are and what you have done.
By doing so, you will put your best, and most optimistic foot forward. Leave it to the media to do what it is paid to do – vet the candidate. Let the media pour over Sanders’s record in Congress, question him about his lack of foreign policy experience (not to mention advisors), ask him to explain how he will get Congress to work with him, who he would select for key roles, whether he supported a primary challenger to President Obama in 2012, why it is that he just became a Democrat, and all the other completely reasonable questions they have not (to date) bothered to delve as deeply into as whether you tipped properly at a Chipotle restaurant. To be sure, it is a leap of faith. In 1992, James Carville famously said that “speed kills” – the Clinton campaign’s rapid response steamrolled President George H.W. Bush’s slow moving operation and ushered in the modern political campaign apparatus that now dominates our Presidential races, but that playbook is no longer working.
Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy