Hillary’s Path Forward
The sky isn’t falling on Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but she needs to focus on distinguishing herself from the GOP and Bernie Sanders.
She has the solutions, just not the messaging.
By Peter FennFeb. 10, 2016, at 4:37 p.m.+ More–USNews & World Report
Don’t panic. Don’t overreact. Don’t lash out. And, most importantly, don’t listen to the sky-is-falling crowd. This will be a long slog, so deal with it. Lord knows, Hillary Clinton is used to long slogs. There are many things that the Clinton campaign should do mechanically, but I would suggest two big ones on the message front.
First and foremost, go after the Republicans. The speech last night in New Hampshire was strong and tough and had the right tone. But this is about focusing this campaign on the Republicans’ overreach and where they want to take the country. Every debate and every speech and every question that Hillary gets should make the choice crystal clear. Who stands up for tax breaks for the wealthy and proposes flat taxes that screw the middle class? Who refuses to change our campaign finance system and favors secret money? Who will oppose a woman’s right to choose, even in the cases of rape and incest? Who opposes LGBT rights at every turn? Who prefers to carpet bomb, not producing coalitions? Who denies climate change and refuses to act on the global crisis? Who is against raising the minimum wage, even against the minimum wage? Who refuses to support equal pay for equal work? Who is against a path to citizenship for immigrants, and who demonizes Muslims at every turn?
I could go on and on, but the issue positions and rhetoric of the Republican candidates is not where the majority of the American people are, and they reject these extreme right-wing positions. Hillary should take them on, every day, every way. This campaign is about two very different futures for America, and the core of her message should be about making this clear to voters now and in the general election.
Second, it is time for the campaign to show the clear differences between reality and fantasy with Bernie Sanders. This is not about idealism or revolution or just channeling anger. It isn’t even about real change. It is about a candidate who is extremely well-meaning and who has values that many of us can admire, but who is proposing ideas that are not only beyond vague and have zero chance of becoming law, but that are the wrong ideas for the country.
When we need to put in place the Affordable Care Act, we don’t need to focus on “Medicare for all.” When we need to fix the student loan problem and find ways to get more people ready and into an affordable college, we don’t need to propose a loosey-goosey free-college-for-all program. When we need to tighten rules on Wall Street, we don’t need to talk about going back to a bygone era that didn’t work anyway.
So far, the Clinton campaign has been reluctant to take Bernie Sanders on directly. They have been reluctant to pull in experts and third-party supporters who can provide cogent, clear arguments that highlight the problem between the rhetoric and the reality. But you can be sure that the Republicans would have no compunction to tear into Sanders.
[READ: Win One for the Revolution]
You don’t have to be Lee Atwater or Karl Rove to figure this one out – a high school sophomore could do it. Here is what the Republicans will say: Bernie Sanders is a committed and consistent socialist who wants to radically expand government in Washington, create new and vast federal programs in education and health care and increase regulation, thereby raising taxes so high that we resemble the socialist countries of Europe.
Fair or not, it will be tough to defend. I remember so well George McGovern’s $1,000-for-all plan in 1972 when he ran against Richard Nixon. It didn’t go over well. The result was the “Don’t Blame Me, I’m from Massachusetts” bumper sticker for the one state he carried.
The bottom line is that Hillary Clinton has proposals that actually solve the problems that Bernie is talking about in this campaign. But it is time to call him out on his when-pigs-fly plans that he has laid on the table, and let voters make the call.