The Conventions are over and it’s full steam ahead for the Presidential Election in November. The seemingly endless campaign has moved up a gear as Republican and Democrat campaign themes became clarified. While there is a natural concern among all right-thinking human beings that Donald Trump may sneak a win, the Presidency is still Hillary Clinton’s to lose. The stakes have rarely been higher. At time of writing, the FBI are investigating Russian hacking of the DNC emails; the more the links between Trump and Putin are exposed, the less likely the former is to become President. Rarely has there been such a strong contrast between take away messages from each convention.
Fear. No matter how hard some of Trump’s enablers try to sell him, he’s a dud. All he has is the pedalling of fear. Fear of the other, of immigrants, of Muslims, of Mexicans, of the federal government taking your guns, of Hillary Clinton, of reason, of hope, of compassion. You know what you get with Trump. A fascist, racist, idiot man-child. A man who is still polling in the 40s, and a brute (yet cowardly, always the way) who sees himself in the role of Bully-In-Chief. His convention was a dark carnival of snarling idiocy. There was nothing of positive note on offer. He is the Sith Lord Candidate.
Hope. Yes, Hilary Clinton is not universally popular. But, as President Obama opined in a magisterial address to the hall, she is uniquely qualified for the role. The election will be fought championing social gains and her platform has also incorporated some of the key Sanders economic themes, particularly around the minimum wage. The historic nature of her nomination must be attested to. This is a break-through for women; the vote of 51% of the electorate, particularly Republican women, will be crucial to the outcome.
U.S. politics, like no other, appeals both to identities and the collective. So, Trump’s main target audience is the angry white male, or the white poor. The former, while vocal, won’t be enough to see him over the line. There may be some traction with the latter, particularly in the rust belt. The other target segment is the top 10%, who go Republican anyway, although he’s losing the traditional advantage among college graduates. Whereas Clinton will seek to keep the Obama coalition (Soccer Moms, Blue Collar Swing State, Millennials, African-Americans, Latinos, LGBT) and add ‘women’ to that constituency. This coalition speaks more to the collective, or, as Andrew Sullivan put it, the America he recognises. An Obama style vote, where the’ Bernie or Busters’ are marginalised, will be enough to see a second President Clinton elected.
Hillary Clinton will be remorseless in her emphasis on competence and temperament. The contrast is just too glaring for it not to be the main issue to differentiate the personalities. The ‘Brexit’ result scared the hell out of liberals; the Electoral College system, however, does not favour a protest vote scenario. Those who don’t know better or should know better may take a chance on Trump. The odds don’t favour him being able to terrify his way to the White House though.
Yes, Clinton and Trump have big negatives. This is where the Democrat strategy becomes interesting. At the margins, it is sufficient for swing-voters to find Hillary likeable enough. As long as they respect her judgment. The old beer-test no longer applies; if anything, you’d rather have a beer with Mrs Clinton than with Donald Trump. The huuuge (sic) Trump problem is that he isn’t even likeable enough. No amount of spin can make this crass buffoon respectable. He is as odious as he is dim. Michael Bloomberg was right when he said he knows a con when he sees it.
Hillary Clinton’s Convention was agenda setting. It was a shout out to the spirit of Eisenhower Republicanism and, as highlighted by President Obama, a continuation of Obama’s gradualist progressivism. The Left needs to realise the old adage that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. The run-in will be a big test for Bernie. If he can move as many of the Hold-Out Sandernistas as he can to vote for Hillary in November, he will have done the Republic a great service. To paraphrase from the LBJ ‘Daisy’ commercial, the stakes are that high.
There will be twists and turns between now and polling day. There will be some wobbly times for the Democrats. But careful messaging, with, overall, surrogates going negative and Hillary staying positive will be enough to counter the Nasty Natterings of Nativism (thank you Spiro Agnew for something, at last). The Democrats will aim high while their opponents aim low. They’ll also be adopting the ‘Untouchables’ dictum; put one of us in the hospital, and we put one of you in the morgue. No more will Swift-Boating be allowed. Time to fight for democracy itself. It’s time to save the Republic.