By Hastings Wyman –
“Stronger together,” a pithier version of “It Takes a Village,” Hillary Clinton’s 1996 book on public policies to benefit children, does not forecast what she wants to accomplish should she win the presidency. Moreover, Clinton has been criticized by cable news commentators for not giving voters a reason for her White House bid.
“Make America Great Again” neatly sums up what Donald Trump wants to convey to voters: The status quo is unacceptable and the Donald will restore the nation’s prosperity and its position on the world stage. Granted, there are no specifics, but slogans rarely have them.
But given the unprecedented volatility and controversial nature of Trump’s performance as a candidate, Hillary as the alternative to The Donald may be just the ticket she needs come November. Much as 7-UP made its mark as “the Uncola,” so it may be that Clinton’s path to victory is simply showing voters that she is NOT Donald Trump.
Indeed, Clinton devoted much of her acceptance speech to slamming Trump for manufacturing products in foreign countries, for declaring bankruptcies, for stiffing his small business contractors, for his ugly comments about women, for his lack of knowledge about foreign affairs, etc., etc. “Now Donald Trump says, and this is a quote, ‘I know more about ISIS than the generals do.’ No, Donald, you don’t,” And, most notably, “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man you can trust with nuclear weapons.”
Moreover, while Clinton’s attacks on Trump were sharp, they were pointed directly at him, not the Republican Party. She talked about asking President George W. Bush $20 Billion for New York after 9/ll. “You’ll have it,” she said he replied. She said of Trump, “He’s taking the Republican Party from Morning in American to midnight in America.”
Moreover, by choosing US Sen. Tim Kaine (VA) as her running mate, she sent a signal – mostly, but not entirely, symbolic – that she, at a minimum, respects the political center. Her choice of Kaine, who tacks right on late-term abortions and, in the past, on trade, indicates that she is following the Democratic version of Richard Nixon’s maxim: Run to the left to get the nomination, run back to the center to win the General Election. Given the problems many Republicans and independents have with Donald Trump, it could be a winning strategy.
She, of course, went out her way to woo Sanders and his supporters during the DNC. The platform was for more progressive than in past years, due mainly to pressure from the Sanders campaign. She moved left on trade and proposed a New Deal array of free goodies – to be paid for, naturally, by “Wall Street, corporations and the super rich.”
She did come down hard on ISIS, a stance more popular with center and right voters than with the anti-war Sandernistas, but she stressed US air power, local ground troops and an intelligence surge (reminiscent of the Democrats’ 2008 ill-fated “diplomacy surge”).
Clinton is gambling that she can now turn her attention to the General Election electorate, that Sanders’ backers will vote for her rather than Trump, who is anathema to almost all of what they stand far, even if she neglects them for the next 100 days. But Bernie Sanders sat stone-faced throughout her speech, some of his supporters booed whenever they got the chance, and since the DNC, he has hinted that this may not have been his last presidential bid. So “gamble” is the right word.
Clinton’s “unTrump” approach may not carry her all the way to the White House, but in a year in which Donald Trump has dominated the campaign, both sucking the oxygen out of the room and pumping more into it, her approach may be the only one that will get the attention of the American people.