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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sargent: Help for Americans Facing Change a Key Point of Clinton Strategy


Hillary Clinton has been getting rave reviews for her campaign launch video. Among the more interesting takes on Clinton’s launch, Greg Sargent offers this perceptive analysis:

Hillary Clinton’s video announcement of her presidential run features Americans who are entering transitional periods in their lives — an expecting mother, a pair of immigrant brothers starting a business, a man changing to a new skilled blue-collar job, a woman running for president (Clinton herself). They discuss the future with a mix of trepidation and self-conscious hopefulness. This includes Clinton; by discussing her own story in similarly personal terms, she seeks to humanize her ambitions and tie them to the ordinary hopes for the future expressed by the “everyday Americans” that precede her in the video.

Clinton’s message is strengthened by her tone in the video, argues Sargent. She doesn’t fall for the oft-parroted strategy of distancing herself from President Obama, which wouldn’t work, especially in her case. Instead, with a focus on the future, she steps forward “to praise the economic progress he has made, and promise a “new chapter” designed to build on it, one focused on giving those “everyday Americans” a better shot at getting ahead.”
It’s a bet, says Sargent, that “swing voters and independents don’t see the Obama years as quite the smoking apocalyptic hellscape Republicans continue to describe.” Further, “swing voters don’t want to hear this argument anymore; that they agree Obama’s policies have not turned the economy around fast enough, but think this was understandable given the circumstances and don’t see those policies as an utter, abject failure.” Sargent adds,

My guess is the Clinton team believes Republicans, flush from their epic 2014 victory, will again over-read public disapproval of Obama and will mistakenly premise their strategy too heavily on the notion that the public agrees the Obama presidency was a disaster. And as Jonathan Chait notes, there is a decent chance the economy will continue to expand; that the desire for change will not prove as potent as Republicans expect; and that national demographics will continue to favor Democrats.

The Republicans will undoubtedly respond with a tsunami of propaganda designed to paint the Obama years as a one-sided disaster for America. But the Clinton campaign understands that there is a reason President Obama was re-elected in the wake of a similar GOP effort in 2012.
Clinton’s video display of an array of Americans in credible, real-life transitions is a brilliant stroke, because many, if not most most Americans see themselves as on some kind of a cusp. Pessimistic though they may be about the economy, there is always the hope that we can do better with hard work and a break or two.
“Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion,” says Clinton in the video. She wants to be the champion who provides that pivotal break. Her launch video plays that card exceptionally-well. Hard to see how such a message won’t resonate positively, even when posited against cynical Republican counter-messaging.
While the video is very general in terms of specific policies, Sargent believes Clinton’s policy agenda, as revealed in the months ahead, will help drive home the message of hope:

…Clinton’s agenda will look a lot like the “inclusive prosperity” blueprint from the Center for American Progress: Paid sick leave, child care, universal pre-K, and other family-friendly policies to remove barriers to work for women; investments to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure and stimulate demand; more spending on education and job training to keep pace with the challenges wrought by globalization and technological change; a minimum wage hike and policies designed to increase workers’ bargaining power and profit-sharing to boost stagnating wages…

Granted, it’s an optimistic scenario. But the Republicans have an even tougher sell — more tax breaks for the rich as the lynchpin of their economic strategy, pitched by a host of sour messengers, not one of whom can point to an impressive track record on behalf of middle-class families.

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