Presidential Campaign

3 ways Clinton can convince Sanders supporters and undecideds

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Dear Secretary Clinton:

I want to feel excited about supporting you in your bid for president. Truly, I do.

In terms of experience, you stand head and shoulders above your rivals. You are calm, cool, collected and rational — just the qualities we need in a person with her finger on the nuclear button, and hence the fate of human existence in her hands.

{mosads}No one doubts your deep intellect or your vast knowledge. You’ve traveled throughout the country and around the world, listening to what’s on people’s minds and building bridges of respect and cooperation. Constituents and foreign policy professionals of all political stripes have favorably reviewed your performance as senator and as secretary of State. As president, you would hit the ground running and be ready to lead from Day One.

As a woman, I am appalled by the attacks on your voice, your hair, your clothing and your ambition. So many of the personal qualities that Americans would admire in a man are twisted around and held against you because of your sex. I know what it’s like to be the only woman in the room, to be doubted and disrespected and harshly judged. It’s well past time to shatter this highest and hardest glass ceiling.

The thing is, even with all these reasons to support your nomination, it’s hard for me to muster any enthusiasm for it. Surely you and your campaign staff must be asking why you’re having so much trouble inspiring the Democratic base, while Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.) — who can’t compete with your credentials and lacks the right temperament to be president — can still fill stadiums with die-hard supporters.

I’m no campaign expert, but I do know that victory will depend on your ability to get Democratic voters out to the polls. You won’t convince Trump supporters to change their minds, but you will need to convince Sanders supporters and undecideds to get off their couches. In a choice already being dubbed as “the lesser of two evils,” voters need to be given something to feel good about.

It’s not too late for you to provide it.

First, tell us what’s wrong with the system. You can’t deny that you’re a part of it, so if you don’t use your knowledge of our economy to explain why it’s not working for “everyday Americans,” as you call them, you’ll be blamed for its failures.

Second, give us a vision. You have been so careful not to overpromise — to recognize the real challenges to meaningful change — that you’re showing us the trees, not the forest. We want to know what kind of America you are working toward, even if you won’t be able to achieve it in four years, or eight.

Third, speak to our guts, not our brains. Regrettably, it’s not always logic or rationality that determines how people vote. More often, it’s fear and anger that motivate people to speak up and take action.

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s supporters are angry that white men no longer call all the shots, and fearful that “change” will further erode their power. For them, “Make America Great Again” means putting the rest of us, as the expression goes, “in our place” — whether that means back in the closet, back in the kitchen or behind a wall.

Sanders’s supporters are angry that the system is rigged against the working class, and fearful of slipping further behind. He has fired them up to take on the bankers, CEOs and lobbyists who currently dominate our political system — some of whom are major financiers of your campaign.

You have striven to present a positive and uplifting message, which most people approve of in theory, but which falls flat in an environment where the middle class is losing ground and abandoning hope. Your husband was able to convince voters that he felt their pain, but you have at times conveyed the opposite — which is both unfortunate and unfair.

The good news is that Americans have very short political memories, and most everything that is behind us now will be long forgotten by Election Day. You don’t need to reinvent yourself, as Donald Trump attempts on a daily basis. What you do need, in the immortal words of musician Tracy Chapman, is to “give me one reason to stay here” — me, and the millions of Sanders voters who remain to be convinced.

Ohlbaum is an independent consultant and a board member of the Center for International Policy.

Tags Bernie Sanders Donald Trump
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