So, carrying on from yesterday and in full directorial swagger, I will offer some unsolicited pointers from well outside of the action.
I haven’t lived in America for many years. I sat my masters degree in American History (doing my thesis on President Clinton, no less), but the country is a very different animal from this far away. For one, our exposure to the U.S. elections come in tiny, shot-sized gulps rather than the 24-hour, brain-washing, seizure-inducing flood of coverage America has to endure. New Zealand has very strict rules about electioneering: you can’t promote your candidacy more than 3 months out from the election, you only get $25,700 of government money (per candidate) to spend on advertising, you have to declare any donations over $30,000, and you have to take down all of your hoardings and promotional material before the day of the election. Plus we always hold elections on a Sunday. It makes it easier for people to get to the polls. I certainly wouldn’t say that the results are corruption-free, but it does mean that the electorate isn’t so violently sick of politicians by the time they reach the finish line. After seeing it done differently, I don’t think I could sit through another American election without sticking an ice-pick through my brain.
But I digress.
It is now late July and the American presidential candidates have just over 3 months left to win people over. Trump has been steadily rising (this is not a sign of virtue, even pond scum floats to the top), while by many accounts Clinton has begun gradually falling (like autumn leaves… or gold in the pan… or a turd)(pick your simile). The reasons for this are pretty solid: blue-collar, white Americans think Trump is on their side; Clinton is seen as part of the Establishment, and a great deal of Americans really distrust their own political system; and after the big fall under GW Bush, things really haven’t improved that much under Obama. Trump doesn’t need to have a coherent vision or sensible policies because voting for him is just a big “fuck you” to the government in general – Democrat, Republican, and everything in between. This is, after all, the country that made Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura state governors. It was funny. Until… you know… they had to govern. You could probably put Grumpy Cat on the presidential ticket, but he’s not 35 years old.
So, with America caught between the devil and the deep blue sea (you pick which candidate is which), is there anything that Clinton could do to help both herself and the benighted states she hopes to lead? For the record, I’m going to begin by writing off any hope of advising or changing Trump. He seems unlikely to take direct advice from anything other than a full-length mirror, and I’m disinclined to manipulate stupid people. Besides, I’m sure that the GOP are already working furiously on surrounding him with people who do not share my ethics on this matter, and who can pull his strings much more effectively than me.
If I was her, here’s what I would do:
1 – Play the Mom Card. Lots.
Hillary has spent so long in the political scene that she is seen as far from ordinary. Far from human. Her husband was The Man from Hope, while she is the snooty, nerdy lady from Wellesley. And (speaking as another snooty, nerdy lady) that’s a long way from inspirational or relatable or warm.
While she got roundly criticised in the early 1990s for being a working woman (because the media seemed to believe that the only good wife was living like it was 1955), being a working mother puts her in the same category as… well just about every mother in America. Does she understand the struggles of having to balance her family time with the demands of her job? Yep. Does she love her daughter? I’m positive. Has she read a bedtime story and changed a dirty diaper? Pretty sure. Did Trump ever change a diaper?… Well he’ll probably claim he did, but I suspect he’d also say it was made of gold and filled with the gemstones exuded by the fruit of his blessed loins. The fact that Hillary Clinton had a baby and then wiped her eyes and went back to work actually makes her normal and makes it easier for most parents to relate to her. I’m sure it was a tough choice, and she would do well to describe it that way. A lot.
Talk about your daughter in the way that all proud (and somewhat regretful) moms talk about their kids. Tell the funny toddler stories. Smile wistfully. Gush. I know it’s in there if you just relax a little and stop caring about what the reporters think.
Which brings me to my next point:
2 – Stop worrying so much about having the media onside.
The public hate reporters about as much as they hate politicians. I know the media wrote some horrible things about you in the ’90s. I know they still do – and it’s only human to want to avoid that pain. However, if the media really influenced public opinion then Trump would never have had a chance. The press seem to think he’s a squinty buffoon, but he’s laughing all the way to the White House. And honestly, no one’s going to waste column inches on your hairstyle again when you’re standing next to that.
Having the media hate you or laugh at you isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you want to fire up your voting base. Let them cast you as the underdog. America likes an underdog, and America especially likes voting for the person who will shake things up. You will find it’s a long, tough, gravelly road before you reach underdog status (if ever), but you’ll probably need to be a lot less polished in order to get there. Fall on your ass a few times. Admit you did. Again, it makes you human.
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