Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Gap vs. Donald Trump's GOP

Hillary Clinton suffers from a problem Ezra Klein calls "The Gap." What the public sees of her, and what her associates know of her, are vastly different.

... There is something about her persona that seems uniquely vulnerable to campaigning; something is getting lost in the Gap. So as I interviewed Clinton's staffers, colleagues, friends, and foes, I began every discussion with some form of the same question: What is true about the Hillary Clinton you’ve worked with that doesn’t come through on the campaign trail?

The answers startled me in their consistency. Every single person brought up, in some way or another, the exact same quality they feel leads Clinton to excel in governance and struggle in campaigns. On the one hand, that makes my job as a reporter easy. There actually is an answer to the question. On the other hand, it makes my job as a writer harder: It isn’t a very satisfying answer to the question, at least not when you first hear it.

Hillary Clinton, they said over and over again, listens.

What follows in Klein's story, based on an interview with Clinton, needs a lot of media coverage especially given the lousy poll numbers released today. Her lead has been reduced to the point where she is tied with Donald Trump. That's mainly due to the email "scandal" according to the NY Times.

The short version of Klein's report could go like this: Trump man-talks but Clinton woman-listens.

Modern presidential campaigns are built to reward people who are really, really good at talking. ... [However] Clinton began her 2016 campaign with a listening tour, as well, and it is worth considering the possibility that these tours are not simply bullshit. This is, to be honest, a possibility I had not really considered until speaking with past and present Clinton aides who have been forced to take their boss’s process seriously.

Men are from status, women are from rapport

Let’s stop and state the obvious: There are gender dynamics at play here.

Talking is a way of changing your status: If you make a great point, or set the terms of the discussion, you win the conversation. Listening, on the other hand, is a way of establishing rapport, of bringing people closer together; showing you’ve heard what’s been said so far may not win you the conversation, but it does win you allies. And winning allies is how Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination.

Given where both candidates began, there is no doubt that Bernie Sanders proved the more effective talker. His speeches attracted larger audiences, his debate performances led to big gains in the polls, his sound bites went more viral on Facebook. [The same should be said of Trump.]

One way of reading the Democratic primary is that it pitted an unusually pure male leadership style against an unusually pure female leadership style. Sanders is a great talker and a poor relationship builder. Clinton is a great relationship builder and a poor talker. In this case — the first time at the presidential level — the female leadership style won.

But that wasn’t how the primary was understood. Clinton’s endorsements left her excoriated as a tool of the establishment while Sanders's speeches left people marveling at his political skills. Thus was her core political strength reframed as a weakness.

I want to be very clear here. I’m not saying that anyone who opposed Clinton was sexist. Nor am I saying Clinton should have won. What I’m saying is that presidential campaigns are built to showcase the stereotypically male trait of standing in front of a room speaking confidently — and in ways that are pretty deep, that’s what we expect out of our presidential candidates. Campaigns built on charismatic oration feel legitimate in a way that campaigns built on deep relationships do not.

But here’s the thing about the particular skills Clinton used to capture the Democratic nomination: They are very, very relevant to the work of governing. And they are particularly relevant to the way Clinton governs.

In the general election, Clinton now faces the ultimate male-status-talker.

In her book Why Presidents Fail, Brookings scholar Elaine Kamarck argues that "successful presidential leadership occurs when the president is able to put together and balance three sets of skills: policy, communication, and implementation."

The problem, Kamarck says, is that campaigns are built to test only one of those skills. “The obsession with communication — presidential talking and messaging — is a dangerous mirage of the media age, a delusion that inevitably comes crashing down in the face of government failure.”

Part of Kamarck’s argument is that presidential primaries used to be decided in the proverbial smoke-filled room — a room filled with political elites who knew the candidates personally, who had worked with them professionally, who had some sense of how they governed. It tested “the ability of one politician to form a coalition of equals in power.”

Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination by forming a coalition. And part of how she forms coalitions is by listening to her potential partners — both to figure out what they need and to build her relationships with them. This is not a skill all politicians possess.

Check out Klein's report for more.

Why Donald Trump's GOP should must fail

The stakes on the outcome of the 2016 election could not be greater. It's not just deciding between a man-talker and a woman-listener. It's about what the country needs, what will and will not happen. What America will and will not become.

Read more by Tom Friedman below the break.

Tom Friedman in a NY Times op-ed says "I make no predictions about who will win in November. But I sure know what I’m praying for — and why." What he hopes for is a crushing Democratic win. (h/t Mark Mandel)

First, if Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance (depending on the size of a Democratic majority in the Senate) to pass common-sense gun laws. ...

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can borrow $100 billion at close to zero interest for a national infrastructure rebuild ... and create more blue-collar jobs that would stimulate growth.

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we will have a chance to put in place a revenue-neutral carbon tax that would stimulate more clean energy production ...

If Clinton wins a sweeping victory, we can fix whatever needs fixing with Obamacare, without having to junk the whole thing. Right now we have the worst of all worlds: The G.O.P. will not participate in any improvements to Obamacare nor has it offered a credible alternative.

At the same time, if Clinton crushes Trump in November, the message will be sent by the American people that the game he played to become the Republican nominee — through mainstreaming bigotry; name-calling; insulting women, the handicapped, Latinos and Muslims; retweeting posts by hate groups; ignorance of the Constitution; and a willingness to lie and make stuff up with an ease and regularity never seen before at the presidential campaign level — should never be tried by anyone again. The voters’ message, “Go away,” would be deafening.

Finally, if Trump presides over a devastating Republican defeat across all branches of government, the G.O.P. will be forced to do what it has needed to do for a long time: take a time out in the corner. In that corner Republicans could pull out a blank sheet of paper and on one side define the biggest forces shaping the world today — and the challenges and opportunities they pose to America — and on the other side define conservative, market-based policies to address them.

If Trump wins, none of that is likely to happen. That would be bad news for Democrats and the nation but it would not be good for the GOP.

The party was once held together by the Cold War. But as that faded away it has been held together only by renting itself out to whoever could energize its base and keep it in power — Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, the Tea Party, the National Rifle Association. But at its core there was no real common denominator, no take on the world, no real conservative framework.

The party grew into a messy, untended garden, and Donald Trump was like an invasive species that finally just took over the whole thing.

So back, again, to my theme: how to win with Clinton or lose with Trump. Renee Graham writes at "Chin Up, Berniacs! It's Time For You To Endorse Hillary Clinton, Too". Being pissed at not getting everything, feeling betrayed by Bernie acting responsibly, is fine. Then take a deep breath, get over it, and re-read this post from the top. Clinton is not an establishment monster, and Trump is no white knight deserving of your support or your staying at home or sitting it out or voting for a third-party candidate who has no chance at all of doing anything other than getting Trump elected. Graham makes my case.

... some hardcore Sanders supporters and Bernie Bros, their dreams deferred, caterwauled about rigged elections and how the prospect of Clinton as president is so odious, they would rather vote for Trump. This, of course, never makes a lick of sense. Anyone truly enthralled by Sanders, a self-described “Democratic socialist” who called for “a political revolution,” would be more likely to set their hair on fire than vote for an insult-flinging, race-bating hate machine like Trump.

We’ll never know of all the deals struck and promises made by the Clinton camp to get Sanders and, they hope, the 13 million voters who cast primary ballots for him, on their side. We do know Sanders helped shaped the Democratic platform, pushing the party to adapt what he called "the most progressive platform” in its history. That, obviously, is what he wanted.

After spending so many months "feeling the Bern," Sanders backers may now feel betrayed. To them, Sanders is a traitor who promised, then sold out the “political revolution” they believed had finally come. Yet they surely must know what Sanders, even in his most recalcitrant moments, understood: to divide the party could provide just enough daylight for Trump come November.

Yes, the Democratic Party is flawed and can fall short of its professed values. Still, to create an opportunity for someone as manifestly unqualified and unstable as Trump to move closer to the presidency would shatter everything to which Sanders has devoted his political life. Like Ralph Nader in 2000, Sanders risked being forever cast as a selfish agitator who cared more about his tender ego than the fate of his nation. Instead, he has finally flipped the script. His supporters, as testy and heartbroken as they may now be, need to do the same.

Clinton listens, Trump talks. The nation must choose.

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