Thursday, July 28, 2016

What I would like to hear Hillary say

My wife is very frustrated with me right now. I guess it's hard to blame her, because at a time when I should be packing and preparing for our 3000km road trip that starts this weekend, I am spending every night watching the Democratic National Convention; just like last week when I was watching the Republican National Convention. Gina finds politics in general to be distasteful, and American politics especially incomprehensible. I, on the other hand, can't look away.

Waiting for the show, amirite?

As a Canadian, I am a fan of American politics in much the same way as a person from Eastern Canada might be a fan of an NHL hockey team despite the fact that the nearest team is located an 8-hour drive away. I have known many hardcore Boston Bruins fans (rest in peace, dear Reg) or Leafs or Habs, or even New Jersey Devils (wahoo!) who have never seen the team play, and for geographic reasons would never be able to attend a victory party. Yet, hockey fans can pick a number of reasons to choose one team and shout at their TV sets every Saturday night.

I am (as I have said before) an unabashed liberal, so it makes sense that I would naturally be a fan of the Democratic Party in the US: and I am now rooting for Hillary Clinton to become the next President of the United States. I think many other Canadians are with me on that one, as we are naturally more liberal (with a small letter "l") than our American brothers and sisters. We have had universal healthcare for eons, and have never felt the need for our citizenry to walk around bearing firearms (neither for our own protection, nor in case we feel the need to overthrow our government), and we mostly understand the reality of climate change and the necessity to treat women, minorities like LGBT or ethnic and religious groups fairly. These are all things that the Democratic Party stands for, and the the Republican Party can't seem to find a path on.

Pictured - a Republican looking for support of gay rights in the party platform. I hope they brought a lot of rations...

In fact, I find that a large number of my Canadian friends judge Hillary Clinton as being not liberal enough, and were hoping that the Democratic Party would select Bernie Sanders as their nominee. I have never agreed with that sentiment, but I certainly understand it. Regardless, Clinton now faces the challenge of gathering the support of Sanders' fans within the Democratic Party - mostly young, extremely liberal newcomers to politics; along with the moderate or independent American voters - a lot of middle-aged non-educated white guys who don't know much about politics, but they know that they don't feel secure in their manufacturing jobs and they are hearing one candidate promise to end immigration, or off-shoring, or anything that would jeopardize those jobs in favour of foreigners. I don't think it's a stretch to say this is not an easy task for her.

Add this to the fact that a large number of American instinctively don't like or trust her. I don't know why this is, although I have a theory. People would probably claim that it's because of Benghazi, or the email server affair, or for giving speeches to financial institutions. But let's be honest, these "scandals" have been seriously overblown by a Republican Party that has been looking for ways to publicly discredit her. They have known for 8 years that the day would come that she would be their prime enemy in an election campaign, and they have been working hard to find ways to have voters dismiss her. How else can you explain 2 years taken, and millions of dollars spent and hundreds of interviews performed on the Benghazi inquiry when it was fairly clear from the start there was nothing to be found? She is game, and the media is never going to ignore a hunt.

No, I believe the attention to these things are a result of the distrust of Clinton, not the cause of. For any average politician, we would laud their ability to spend 40 years in the public eye and not get caught at any time doing anything untoward. In politics this is usually called "success." I think a man would be talked about differently in the media and would be considered a strong leader under the same circumstance. Yet Hillary is called names like "bitch" and "c*nt".I would argue that in many American political scandals there has been clear evidence of men doing worse things than what she is only accused of (not least of which is actually Donald Trump, who has left a trail of litigation in his wake), yet these men are not subject to the scrutiny and suspicion that she has. For the most part this is done by us subconsciously, but it is tangible.  I could be wrong, but this is where I think the root of her disapproval is.

Austin is not convinced that such a strong personality as Hillary's can  actually be a woman.

That being said, how does she overcome this? There have been some fantastic speakers at the DNC this week, including Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Michael Bloomberg, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama himself. They have all been praising Hillary unreservedly, vocalizing their respect for her and talking about her career of service, and lambasting the other party for their policies and their candidate (more on that in another post). They are saying, "I trust Hillary, and you should too." Will people believe that? There's no way that this message will take unless they see the candidate herself and observe that everything lines up.

So, here is what I think Hillary needs to do tonight. She needs to keep on the issues, like she has been doing. She needs to talk about her team, and her party, which she has also been doing. She should not spend a lot of time talking about her opponent, other than to present how much better her policies will be than his. This is all basic stuff. But I think she needs to appear genuine - and this is where it gets difficult. Hillary is naturally cautious, both in her actions and her speech. She cannot make you believe her words are from the heart, because they are not - they are from her brain. She is not an engaging storyteller like Bill, and she is not an soaring orator like Obama. So she needs to admit this explicitly. Roughly phrased, she needs to say something like:

"I am not an inspiring speaker like Barack Obama or my husband Bill, and I do not speak off the cuff like some other candidates, so I am going to just say what needs to be said honestly, even if not candidly. If I don't have the emotional flourishes that some other speakers do, that's not because I don't care - it's because I care so much I 'm not going to flippantly say something that is of more risk than it is of value. I want you to know how hard I worked on this. I can't promise to be a cheerleader, but I can promise that when I speak to you it will be no-nonsense and well thought out. America doesn't need someone who just speaks and tweets whatever is in their his or her. American needs someone who can work hard on its problems and can get things done."

This, I believe is the kernel of what her message needs to be. With this, she validates her style, and can get people focused on her message. She may have occasions like when she cried during the 2008 primaries that her emotions break through. And at the time, it helped to humanize her and it boosted her support. But she can't manufacture moments like that - instead, she will always look a bit robotic in front of a crowd. She needs to run with that; not promote it and advertise it, but occasionally remind people that her personality is guarded by nature and it is for a reason, and it's part of what makes her great.

I keep coming back to how we would see this if it was a man, rather than a woman in this situation. We psychologically expect women to be warm and mothering, and when we don't see that ease in a woman she is seen as aloof and uncaring. Yet a man who appears unaffected is seen and strong and fatherly. In a way, it's ironic that these same personality traits that she required to get to where she is are now her greatest liability. It's an unfair standard that we need to acknowledge, and Hillary needs to find a way to work around it if she wants to earn the trust of those who, for whatever reason, have decided they do not like her. The glass ceiling will only be shattered once and for all when we no longer "dislike" a woman because her image of power is a threat to our men.

But I do like her - I don't get to vote, but I can still cheer. And I hope the victory party is grand. It will at least be historic!

I know this is fake, but I couldn't help myself.