Sunday, May 15, 2016

What Hillary Needs To Do In Order To Beat Trump


No, I'm not getting ahead of myself here; I just have a clearer understanding of basic math than a lot of Bernie supporters do. So, yes, Hillary Clinton is going to win the Democratic nomination.

That being said, how does she defeat Donald Trump in the fall? As any halfway decent football coach will tell you: getting to the Super Bowl is not the objective; winning it is. And if this election season has taught us anything it's that conventional wisdom doesn't mean squat.

So, what does Hillary need to do in oder to beat Trump? It comes down to five things.

1. Resist the urge to get into the mud pit with Trump. Throughout the Republican primaries, Trump threw everything but the kitchen sink at his opponents and they unfortunately responded in kind, not fully realizing that that was exactly what he wanted. Trump's whole game plan was to level the playing field, as well as lower expectations. He succeeded at both brilliantly. By engaging in a back and forth smearing campaign, Trump was able to set the tone of the debates, which had the effect of neutralizing the relative strengths of his opponents.

A college professor of mine once had a saying that is apropos here: if you throw enough shit at the blackboard, some of it will stick. Hillary's task will be to ensure that Trump's shit doesn't stick to her. The best way to do that is to not take the bait he will most assuredly throw her way. Unlike Sanders, Trump will not be afraid to go after her jugular. You can not only expect repeated attacks on the email server issue, but Bill's womanizing, as well. He's already started. It wouldn't surprise one bit if during the first debate Trump turns to Hillary and asks, "How did it make you feel knowing your husband was getting oral sex in the Oval Office?"

With all of the willpower she can muster, she must not take a bite out of that apple. She has to be the adult on that stage. She has to show the American people that she not only has the experience to be commander in chief, but the temperament, as well. Trump is looking to get a rise out of her, to bring her down to his level, just like he did with all his Republican opponents. Hillary can't give him that satisfaction. She can defend herself when she has to, but she cannot under any circumstance engage him on his turf. If she does, he'll win. Period.

2. Stop pretending to be somebody she's not. There's no doubt that Hillary's biggest problem is her lack of authenticity. It's so bad even her strongest advocates shake their heads sometimes. It gets even worse when she tries to be authentic; it's like a fish out of water. So here's my advice to her: stop pretending to be somebody you're not. You beat Bernie Sanders, one of the most straightforward members of the Senate, by more than three million votes. Evidently the voters didn't care all that much about authenticity. If they had, Bernie's name would've been at the top of this piece, not yours.

Instead, run on your resume. Yes, I know this is risky given the overall mood of the electorate this year, but you can't change now anymore than a leopard can change his spots. You're not Dr. Phil, so don't try to be. You have more than 25 years experience in public service. You must make that the focal point of this election. You must make the case to the American people that at this particular moment in our history we can't afford to turn over the reigns of power to the host of a reality TV show. Your strength is your record; use it or lose it.

3. Pick Warren as her running mate. A couple of months ago I thought this would've been a nutty idea. But then a couple of months ago I didn't think that Bernie supporters would be threatening to hold their breath and count to a zillion like four-year olds. But that appears to be the case for some of them. And in an election where some states like Ohio and Pennsylvania could be decided by a couple thousand votes each, a defection of even ten percent of Bernie supporters could spell defeat in November. Now is not the time to to stand on principle, but to acquiesce to reality. Without the progressive vote - ALL of it - Trump wins.

Let's face it: Warren should've gotten in as a presidential candidate last year. I'll bet the ranch she regrets not doing so now. But that's water under the bridge. The real question is whether she would consider being number two on the ticket, especially with someone who she is not ideologically in tune with. Another question is whether Hillary would give her a prominent role in her administration, or whether she would simply be a peace offering to the base. If it's the former, Warren might say yes; if it's the latter, she'll likely pass.

Let's assume it's the former. What would Warren bring to the ticket, apart from the vast majority of the base? For one thing, an outstanding debater, even better than Hillary. It's looking more and more like Trump is going to tap a running mate with legislative experience. The name of Newt Gingrich has come up. If that's the case, the choice of running mate will be critical to Hillary's success. She can't afford to pick someone like, say, Julian Castro, who is Hispanic and a rising start in the Party. Gingrich would eat Castro alive in a debate; No way he does that with Warren. Just the opposite, in fact. Indeed, while Trump is trying to engage Hillary in a food fight, the VP debate could end up being the most substantive. All the more reason to have a running mate with the facts on her side and the ability to convey them to the electorate. And if, by some chance, Trump should choose Sarah Palin as his running mate, Warren's hardest task will be trying not to laugh.

What about Bernie, you ask? This isn't 1980 and Bernie is no George H.W. Bush. When Bush went after Reagan it was over his love affair with supply-side economics, which Bush called voodoo economics. The two were, therefore, able to reconcile their differences and form a formidable team in the general. Bernie's attacks on Hillary have been virtually all personal in nature. Few, if any, have been about policy. In fact, the two have more in common than even Bush and Reagan had. It's hard to imagine a Clinton / Sanders ticket, especially with Bernie supporters resenting the fact that their guy isn't on the top of it. Sorry, but some fences just can't be mended.

There's also no denying that a ticket with two women on it would be historic. It would provide the ultimate contrast to a Trump / Gingrich ticket. Is there a possibility that Warren could upstage Clinton? Most definitely. But keep in mind that if the choice comes down to a safe pick like Castro or maybe Ohio Senator Sharrod Brown vs. a riskier pick like Warren, I'd go with the riskier pick, especially in a year when the conventional doesn't seem to be working.

4. Don't repeat Al Gore's mistake. Yes, Gore was a lousy candidate who, when it comes to transparency, makes Hillary look like Martin Luther King, Jr. And he also made a number of critical errors in his presidential run, none worse than his decision to distance himself from Bill Clinton. True, progressives were never really fond of Bill, or his wife for that matter, but for a majority of Americans he was still a very popular president, even with all the scandals. So it was curious to say the least that Gore never once asked Bill to campaign for him. Curious and fatal.

Hillary, to her credit, is not following in Gore's footsteps. If anything, she's doing everything imaginable to tie herself as closely to Obama as she can. And who could blame her? Obama's approval rating is hovering around 51 percent, the highest it's been since his first year in office. By comparison, the last two-term Republican president's approval rating is somewhere in the mid 30s.

If Hillary is smart, and she is, she'll have Obama stumping on the campaign trail for her as much as possible; even more so than her husband. Which brings me to my last point.

5. Keep Bill on a leash. Under normal circumstances, Bill would be an asset on the campaign trail. But these are not normal times. Hillary is running against an opponent who has no qualms about going gutter and Bill has hardly been the disciplined candidate he was when he was president. In fact, he's been something of a loose canon who has had some awkward moments in this campaign; most notably when he was confronted by Black Lives Matter protesters. If they could get under his skin, imagine what's going to happen when he gets confronted with the Monica Lewinsky chants. And let's face it, you know they're coming. Trump supporters will be out in full force like storm troopers at a Nuremberg rally.

If I'm Hillary, I would sit Bill down and explain the facts of life to him. She has forgiven him for many past transgressions. But if she allows him to destroy her best and last chance at winning the White House, it'll be on her and her alone. Bill will have his moments when he can be an asset, but they must be few and far between. Trump wants to make him the issue; Hillary can't let that happen.

So there it is: my five point plan for how Hillary beats Trump. I can't guarantee that it will work, but this much I can say: if the Clinton campaign makes the same mistake the GOP made and doesn't take Trump seriously, he will win the 2016 presidential election.

And you can take that to the bank.

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