Skip to main content

Memo to Hillary: Sit down, shut up, and listen.

When I was a law clerk, one of my co-clerks, a white guy, would occasionally get besides himself and proceed to lecture my judge, an elderly African American man, on a fine point of law. On one occasion, he actually chose one area of law – qualified immunity – about which my judge was not only an expert, having served as a former U.S. Attorney, but an authority, having written the decision in a seminal case on that matter. I sat and watched this smug, self-important guy proceed to lecture someone almost four times his age about the state of the law of qualified immunity. It was like watching someone take a long, slow swan dive into a bonfire. Finally my judge, who had run out of patience (as most eighty year-olds tend to do, since they’re short on time, too), told my colleague: “Boy, sit down, shut up, and listen. You might just learn something.” He then corrected my colleague, who not only had had the temerity to lecture my judge, but had gotten the law wrong, too.

Watching my co-clerk back then is kinda like watching the Clinton campaign now. Although this will be my -- what, third missive? -- to Hillary, Inc. (as her former campaign staff was referred to in More magazine), in the interest of having a full and robust Democratic primary, I will simply say to Senator Clinton: Girl, sit down, shut up, and listen. You might just learn something. Mind you, I’m no campaign operative or political consultant, but I know what I know. And what I know is your campaign is running like a used Yugo on fumes.

First, let’s start with what’s not working with your campaign:

1. The “A” factor – authenticity. Simply put, you don’t have it. Or at least you’re perceived not to have it. The common perception is that you will do anything and say anything to get elected, and that your strategy is simply to find the right set of advisers to hit on that perfect thing for you to say in order to get elected. Girl, you need to fire the folks feeding you those tired lines about experience (since you fail to substantiate what you did during those 35 years) and catty comments about Obama (“Change we can Xerox?” Puleeze.) It’s time to channel whatever it was that made you a success at Wellesley, Yale Law School, and beyond. You need to find your authentic message and stick with it. A message that tells people why you’re the better candidate by communicating something about the qualities that made you a success. And a song wouldn’t hurt, either. More on that later.

2. The “N” factor – negativity. Girl, it so ain’t working for you. Every time you go negative on Obama, you just confirm the worst feelings that your detractors have. You need to accentuate YOUR positives, not Obama’s negatives. The more you try to bring him down, the lower you sink yourself.

3. Cuttin’ and runnin”. I’ve noticed that when you’ve faced an unexpected and/or overwhelming defeat in a state, you leave before sundown and move on to the next state like it never happened. Being a woman means standing your ground in victory AND in defeat, taking and rolling with the punches. It also means thanking your troops publicly and acknowledging your competitor’s success. Even boys in Little League shake hands with the opposing team after a loss. Anything else just belies what white folks would call poor sportsmanship, or what some black folks would call a stank attitude.

4. Kill Bill. Yep, I said it. You need to channel The Bride, Uma Thurman or whoever and Kill Bill (Nope, I didn’t see either movie.) Obama hit the nail on the head when he said he didn’t know who he was running against. You can’t be perceived to be relying on Bill to win. There’s a sizeable amount of the American populace that doesn’t want a “Clinton Restoration.” You need to heed that.

5. The “H” factor – humility. Thought you’d have this thing sewn up by Super Tuesday, now did ya? Psych! Even if that’s what you and/or your handlers thought, you should have never said it. Smacks of hubris. And, to make matters worse, it doesn’t even appear as if you had a Plan B, as if you thought there was no way Obama could knock you out of the game. Well, Hill, you’ve been served – a plate of crow with some humble pie for desert. You need to eat it and learn from it. Humility will go a long, long way. Elections are not won from the top down; they’re won from the bottom up, but the people on the bottom don’t want to feel like they’re being looked down on. You only need to look at the Obama campaign structure to see that.

6. Campaigning like you have balls. A woman who campaigns like she has balls ends up looking like a hermaphrodite. That ain’t pretty. You can be forceful, assertive and effective without trying to ape men. To wit: Oprah.

7. Stepford campaigning. You appear too scripted and stiff. Loosen up, girl!

Okay, let’s talk about what you do have going for you:

1. The Latino vote, at least for now.
2. The working class vote, at least for now.
3. The older women’s vote, at least for now.
4. Lukewarm and waning support from labor.

Now, let’s talk about how you’re going to leverage what you’ve got to get what you want:

1. Your message: One of the political commentators on CNN hit on it yesterday, even if your handlers didn’t: You’re a fighter, and you fight for what you believe in. Now, I can’t claim to have seen your campaign commercials here in California, but you need to convey that you’ve never backed down from a fight, whether it’s taking on a sitting U.S. Senator in your commencement speech at Wellesley, as a student activist fighting for black student admissions, speaking truth to power as counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during Watergate, fighting for migrant workers, etc. Your next commercial should have a montage of photos of you in these roles, with phrases describing each of your fights and successes – SCHip, Legal Services, House Judiciary Committee, migrant workers, child abuse, Children’s Defense Fund, etc. – a literal and visual cascade of your accomplishments over 35 years rolling throughout the screen with the song, “I’ll Stand By You” – the Patti LaBelle version – playing in the background, all grinding to a halt with a black screen with the tag line in white: Passionate enough to stand up for you; Experienced enough to win. Hillary for President.

2. Don’t concede any group, especially those that were in your base. You need to go back to those groups that were in your base – white women, African Americans – and talk in relatable language and fight for their votes as cheaply as possible, perhaps by having an internet chat on iVillage.com or BlackVoices.com while maintaining the support you already have. Think of it as two jobs – in-person campaigning by day, live internet campaigning at night. As Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.”

3. Talk less, respond more. You need to be less scripted, with fewer canned lines. You need to speak to the concerns of voters as voiced by them, and talk about the why of what you’re doing – why you chose the path you did and how it’s lead you here; what you have to offer – the perspective of more than half of the world’s population, which has never been fully reflected in the Oval Office. You might even humanize yourself a bit more, describing yourself as a menopausal sixty-something who, like most Americans, knows we can do better.

4. Use ordinary, grassroots people to get your message out and fund your campaign. You need real people talking about you at your rallies, not celebrities or politicos. People whose lives have been changed by something you took a stand on. You also need to harness them for fundraising, whether it’s Bake Sales for Hillary, Garage Sales for Hillary, Burrito Sales for Hillary, Catfish Dinner Sales for Hillary, etc, and put them and their photos on your website. You need to put the big money donors and Hollywood folks down and raise funds a dollar at a time from a groundswell of grassroots folks.

5. You need to own your error in supporting the Iraq War. And it’s easy – you could simply say that, having lived through Watergate and as a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, you could not have imagined that a president would intentionally mislead people on an issue of national security (and emphasize the "on an issue of national security" part since Bill did lie about Monica) because surely there were too many checks and balances in the White House to let that happen. You also need to say that you would no longer give any President the benefit of the doubt, nor would you expect Congress or the American people to do the same if you were president.

6. Do not – and I repeat, DO NOT – even think about trying to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations. It smacks of game playing. I don’t think you’d even have a shot of being on the ticket if you did that and lost.

7. Along those lines, do not try to win this by having the superdelegates put you over. If you don’t win by pledged delegates, you need to be gracious and acknowledge Obama as the winner. History will reward you later.

Okay, Hill, I hope you were listening. Now fire your staff and get to work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Retired Man Walking: Too Young to Retire, Too Old to Take Shit

A while back I ran into a friend and fellow professional employed by the State of California, and he offered me his perspective on State employment as a tail-end Baby Boomer like myself -- someone who can't retire because he lacks the requisite age or years of service, but, unlike myself, is tired of taking shit from superiors who don't know what to do with you.

Although my friend gave his permission for me to use his name in this blog entry, I decline to do so because what he does is so specialized that it would not be hard for anyone to identify him as one of the few African American men, if not the only African-American man, in California state civil service who does what he does. For purposes of this blog entry, I will refer to him as he now refers to himself:  Retired Man Walking.

Retired Man Walking, or RMW, has an interesting philosophy he applies to working for the State as a professional who isn't old enough to retire but has been around long enough to know the s…

My Prayer and Mantra for 2017 -- Do Not Waste Time on People and Things That Don't Matter

In this era of fake news, fake political candidates, and fake people all around, my prayer and mantra for 2017 is simple:  Do not waste time on people and things that don't matter.

In 2016, I spent too much time and money on things and people who didn't matter.  I allowed myself to become distracted by stuff that, for me and Black Man Not Blogging, didn't really matter for our happiness.  These distractions not only didn't improve the quality of our life together; they decreased it with additional and unnecessary stress.

The good news is that, for the most part, we're okay.  Yeah, Trump and his ilk really suck, but instead of a lot of hand wringing and commiserating, I'm going to do the one thing my late mother She Who  Is Exalted (SWIE) did better than anyone I know:  Play the hand you've been dealt.  My mother was a black female without a college education and with six kids, so playing the hand she was dealt was her survival skill.  Now it will be mine.

S…

Hillary Clinton Can Stop Trump -- If She Releases Her Electors

Hillary Clinton isn't going to be President of the United States.  At least not yet.  And not in 2017.

But she can possibly stop Donald Trump from being President by releasing her pledged electors  in the Electoral College to vote for a compromise Republican candidate.

This is part of the strategy of the Hamilton Electors, members of the Electoral College who see that Donald Trump is not qualified to be President.  They argue that the Electoral College's role is not to rubber-stamp the popular vote -- which, in this case, would belong to Clinton -- but to serve as a check on the popular vote to make sure that no one who is unfit assumes the office of President.

According to the Hamilton Electors, named for Founding Father Alexander Hamilton (Yes, he of the very popular musical for which I can't get tickets) Hamilton stated that the Electoral College's test for fitness to be the President was as follows (and I'm quoting):

Election of a Qualified Person: As Hamilton s…