You gotta show us you feel our pain

A New York Times story today, about whether the Brexit uprising against the establishment will echo in the U.S. campaign and surprise and hurt Clinton, says, with thundering understatement, “The American electorate has tilted this year toward presidential candidates who make them feel as much as think…”

Precisely why so many of us are fearful that Hillary Clinton could lose what should be a landslide for a compelling Democratic candidate. Clinton conveys all the emotion and warmth of an ATM.

I think her message needs to focus on what the Republicans have been doing that’s harmful and what she and the Democrats have been doing and will do that will help the average American in scary times.

“They’re stealing your money and your future; we’ll help you prosper in a changing, frightening world.”

It takes very little to back up the first assertion — the enormous redistribution of wealth from the poor and middle class to the rich since Reagan; and the Republicans, owned by fossil fuel moguls, willfully ignoring the global warming that will screw everyone’s children and their children’s children.

Clinton will need to highlight a few specific things she’ll do, and that the Obama administration has done, to back up the second assertion that we’ll help you stay above water as the world changes.

Democrats have to recognize the fear that’s driving people to Bernie and tRump and Brexit. Much of that fear comes from the darkest narrowest places in people — fear of people who don’t look or sound like them. Democrats can’t just dismiss those fears as racist and xenophobic. Those fears are natural, but that doesn’t mean they help the person deal with the world as it is. Clinton has to let people know she knows it’s all scary, but there are ways not just to deal with all that change but to do well amid the change. I don’t know what the policies should be — job retraining, student loans with no interest, federal investment in job-rich industries like solar and wind and rail transportation — Clinton’s the policy wonk, she can come up with a few marquee things that we can all do to ride on the wave of change.

Beyond policy she’s gotta make us feel that she gets why people are scared and that she can lead us through the change to a world where we have work and meaning and safety amid the lively diverse madding crowd.

Frank Luntz, an odious Republican salesman but a smart observer of simple, clear messaging, said Clinton’s “Stronger Together” theme feels bloodless and overly intellectual compared to Brexit’s “Leave” message and tRump’s “Make America Great Again.”

My suggested message is just a first draft — “They’re stealing your money and your future, while we’ll help you prosper in a changing, frightening world.” Smart people, like the readers of this blog, can improve on that. But let’s point out quickly what those other guys are doing to us all and move on to how we’ll help us all keep on truckin’ in heavy traffic.

–Bruce Benidt



One thought on “You gotta show us you feel our pain

  1. My older brother was a brilliant but troubled guy who died too early and who caught way too few breaks in life. Whenever he did get a little ahead his first thought was to always help his kids or friends, but mostly he lived very modestly and often in trouble with bills, the law or both.

    What infuriated most about his situation is that he – and others in his economic stratum – were constantly surrounded by businesses that exist solely to extract what little money he had left.

    “Tax problems? Call us now to help you pay nothing!”

    “Bad credit? No credit? We can help!”

    “Are you facing alimony payments or other wage garnishments you can’t afford? We’ll get those payments stopped.”

    “Do you need a car but the bank won’t give you a loan? We’ve got cash to lend!”

    In EVERY instance, the fine print of these pitches boiled down to: give us money up front, pay us an interest rate that would have been called usury a generation ago and we’ll do 1) nothing; 2) something you could have done for yourself; 3) a piss-poor job of something that either won’t help your underlying problem or will actually make it worse.

    And when they had done that for you, don’t worry…they had another product that will “help.” Do you have any money left? Credit cards? Can you borrow money from your family? What about life insurance or your retirement accounts?

    Donald Trump is one of these guys. He is the DEFINITION of a taker. When he takes from the wealthy who can’t distinguish between a quality apartment or condominium and one of his ersatz lux properties, I don’t care all the much. I care a lot more when he takes from the public or the poor.

    Trump University is perhaps the most egregious example of his con artist, grifter conduct, but in truth it’s his entire M.O. He cons people that a tie, a suit, a steak, a bottle of water, a building, whatever with the Trump name on it is a quality product when really it’s something average…at best.

    And, it’s not like we haven’t been warned. No one who votes for Trump should the least bit surprised by what they’ll get: an amoral money grubber whose only guiding principle is the pirates’ code:

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