Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dear Hillary: Let Your Wonk Flag Fly

Let's be honest. One reason why Hillary Clinton has struggled as a politician is that voters sometimes doubt her authenticity. If you need an example of that, during the 2008 New Hampshire primary when she shed some tears, too many people wondered whether or not that was simply staged to boost her campaign after the deafening blow she took in Iowa.

That's why Peter Beinart's take on what the Clinton campaign is up to this time around is so interesting. He notices that she keeps delaying her "why I'm running for president" speech and has instead given two engaging speeches on policy (criminal justice and immigration reform). He posits that: "Soaring rhetoric and grand themes have never been Hillary’s strengths." Instead, he suggests that:
She’s at her best talking about America not abstractly, but concretely. She’s most inspiring when talking not about what she believes, but about what she wants to do. And she most effectively humanizes herself by being true to who she is: knowledgeable, passionate, and vaguely obsessive about making government work.
A lot of Democrats are like Hillary...passionate about making government work. As I've said before, it is Republicans who are obsessed with empty rhetoric because that's all they've got. When wonkery is combined with authentic passion, it can highlight just how empty that rhetoric is.

While many in the media will try to critique any candidate if they stray too far from the conventional wisdom of what they think a politician should look/sound like, I suspect that what actual voters respond to is passion. If a concrete expression of what she wants to do for America is what fires up Hillary's passion, I say: "Let your wonk flag fly!"


  1. Love the title, and I really think you're right. In addition, I think the country might be in the mood for a focus on the concrete detail of how we solve some of our problems, as opposed to the ideological gymnastics and racism that the right has dragged us through. There might even be a way that such an approach would be a little soothing to those of us who have been aghast at the rejection of Obama's brilliance, his generous and clear vision. Sort of like, "Calm down everybody. Let's hear some details about how to fix things. Hillary is really into that stuff."

  2. People may have doubted her authenticity the day her voice broke, but what I found most disturbing about the moment was that it seemed to be her first moment of genuineness.

    It was frankly embarrassing to hear a person of her age and experience say that maybe she had "found my voice." It was bizarre to me that until then she hadn't, and that she was oddly too naive to keep that fact to herself.

    Wise Democrats want a candidate with more insight about herself, who has a well enough developed character that she has already come to terms with who she is, and that her emotional experience, for crying out loud, isn't a new discovery.