Tell me Trump won’t win, my friends are emailing. It’s a slow-motion train wreck, they’re saying, and I feel helpless to stop it. Why is the media letting Trump get away with it? I wouldn’t be so nervous if it weren’t for Gary Johnson; if it weren’t for millennial apathy, for alt-right propaganda, for Paul Ryan’s cowardice; if it weren’t for sexism, racism, infotainment, Idiocracy, plutocracy, Citizens United, voter suppression…. Help!
For all the clever tweets, sophisticated data, and focus group tested messages the Hillary Clinton campaign pumps out daily, they may have forgotten to ask the simple question that should be at the heart of every campaign: If voters had one sentence to explain why they support her candidacy, what would it be? After nineteen months of campaigning, I’m not sure they have an answer to that.
This revolution in communication isn’t over. The 2016 presidential campaign has brought us more dramatic transformations in the art and science of political communication. It’s changed what constitutes an appropriate statement by a candidate or campaign, and changed the content and nature of the news itself. Most of this has been driven by one candidate.
Now Hillary Clinton is a public figure, and in an era of wall-to-wall PR it’s hard to argue that she’s not playing the game. But perhaps she simply backed into it. Perhaps she’s that Sixties activist at heart who preferred behind-the-scenes advocacy and the humility of action — but got drawn into politics as a result of her husband’s career. Perhaps she is a reluctant politician, not a Machiavellian schemer.
What First Lady Michelle Obama gave us was a gift, a way to imagine America differently, a reaffirmation of the American Dream drawn from the experience of those who should have every right to be bitter about it. And she transformed politics from a blood sport about our wants and needs and anger today into a sacred promise we hold with our children to shape their lives and their futures.