Why Clin­ton wins when she loses

Lesotho Times - - Opin­ion -

WE’RE not with her. That’s what Demo­cratic vot­ers in West Vir­ginia said Tues­day night, with Hil­lary Clin­ton los­ing to Bernie San­ders. Although the loss was not un­ex­pected, Clin­ton’s cam­paign sure seems like one long slog of speeches, hand­shakes and voter self­ies on the way to­ward the 2016 con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia.

This ex­tended cam­paign, how­ever, is ac­tu­ally the best thing that could have hap­pened to Clin­ton. She has ben­e­fited enor­mously from the pres­ence of San­ders. Now Team Clin­ton must build on lessons learned from the pri­maries as they pre­pare to run against Don­ald Trump in the gen­eral elec­tion.

Flash­back to Clin­ton’s cam­paign an­nounce­ment, that vague video that fea­tured a di­verse cast of “ev­ery­day Amer­i­cans.” It was 2½ min­utes long and ba­si­cally said noth­ing.

Then look at Clin­ton these days, speak­ing out about in­come inequal­ity, cam­paign fi­nance re­form, and the evils of the big banks on Wall Street. Hmm, where could those win­ning themes have come from? From Bernie, thank you, who proved that pro­gres­sive vot­ers are tired of not hav­ing a voice in na­tional politics. His suc­cess pushed Clin­ton to the left, and she is a bet­ter can­di­date for it.

De­spite Clin­ton’s ex­pe­ri­ence as first lady, sen­a­tor, and sec­re­tary of state, there is an un­der­stand­able ten­dency of many Demo­cratic vot­ers to be wary of any­thing re­sem­bling a Clin­ton “coronation.”

As we saw from Clin­ton’s failed strat­egy of in­evitabil­ity in 2008 against Barack Obama, vot­ers re­sent feel­ing they have to vote for some­one.

So this pri­mary sea­son, the fact that Clin­ton has had em­bar­rass­ing losses to San­ders (think Michi­gan), and might even face more in the weeks ahead has a sil­ver lin­ing.

Like her or not, Clin­ton is mostly earn­ing her nom­i­na­tion the hard way. The party elites and su­per PACS could not be­stow it upon her out­right. Wall Street con­tri­bu­tions could not buy it for her.

Due to the un­ex­pected re­silience of San­ders’ can­di­dacy, Clin­ton has been forced to com­pete across the coun­try, and to con­tin­u­ally make her case about why she de­serves our votes — and that’s a good thing.

While the Demo­cratic pri­mary race has at times seemed end­less, with the same pair of can­di­dates fac­ing off in de­bates and speak­ing in town halls week after week, this weary­ing process is it­self part of the pay­off for Clin­ton.

Had she wrapped up the nom­i­na­tion with a se­ries of early, big wins, she would likely never have had a shot at bring­ing San­ders’ pas­sion­ate sup­port­ers into her camp. In­stead, as things are play­ing out, this race gives San­ders sup­port­ers time to go through the “five stages of grief” — de­nial, anger, bar­gain­ing, de­pres­sion and ac­cep­tance — be­fore they face the re­al­ity that it’s time to unite be­hind Clin­ton for the good of the party and the coun­try.

CNN and other news out­lets re­port that San­ders has lit­tle chance at win­ning the nom­i­na­tion. Un­der the rules for the Demo- cratic pri­maries, del­e­gates are awarded to can­di­dates pro­por­tion­ally, so even if she loses states by a mod­est mar­gin in com­ing weeks, Clin­ton can main­tain her lead in pledged del­e­gates.

Look­ing ahead, Clin­ton can­not shut Sand- ers out of the con­ven­tion process. She al­ready ex­tended an olive branch to those who “Feel the Bern,” in an April speech in which she listed all the is­sues on which she and San­ders agree.

“Whether you sup­port Sen. San­ders or sup­port me, there’s much more that unites us than di­vides us,” Clin­ton said, after her big pri­mary wins in the north­east. She needs to make this point strongly and re­peat­edly over the next few weeks -- and in­struct her sur­ro­gates to treat San­ders sup­port­ers with re­spect.

The gen­eral elec­tion cam­paign be­tween Trump and Clin­ton will be un­pre­dictable, but for sure it will get ugly. Just this week, Trump at­tacked Clin­ton by bring­ing up the Mon­ica Lewin­sky scan­dal from 1998. Trump called Clin­ton an “un­be­liev­ably nasty, mean en­abler” of her hus­band’s al­leged af­fairs, adding that, “what she did to a lot of those women is dis­grace­ful.” He called Bill Clin­ton “the big­gest abuser of women, as a politi­cian, in the his­tory of our coun­try.”

Clin­ton’s re­sponse was genius: “I have noth­ing to say about him and how he’s run­ning his cam­paign.” This is the way to win in Novem­ber, by tak­ing the high road.

No mat­ter what at­tacks Trump throws her way, Clin­ton should not fol­low him into the gut­ter; look how that worked out for Marco Ru­bio, who has ad­mit­ted to be­ing em­bar­rassed that he stooped to Trump’s level. Fact is, vot­ers are not go­ing to make up their minds in Novem­ber based on real or al­leged scan­dals from nearly 20 years ago.

Be­sides, Trump him­self is on thin moral ice when it comes to mak­ing ac­cu­sa­tions about in­fi­delity. The thrice-mar­ried bil­lion­aire has been a sta­ple of the New York tabloids for years — and we know what they say about peo­ple who live in glass tow­ers. Er, houses.

Clin­ton owes a debt of grat­i­tude to San­ders for mak­ing her a stronger can­di­date. From here on out, she must stay fo­cused on the is­sues, and let Trump do him­self in with his child­ish and un­pres­i­den­tial an­tics. Slow and steady wins the race.

US Demo­cratic Party pres­i­den­tial contenders Bernie San­ders (left) and Hil­lary Clin­ton.

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