Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton is most likely going to be the next President. She has the political-institutional advantage, the demographic advantage, and the fact that she’s facing Donald Trump advantage.


That being said, recent polls have showed the race tightening, with some even suggesting Donald Trump could be ahead in early national polls. Furthermore, a number of recent polls from important swing states show an ever tightening race.


So how is this happening? How is the former first lady of a beloved two term President, popular New York Senator, and Secretary of State under the current administration in potential danger of losing to an authoritarian mad man who insults virtually every minority in the country? Her messaging is all wrong.


As has been well noted this election cycle, Hillary Clinton has very high unfavorable ratings, and voters tend to think of her as untrustworthy. So in response she must be doing everything she possibly can to change voter perception of her, right?




Dangerous Donald


Rather than offering a powerful vision of what the country would look like under a Hillary Clinton presidency, her pitch to voters goes as follows.


Donald Trump is a danger to the country. He’s going to change things, and that change is going to be disastrous for our economy, racial relations, and foreign policy agenda. Since you don’t want that to happen, you should vote for me.


She’s quite literally telling voters she’s the lesser of two evils. That’s her persuasive pitch.


Contrast that to Trump’s pitch of Make America Great Again, which was originally Ronald Reagan’s winning slogan. That message gives people something to vote for rather than something to vote against.


Hillary’s Attacks Fuel the Donald Trump Fire


The problem with Hillary Clinton’s strategy is that Donald Trump can effectively use it to campaign on. We saw a preview of what this looks like in the Democratic primary when Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein called Bernie Sanders’ anti-Wall Street rhetoric dangerous. Sanders took the statement and turned it into an effective campaign meme.


“He called me dangerous, and he’s right. I am dangerous for Wall Street.”


The Donald’s message will be the exact same. Hillary Clinton thinks I’m dangerous? She’s right; I am dangerous to the establishment. I’m going to get into office and change the corruption all you voters are so fed up with.

Voters want change


Here’s the problem. Donald Trump didn’t win the most votes in Republican primary history in spite of the fact that he wants to fundamentally change America; he did so because of it. It’s an anti-establishment election where voters are sick and tired of the status quo.


Whether she likes it or not, Hillary Clinton doesn’t just represent that status quo, she’s the poster child. Where she has the advantage of fundraising and organization from being a party insider, she has the disadvantage of being at the forefront of American politics for more than 20 years.


She was a proponent of NAFTA and the Iraq war. She represented Wall Street when its risky speculation led to the housing crisis and subsequent economic recession. She supported regime change in Libya which led to the destabilization that Obama recently called the biggest regret of his Presidency.


Whether right or wrong, voters on both sides of the aisle disapprove of these decisions. As a cohort, we the people aren’t big fans of war, regime change, or Wall Street.


As a populist who has never held public office, this is cannon fodder for Donald Trump. He can, and will, play to public opinion and continually remind voters that Hillary Clinton is the face of the insider politics that have led to these unpopular decisions. Where Hillary Clinton has Donald Trump’s rhetoric to attack him on, he has her tangible decision making to respond with.


What should she be doing?


Hillary Clinton should continue to attack Donald Trump. He’s got a litany of weaknesses. She should continue to go after his tax returns and suggest that he’s not worth what he says he is; that will surely draw a response from Trump that exposes his immaturity and temperament. This will show voters first hand that Donald Trump is dangerous, rather than her simply telling them.


But Hillary Clinton has to do more than just attack. She needs to offer a very real contrast; not by talking up his flaws, but by talking up her strengths. She’s got to advance her theory of politics that change comes from working within government to mobilize interest groups to build the largest possible coalition. Then she needs to compare this with Trump’s misconception that he can be a strongman who simply walks into Washington and changes whatever he doesn’t like.


Hillary and her team should be designing her version of Yes We Can. Instead, their approach thus far has been No He Can’t. That’s a bad strategy to ensure victory in November.