Global Independent Analytics

Unlike Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton Lacks A Simple, Clear Economic Message

"I don't think Hillary Clinton wants to do anything in one sentence," former Obama adviser David Axelrod said. "That's the problem, right?

Mara Liasson for NPR discusses why Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton needs a clearer message on the economy, since her opponents, apparently, have one.

“Hillary Clinton isn't over the finish line yet, but as she continues to battle Bernie Sanders she's also turning her attention to a general election matchup with Donald Trump.

A lot of Democrats say that in order to beat Trump, she needs to be developing a clearer message on the economy.

That's not Donald Trump's problem. Not only does he have a simple, clear message — he often says so himself. "Our theme is very simple," Trump reminded voters last week after winning the Indiana primary. "Make America great again. We will make America great again. We will start winning again."

Behind that simple message, there are a host of equally simple sounding policies — policies aimed right at Americans' economic insecurities. Build a wall, dump the bad trade deals, deport 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. Love those ideas or loathe them, it's crystal clear what Trump wants to do.

Not so much with Clinton.” Not for the first time in history Clinton has run against an opponent with big, dramatic messages, meanwhile having trouble weaving them into a coherent narrative that finely cuts through.

This year, both Bernie Sanders and Trump have big plans for change: build a wall, break up the banks, make a political revolution. This is what political professionals call an origin story — a clear rationale for how we got here, and who is to blame for it.

Although Clinton has a lot of programs to address the economic worries of what she's called everyday Americans, she also fails to tell the voters why exactly are they struggling and what she plans to do to fix it.  She has been experimenting with one big theme, which she calls "Breaking Down Barriers." It's a message aimed at women, Hispanics and African-Americans. But she does it in her own policy-wonkish way.

"She's someone who always starts from what you can get done," said her campaign chairman, John Podesta. "What's holding people back? What are the barriers people are facing? Whether that's institutional racism or an economy that's rigged for the people at the top. And what can I do about it? That's where she is not only most comfortable, but I think she thinks that's how change happens."

However, addressing economic problems clearly and intelligibly is problematic not only for Clinton but for Democrats in general. “In Democratic pollster Celinda Lake's polls, Democrats are consistently behind Republicans on the issue of the economy. In recent general election polls, where Clinton beats Trump handily in the horse race, the economy is the only issue where he beats her. And the economy is THE No. 1 issue. Democrats have never won a presidential election when they're losing on the economy,” continues Liasson.

In autumn, she will face two problems: economics and gender issue. Running against an unpredictable populist she might lose to him by being a woman; Lake’s polls demonstrate that female candidates from both parties are rated behind men on the economy and jobs. Maybe, Lake suggests, because women are too responsible to go for the big sweeping narrative. Clinton has done a little self-analysis on this problem.

Liasson concludes: “In a podcast with Politico's Glenn Thrush, Clinton said, "Sometimes I get criticized for 'Oh my gosh there she goes with another plan.' ... I mean, I have said, in this campaign, 'Look, I'm not a natural politician.'"

"I'm not somebody who, like my husband or Barack Obama, just — it's music, right?"

Clinton often says it's easy to diagnose the problem. It's harder to actually do something about the problem. Coming up with the big aspirational message is her problem, and she seems to know that. Clinton has shown she's comfortable with the lyrics. The question is, can she write the music, too?

 

By Stefan Paraber for GIA.

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Trump has an idea: “Make America Great Again.” He speaks often against Crooked Hillary. Hillary does not have a simple slogan. But she is the anti-Trump. She is the vote of all those who fear that Trump will bring guns to schools, that he is a fascist and a racist, that they are the enlightened America, that they are educated and progressive while he is a brute. Voters for Hillary engage in identity politics but not in the traditional sense. They view themselves as those who wish to maintain sanity and democracy in America, and therefore must oppose Trump and cannot afford not to. Opposing Trump is who they are. It is likely that the anti-Trump campaign will seek to bring as many concerned citizens to the voting booth. Note the hypocrisy: When Obama and Hillary destroyed entire countries, Americans were not concerned. But when Taco-eating Trump speaks against migration, not killing anyone, just closing the gates, all of a sudden, the “human rights people” are up in arms. If the youth that supports Bernie refrains from voting, and Trump gets out everyone he can, perhaps Hillary will not win, assuming of course that voting will not be rigged.

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