On Hillary’s “Stronger Together” Strategy

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I’m going to start this post with a caveat. I caucused for Bernie Sanders, and have spent a fair amount of time feeling confused by Hillary Clinton. Throughout her career, her positions have bounced from moderate to super-progressive regularly, leaving me unsure what she really stands for.

I also write taglines as part of my job, and know how deeply these are grounded in research and strategy. That’s why I was surprised and captivated by her speech introducing her Vice Presidential pick, Tim Kaine.

Surrounding this speech were signs that read, STRONGER TOGETHER. I have been wondering what her platform would be, and what kind of rally cry she would produce to unify the democratic base. Obama had “Hope.” What would Hillary come up with?

Donald Trump used the RNC to decorate himself with his own rally cry: “America First.” Seeing this pasted all over the RNC gave a lot of us chills. “America First” is incredibly jingoistic, and is sure to further escalate the mistrust between America and the middle east. It’s the perfect slogan for Donald to use to scapegoat immigrants and Muslims for all the problems rich, greedy people like himself have caused.

Once I heard that Hillary Clinton had picked a moderate senator to be her running mate, I felt defeated. I was ready for her to further appeal to progressives by picking someone in the vein of Elizabeth Warren. My first reaction was, this VP pick will be the nail in the coffin for her presidency. All my liberal friends will now vote 3rd party, for Jill Stein, and hand the presidency to Trump.

Then I watched her introduce Tim Kaine, and my opinion changed. She seemed excited, very genuinely. I mean, she was glowing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Hillary look this confident. As I watched, I realized it’s not just because she likes this guy. It’s because, for the first time, she gets to truly reveal the vision that she’s had all along.

Her strategy, her long game, is not at all about being incredibly leftist and making America a democratic socialist country, Sanders style. Instead, it’s to very politely invite disenfranchised Republicans into the democratic party.  I know this comes as no surprise to many. But she has never said this as explicitly as she does with her new tagline, “Stronger Together.”

Let’s take a look at it for a moment. It’s simple at first glance, but nuanced enough for some analysis. “Stronger” is a confident word, both a response to Trump’s “America First” appeal, and a reference to her own political career. In her first run for President, she purposely tried to play the man’s game, appearing strong, unshakeable and refusing to make her womanhood a huge part of her platform. This time around, she’s evolved that, played to feminists, and been more explicit about why her gender matters. Then there’s “together.” It is a truly democratic word, one that purposely leans away from individualism and a bit toward socialism. Today, those masses are not a bunch of white people. They’re a tapestry of different races, nationalities, religions and sexual orientations.

It’s also an invitation to conservatives. Join us somewhere in the middle. Sure they may have been raised to hate democrats, and the party itself has succumbed to corporate interests after Citizens United. But compared to the Republican tire fire, the water’s fine. I imagine a lot of conservatives are feeling disenfranchised right now, and are looking for representation that doesn’t so explicitly align them with the KKK. For them, Hillary has officially offered a rose.

When you look at it that way, “Stronger together” is very smart. It has me wondering why she hasn’t just been purposely moderate from the get-go. I’m a very liberal democrat for sure, but I also recognize how gridlocked congress is. For anything to get done right now, it has to come from the supreme court. That is crazy. I’m also very open to the democratic party swallowing the population of sane former republicans. Come our way guys, the water is um …  at least ok!

Before watching Tim Kaine’s speech, I had just been reading about the disenfranchised white poor, and why this population is cautiously embracing Trump. It would be so easy, I was thinking, for Hillary to say a few things to win them over.

Then Tim Kaine rolls up. He has a goofy, happy clap and kind eyes. He speaks Spanish, because he was a Jesuit missionary in Honduras. He was married in a Catholic church. He comes from Kansas City. His parents are iron workers. He has a religiously-motivated calling not to be right, but to do right. To conservative religious people, that may mean shutting down gay marriage. To liberal religious people, that means fighting for equal rights and racial equality. He’s a civil rights lawyer, and his wife’s father is an anti-segregation hero.  His daughter’s husband is about to be deployed, and he has great respect for the military. It was like he read my mind, and purposely ticked all the boxes to appeal to that base, without pissing off liberals (aka, me).

I wasn’t sitting there wishing for a moderate democratic president to run with a moderate VP. I wasn’t envisioning Hillary Clinton as our first female president. I wasn’t sure what to think. But when I watch footage of the RNC, I feel terrified. And when I hear friends talking about not voting for Hillary, I start picturing the weird crown Donald Trump will make for himself once he’s dictator. When I saw “Stronger Together,” I finally saw Hillary’s master plan from the get-go. It’s to kill the Republican party as we know it, by very politely inviting them to join us.

I keep playing out possible circumstances in my mind when it comes to this election. One is that democrats will split their vote, and hand the presidency to Donald Trump. One is that Hillary will win, and generally maintain the status quo. Another is that Hillary will win and go down in history as a great president, and I will be able to tell my children that I voted for the first female president. Now, I see another possible situation. Hillary and Tim Kaine will invite republicans to join us, and for a few years democrats and republicans will cooperate together, like adults. The democratic party will get more conservative, and a new party will start to rise. This new party will be inspired by the Green Party/ Jill Stein, and by the democratic socialist leanings of Bernie Sanders and Liz Warren. It will focus on education, equality and the environment. It will be kickass. I’m excited about this idea. But it’s not here yet.

For now, I’m going to vote for Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. Yes I’ve heard about the DNC emails plotting to skewer Sanders for his (lack of) religion. That doesn’t surprise me. These people are strategists. That’s the kind of thing they do. I like to believe Bernie Sanders is above that type of thing, but for now, Hillary is what we have and Hillary is being strategic. At least, as of today, I understand what her strategy is. Stronger Together. It’s inclusive, it’s confident and it’s a hell of a lot better than America First.

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