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The Race is On!

It became official on Sunday. The 2016 Presidential election cycle is fully underway now that there are candidates in both parties. We have 19 months of this to look forward to, so if you are underwhelmed now it might be best to find a cave to live in. As the sometimes hilarious satire site “The Borowitz Report” put it, “The two major political parties’ unconscionable waste of money officially commences this weekend, as Democrats and Republicans will soon begin spending an estimated five billion dollars of their corporate puppet masters’ assets in an unquenchable pursuit of power.”

Why care? If not for the spectacle, you might want to care for the simple reason that whoever becomes the next President may become an American icon through the blessing of really good timing as this depression winds down into a potential new golden era. It’s all about managing inevitability for Clinton, something that she appears to be doing a much better job of all around.

The image that launched "Texts from Hillary".  She's at her best looking bad-assed.

The image that launched “Texts from Hillary”. She’s at her best looking bad-assed.

One thing needs to be out of the way immediately. Though it may be popular to refer to Sec. Clinton as “Hillary”, Barataria refuses to do this. Women in politics are often called by their first names, including “Liz” for Sen Warren (D-MA). Men almost never are. While this is a part of the branding for women as a more friendly and open kind of politician it still seems horribly sexist. It’s Sec. Clinton to us, tankyooberrymooch.

But this underlies the fundamental problem that women in politics have, which is the complete lack of archetypes. Men can use a shorthand for the kind of leader that they want to be in ways that are not always open to women. For example, what woman would want to be called “Kennedyesque”? It means something completely different with the change in gender.

Clinton’s big advantage here? We know her. Boy, do we know her.

Warren, like Clinton, wants to win - for what she believes in.

Warren, like Clinton, wants to win – for what she believes in.

Her net favorability seems to depend a lot on who asks the question, with the Pew Research Center putting it at 58% and a sum of a lot of other polls as low as 45%. In any case, everyone knows who Clinton is.

No matter which favorability number you believe, this is a huge advantage as Clinton does not have to introduce herself to the voters. That means that the opposition can’t do a “Swift Boat” routine and introduce her in a negative light first. Since it won’t work the same way, can we count on a much less negative campaign?

I knew you’d like a good joke. 19 months of overblown drama will need a lot of this kind of comic relief.

Yes, this is the worst picture of Ted Cruz I could find.  Sue me.

Yes, this is the worst picture of Ted Cruz I could find. Sue me.

As it stands today, Clinton leads any potential Republican challenger, but not by enough for anyone to be comfortable. And there is still a chance for a primary challenge, although that is doubtful. The Democratic leadership, including potential renegade Warren, is not going to screw around this time. Goal number one remains standing solid and strong while the Republicans eat each other up.

Such a strategy can only work when your candidate is a known commodity like Clinton, so this is a time made especially for her. It all comes down to managing inevitability, which is to say keeping her supporters engaged enough to show up in the kind of turnout that has blown Republican minds since 2008.

Since the most reliable voters are older, a “base” turnout of only those who reliably vote every time tends to be very conservative. The secret to the Republican rout in 2012 was an insanely low turnout, a post-WWII low. Big turnout inherently favors Democrats as younger people who may not normally show up tend to be much more liberal. That’s why a nasty election full of smears is a Republican weapon of choice – a voter declaring “They are all dirty!” is a no-show and essentially a Republican vote on the margins.

Managing inevitability thus comes down to a positive message, something akin to “Hope”. A focus on the future and perhaps even that mythical golden age that Barataria rants on about has to be a part of the package. But it will have to be about more than hope to make it work this time. “Everyday Americans need a champion. And I want to be that champion,” is her catch-phrase from the announcement. Expect that to be refined into something closer to Hope without sounding stale.

Why should we look forward to the 2016 election so far out? The craft will be in the orchestration and the message. Nothing is set, and “inevitability” be damned.

24 thoughts on “The Race is On!

  1. Really interesting point about referring to female politicians by their first names. In turn the bit about lack of archetypes for women in politics was equally fascinating. That probably has to do with the historical dominance of politics by male figures. I never thought of the archetype problems as an obstruction to female politicians getting elected. Makes sense though since politicians are always categorizing themselves as a such and such type of leader.

    • I have given a lot of thought to female archetypes over the years, but I haven’t written about them. Generally, I believe that we have to get past the need for them in the first place. But if you constrict your universe to “women in power” for an easy shorthand, what do you say? Elizabethan? Call up Joan of Arc? It gets strange fast.
      Sen Patty Murray (D-OR) was called a “Mom in tennis shoes” by Bob Packwood, and turned around to use it against him. Mom images always work well, and I like the idea of Clinton using something like “It’s time for Mom to smack some sense into the kids running the show.” But she won’t.
      Still, it’s a good archetype for women in power, and Mom is one of the few power figures that are handy.

      • That’s some really good insight. I remember Palin drawing from the mother figure as well (that’s a whole different story). I think Clinton can use the first lady one as well to add to the fact that she has had a long history in/being around politics.

    • What is her myth? A determined woman who makes it on her own terms? The flip side of it, which is unbridled ambition no matter what? She does need to define herself, now that I think of it, but we know Clinton so well that I think the main thing she needs to do is appear human and warm. Cold, calculating Clinton is the “bad myth”.

      • What myth.Her whole life is a myth,fantasia .What does she know about politics ? Monica proved that Hilary has no dignity after Bill had a sexual affair with her.For prestige she is ready to sell her conscience .She accepted 25 million from Saudi royal family and she knows very well Women in Saudi Arabia are persecuted and enslaved.To reach were she is now,on how many skull she stepped ?

  2. I will vote Clinton, but I wish Warren would run so I could vote for her instead. That email thing, while not illegal at the time, was pretty stupid, and will come back to her. Everything else is either baseless or immaterial.

    • Interesting point on the scandals, and I like it. No more stupid, please, and we’ll get over the rest. 🙂
      Sen Warren is a very conservative (small “c”) person and knows what she can do in her time. She wants to be Treasury Secretary so she can do what she does best. She also wants to be a voice for the voiceless.
      I think of her as something like Henry Wallace, leader of the Progressive wing of the party and the one who pushed FDR to the left. There is a place for that, especially when it comes to energizing people. That makes Bill Clinton something like Eleanor Roosevelt, a role I think he would do well in.
      Happy days are here again?

      • Very interesting thoughts, it is true, one does not have to be President to make a difference. Maybe if Clinton wins, they can put Reich somewhere high up in the administration. That would make my decade.

  3. The media likes to talk like its already over, but we have a long way to go. If she handles the next attack anything like she did the email scandal I’ll be the first to write her off. She should never have lost to Obama in the first place but the people on her campaign, the powerbrokers and hangers-on were all out for themselves. She can’t make that mistake again.

  4. I really want Sen. Warren to run in the future. Clinton is who I will be supporting for this election, but Warren’s political views align much closer to my own.

    • Sen Warren has a long future ahead of her, but she wants to do what she knows either needs to be done or she alone can do best. I admire her greatly for that.

  5. And I officially know where I am coming for my election news this cycle. And thank you for the equality treatment. As a not – quite journalist, seeing females treated as objects at any level makes my blood boil, let alone those in office or in the running.

    • Thank you very much! The role of women is something that has so many little barriers all through any process. When they leap over them we judge them on how gracefully they did it while men just walk around gladhanding. It’s all quite crazy. I think calling it out easily is the best way to get everyone to just cut it out for once.

  6. I’m ready for Hillary! And I don’t mind her using her first name as a choice but if you insist on calling her Clinton by all means do so. It’s a lot less confusing now than it was. What is Bill doing these days? (first name!)

    • Bill has his foundation. It’s been a great role for him. Hillary is indeed using her first name as a warmer, friendly brand – but I won’t do that unless I think the playing field is genuinely level. I do not see that right now.

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