I’m not looking for a candidate who ‘cares about people like me’

Hillary on her van tour, posing with regular folks whom she is JUST LIKE. Not...

Hillary on her van tour, posing with regular folks whom she is JUST LIKE. Not…

Well, it’s gratifying to see that plenty of other people hated the Hillary Clinton campaign launch video as much as I did.

Some may even have hated it more.

From a Ruth Marcus column headlined, “Hillary Clinton’s insultingly vapid video:”

The more I watch Hillary Clinton’s announcement video, the less I like it. This may be putting it mildly.

I understand what Clinton & Co. were trying to do: Make the moment less about Hillary, more about the voters. Downplay the sense of Clinton as inevitable juggernaut and entitled successor to the dynastic throne….

What’s wrong with that?

For one, the video was relentlessly, insultingly vapid — a Verizon commercial without the substance. “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” Clinton said in what passed for a meaty message. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

Seriously, this makes Ronald Reagan’s gauzy “It’s Morning Again in America” commercial look like a Brookings Institution seminar on economic policy….

Ouch. And Richard Cohen wrote:

The icky commercial she used to announce her candidacy was hardly a position paper. It looked like one of those Vaseline-lensed dog-food commercials, so lacking substance that I wondered if I had summoned the wrong video from the Internet. I am writing now about 15 hours after seeing the thing, and for the life of me all I can remember is a bunch of happy people and Clinton saying something about being on the side of the middle class. I think it is no mere coincidence that the Clinton campaign now has the services of Wendy Clark, a senior marketing specialist from Coca-Cola. Maybe Clinton will “teach the world to sing.”

And that was in a column that overall was fairly favorable…

So I’m not the only grouch in America.

So why did she do it? Chriz Cillizza writes for The Fix:

One of the major failures of her 2008 presidential campaign was that people didn’t believe that Clinton cared or understood much about them.  Look at the 2008 Iowa caucus entrance poll. Among people who said the most important trait in a candidate was someone who “cares about people like me”, Clinton placed a distant third behind John Edwards, who dominated among that group, and Barack Obama.

If 2008 was about “Me” for Clinton, 2016 is supposed to be about “Us.”…

Yeah. You know, John Edwards was the perfect candidate for voters looking for a candidate who “cares about people like me.” John Edwards was exactly what people who vote that way deserve.

I’m not looking for an empathizer-in-chief. That was the role her husband played too often back in the touchy-feely, post-Cold War 90s (bite the lip; give the thumbs-up), and it drove me nuts. He was a smart guy on policy; why did he have to be so smarmy?

I want somebody who will direct U.S. policy — starting with foreign policy — with intelligence, insight and effectiveness, to the advantage of the United States and all it stands for. Talk to me about that, please. Don’t feel my pain — I expect the president to be too busy for that.

And I’m not even going to get into the most offensive part of that phrase, the “like me” part — as though one is saying that people who are NOT “like me” can all take a flying leap. Identity Politics taken to its ugly extreme.

But the worst thing about this in terms of what it says about the candidate is that it is false. That Cillizza piece was headlined “The tremendously difficult task of selling Hillary Clinton as a regular person,” and after the above-quoted part, it continued:

Here’s the problem: Hillary Clinton hasn’t been “us” for, well, almost her entire adult life. She was featured in Life magazine in 1969 after making history as the first student to give a commencement address at Wellesley College. By 30, she was married to the Arkansas attorney general and by her mid 30s she was firmly ensconced as the first lady of the Natural State.  Then, starting in 1991, Clinton was (and is) an ever-present figure on the national and international stage — first as the most powerful First Lady in modern memory, then as a Senator, then as a presidential candidate and, finally, as the nation’s top diplomat.

There is no one in political life with a resume as deep, unique and varied as Clinton. No one.  But, the fact that she has been “Hillary Clinton” for the better part of, well, forever makes it extremely difficult to re-package her as just like the rest of us. The truth is that Hillary hasn’t been a regular person in a very, very long time. She has been famous for decades on end — instantly recognizable since back in the days when cell phones looked like this….

So admit who you are, the long-time policy wonk. You know, the one who took all those other wonks into a room and came out with Hillarycare. And then convince us that — that incident to the contrary (even Bill couldn’t sell it) — you’re good at it. That’s what I want from a candidate.

20 thoughts on “I’m not looking for a candidate who ‘cares about people like me’

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    OK, after an elitist, policy-over-populism rant like that, I feel a little guilty, I’ll admit. Like I’m being mean to all the poor souls who are desperate for an emotionally invested champion in high office.

    So I’ll assuage my guilt by making this point: That the reason that I and Washington pundits don’t like it when Hillary gets all touchy-feely is that it means she isn’t caring about the things that “people like me” care about.

    We want clear-eyed policy, not weepy empathy. We want mind more than heart.

    Which make us sound pretty heartless. Which I kind of feel bad about.

    But I was being honest. I don’t want a president who makes me FEEL good. I want one who makes me THINK that he or she is a good steward of the power we entrust to that individual.

    1. M.Prince

      Yes, definitely a rant.
      But not because of the content – it’s because of what it was aimed at: a 2-minuite TV ad. Anybody who’s expecting substantive content from a 2-minute ad is … well, asking for too much. And for that matter, I heard no more genuine substance in Ted Cruz’s 30-minute address than in Clinton’s TV spot. But that’s ok. These things are about setting themes, not offering policy proposals. Supposedly, more substance is set to follow in a few weeks. American presidential election politics always goes through multiple seasons and doesn’t start to get serious until the primaries begin. What we’re in now is the floating palace season when nothing is really real and practically anything seems possible.

  2. Doug Ross

    Al Franken could be the true empathetic President. Every day, he could broadcast a message telling us we’re good enough, we’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like us!

    I actually would consider voting for Franken for President. He’s a very smart guy… seems to be untainted by lobbyists. He’d hopefully be less beholden to the military industrial complex like Obama has been.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      But seriously, here’s the big difference between Bill and Hillary.

      Bill would shake every hand in the restaurant because he would WANT to.

      Hillary would shake every hand in the restaurant because she thought she HAD to. And afterward, she’d expect full credit for her sacrifice. As in, “OK, I did it. Make me president now.”

      Which sounds like I’m being harsh toward her. But she is more like me. And Bill’s NEED for other people’s contact and approval can sometimes be an unseemly thing…

      1. Barry

        I shook Bill’s hand once when he was running the first time. I didn’t like him much and didn’t vote for him.

        But I have to say- as he shook my hand and looked right at me- he made me feel like he wanted to shake my hand. I know he didn’t. I know it was fake. But the guy had that ability.

        Hillary obviously doesn’t have that ability at all. But I don’t think most people get the difference.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          I’m not sure it was fake. I believe that in Bill’s case, underneath all the fake tinsel, there’s real tinsel. He wants everybody to love him!

          1. Bryan Caskey

            Open your eyes,
            Look up to the skies and see,
            I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy,
            Because I’m easy come, easy go,
            Little high, little low,
            Anyway the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me.

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