Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Real Change is Hard and Some Say it's Boring

That's what Bill Clinton said last night. He gave a great speech about Hillary where he narrated both their own history together and everything she has fought for and been about along the way.

He often says that she's the real change maker not the change talker and his speech was about why this is.

Last night Bill said that giving a speech is easy-it's actually implementing change which is hard. This goes at something that Ezra Klein got at regarding Hillary.

You hear a lot of pundits say again and again that she's a bad candidate. Which begs a question. If she's such a bad candidate how do you explain how many millions of folks have voted for her?

People agree that Obama is a once in a lifetime politician. So if that's true, then Hillary pushing him to the absolute wire, getting more popular vote than he, with 18 million votes is no small feat.

If she were really a bad politician why didn't she fall on her face in 2008 whatever her ambitions like, say Joe Biden did in 1988 and 2008?

Now she beat Bernie Sanders by 4 million votes. I note that the Beltway narrative on this seems to be that she got lucky somehow. Against another, better politician, they seem to presume, Bernie would not have gotten 2 percent.

This is wrong. I don't agree that the Bernie Sanders challenge was easy to defeat at all. There is clearly a large constuency for that sort of leftist populism. She beat him by double digits.

Who was the mainstream Center Left Democrat who would have done better against Bernie? He did not get all that support simply because they were anti Hillary.

The hunger for a Bernie like campaign was apparent to me in 2012 over at Jane Hamsher's old Firedoglake website.

For someone who is such a bad politician, allegedly, she's done very well. She won two blowout wins for NY Senator and she pushed a once in a lifetime talent like Obama to the brink.

Now she put down a real populist insurgency by a double digit margin.

But Ezra Klein touched on the problem. What makes Hillary a great political talent is not the speechmaking side of politics but in terms of listening and coalition building.

"In her book Why Presidents Fail, Brookings scholar Elaine Kamarck argues that "successful presidential leadership occurs when the president is able to put together and balance three sets of skills: policy, communication, and implementation."

"The problem, Kamarck says, is that campaigns are built to test only one of those skills. “The obsession with communication — presidential talking and messaging — is a dangerous mirage of the media age, a delusion that inevitably comes crashing down in the face of government failure.”

"Part of Kamarck’s argument is that presidential primaries used to be decided in the proverbial smoke-filled room — a room filled with political elites who knew the candidates personally, who had worked with them professionally, who had some sense of how they governed. It tested “the ability of one politician to form a coalition of equals in power.”

"Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination by forming a coalition. And part of how she forms coalitions is by listening to her potential partners — both to figure out what they need and to build her relationships with them. This is not a skill all politicians possess."

Bernie's supporters love him for the speeches. They seem to assume that this is all there is to politics-no need for coalitions or listening.

But the actual work of implementation is the tough part of politics. And that was the message Bill was communicating last night. Hilary is always looking for ways to get things done. But many find this part of it boring or even 'sordid.'

They focus solely on aspiration and poetry at the expense of substance.

Last night Bill talked about how even in Arkansas when she was concerned with education standards she went on one of her famous 'listening tours.'

As Klein says, pundits have always been very skeptical of these listening tours.

"When Hillary Clinton ran for the Senate in 2000, she tried to do something very strange: She tried to campaign by listening. It was called her “listening tour,” and the press did not like it. “Mrs. Clinton brings to her public appearances a great deal of poise and seriousness of purpose which, more than anything she actually says, is what the events tend to be about,” reported the New Yorker, in a piece representative of much of the coverage I found from that time. “This was the singular insight of the First Lady’s unprecedented ‘listening tour,’ during which she tried to elevate nodding into a kind of political philosophy.”

"The frustration pulses through the piece. What the hell is a listening tour, anyway? Is it just an elaborate distraction so the candidate doesn’t have to talk? Is it just one more way a secretive politician who combines radical views with a crippling fear of controversy can hide her true beliefs?"

“Many of your colleagues in the press would call me and say, ‘This whole listening thing is a joke. She’s surrounded by the Secret Service. How will anyone get close to her?’” says Melanne Verveer, who served as chief of staff to Hillary Clinton in the White House. “What they missed was she was actually listening! By the time she finished those listening sessions around New York, she really knew more about New York, about the issues there, about what was on people’s minds.”
Klein himself, admits that he was always skeptical of the idea of a listening tour. "

"Clinton began her 2016 campaign with a listening tour, as well, and it is worth considering the possibility that these tours are not simply bullshit. This is, to be honest, a possibility I had not really considered until speaking with past and present Clinton aides who have been forced to take their boss’s process seriously."

"Klein's own treatment over the years shows he thought it was bullshit. But as he says here, this is because in recent years-particularly in the post McGovern reforms-speechifying has taken on even more importance added to the fact that such speechifying is more of a typical male trait."

In other words she's a great politician if you grade her in the right way.

Last night about 200 Dead Enders walked out of the convention. We can' miss you until you're gone.

But one trouble with the Bernie or Busters is they believe that relentless impatience gets you anywhere. Being all about 'now' and nothing else. But change is hard and many say it's boring.


  1. Mike great observation about impatience. Well, they're college students... some college students are like that.

    O/T: I notice Erickson has reused Bill Maher's joke:

    At least John McCain was a war hero and Mitt Romney is a decent, moral man. Trump is none of those things. People say he must be great because he raised awesome kids. Well, I’d probably vote for the Trump kids’ nanny for President, but not their dad.

    1. Actually that was Dan Savage's joke when he was a guest on Bill Maher.

  2. The idea that you should vote for Trump based on his kids is a classic case of giving Trump a tremendous curve.

    All you have to do is like his kids?

    Imagine if all Hillary said was 'Well look at Chelsea?'

    I do think that's the downside of a lot of kids when they get in politics. They don't have that historical perspective that gets Rome wasn't built in a day

    You don't give a couple of speeches and then the seas part.

    1. Trump is L. Ron Hubbard but without the literacy or attention span.