Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination.
It’s a historic event, no doubt. She is the first woman to run for the White House since the birth of American democracy.
She is not, however, the first woman to run for a presidency, of course. In the Americas, Michelle Bachelet is the president of Chile and Dilma Rousseff is the president of Brazil. Until not long ago, Argentina’s president was a woman, too (Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner). Ireland has had two female presidents and there have been many other powerful female heads of government. Who could forget Margaret Thatcher and Indira Gandhi?
Recently, Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s main rival in the Democratic primaries, accused the Clinton Foundation of having received millions in foreign funds, echoing Trump’s “crooked Hillary” refrain. Sanders has also accused the primaries of being rigged, given that the all-important super-delegates are part of the establishment.
Christina Aguilera and Stevie Wonder will sing in Clinton’s honor, while movie megastars like Robert De Niro and George Clooney have already bought tickets for the Hillary Express.
Still, not all the champagne liberals are biting. Susan Sarandon, a die-hard Bernie Sanders supporter, said she’d sooner vote for Trump than Hillary Clinton.
Indeed, as the Hollywood parade of entertainment and media sycophants begins, Sanders is not giving up—yet. Many share his reluctance, because, to put it rather crudely, too many people don’t like her.
Being a woman, of course, doesn’t guarantee her the leadership. But Hillary Clinton’s nomination is significant, whether or not you plan to vote for her. The Democrats will begin rallying around her as their formally chosen leader. This could make her rival Donald Trump’s race to the White House a little tougher.
President Barack Obama has asked Bernie Sanders to serve his Party and step aside to consolidate Hillary Clinton’s nomination. Like Tracy Flick, brilliantly played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Election, Hillary Clinton has virtually engineered her life to reach this moment. By golly, some second-tier senator from Vermont isn’t going to rain on her parade.
Still, the delegates have spoken. After the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands primary, Hillary Clinton has passed the threshold she needed to hold an absolute majority—the 2,383 delegates she needed to make the July Democratic convention in Philadelphia her coronation. But, not unlike the hapless Mr. McAllister, who does everything to block Tracy Flick from reaching her goal, Bernie Sanders still wants to play pebble to Hillary’s shoe. His feelings toward Clinton are as bitter, if not more, than they are against Donald Trump.
Indeed, to make sure that she will be the one with the finger on the button in 2017, Hillary Clinton needs a personality makeover. At least, she needs to show, if she has one, a more likeable and vulnerable side. Both in her failed 2007 presidential bid and in the present, more successful one, Hillary Clinton has shown all the charm of a German Panzer tank, heading toward an excursion across the border in Poland.
President Obama can talk to Bernie Sanders all he wants. Even if he budges, as he eventually will, many of his supporters will remain reluctant to back Hillary Clinton. Obama wants to stich up the seams of the Democratic Party and recover the votes of the millions of people who have backed Sanders during the primaries.
Hillary Clinton will need all of them to beat Trump in November. Obama has a personal stake in this. Trump slandered him in 2012, accusing him of being ineligible to be president, citing allegations he was born in Kenya. Obama cares about history and his legacy. If Trump were to win, as some polls have suggested, it would reflect badly on his overall presidency in the annals of the Democratic Party.
Hillary cannot simply rely on Obama. She has to do her part. She might do worse than to start communicating more effectively, taking a few tips from Bill “I feel your pain” Clinton, Hillary’s husband and prospective first-ever “First Gentleman.” Hillary Clinton must figuratively let her hair down (as difficult as that might be, given she wears it short) and offer a glimpse of her vulnerability.
She has the nerdy, wonky Tracy Flick side down pat already. Now it’s time to show Americans what she likes to do in her free time. Clinton just became a grandmother to Charlotte; Americans would love to see a tender moment between her, Bill, and the new baby.
She’s gotten the endorsement of famous Hollywood people, but she needs more Saturday Night Live appearances, mocking herself.
Donald Trump, like Regan before him, enjoys the support of many unemployed and poor Americans, many of whom haven’t even earned a high school diploma. They have lost their jobs and they see globalization as a threat.
Hillary Clinton’s praise and support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement or the one with Europe aren’t winning her any supporters in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. Meanwhile, Trump is speaking about bringing jobs back to those here in the United States. He wants to stop migrants from taking American jobs. This is a huge segment of the population.
Hillary Clinton must borrow a few populist pages from Donald Trump and from many like-minded European politicians. Populists everywhere are scoring points against those “geeky” career politicians who still believe policy and the current economic governance system will win votes.
Hillary Clinton must also show a more human side because as U.S. secretary of state, she showed off too many of her warmongering talents, bringing death and destabilization to Libya, instigating Ukraine, and misinterpreting Syria. To no surprise, Obama replaced her with a more diplomatic John Kerry. But imagine what she would do as president!
Ultimately, as David Brooks (who should be a prototypical Clinton supporter) said in the New York Times, Hillary’s problem is her “workaholic” image. She is a workaholic with no privacy and, consequently, without a human hand.
We know that President Obama likes to play golf or basketball, and that he goes out of his way to greet people around the world in their language. He did so in Indonesia, winning many smiles. We also know what Trump likes to do in his spare time. Many populists aren’t afraid of revealing such things—Italy’s Berlusconi has shown that to great effect. When people talk about Clinton, it’s always only in professional terms. She gives off an image of being calculating and devious. Apparently, we do not trust the candidates who do not share with us their private spaces.
Hillary’s reluctance to share her private life (a.k.a. her human side) is her weakness. This is especially the case in the U.S., where a politician’s personality is essential. After all, such “luminaries” as George W. Bush won people’s votes because they first won people’s hearts.
People want a president with whom they can share a moment—or perhaps a beer. To them, Hillary Clinton appears to be a prohibitionist or, at best, a chardonnay drinker. That’s not going to get her the keys to the White House.