Hillary’s personal attack on Bernie vividly illustrates “The Great Risk” of 2020.

There is an extremely important lesson in Secretary Clinton’s recent attack on Senator Sanders that, if learned, will massively help the party’s chances in 2020.

The people in the Democratic party who hold the worldview embodied in Bernie Sanders support him specifically because he champions a perspective they feel to be very important.  They are passionate about that perspective and this comes through in their support of Bernie.

If one just attacks him, vilifies him, one is ignoring the underlying issues this constituency feels passionate about.  From their perspective one is saying, “I’m not going to engage with you on the issues you feel so passionate about; I am just going to attack and tear down your leader.”  How empathetic does that make one appear to their concerns?  Not only does one not engage with them, one wants to decapitate the person they have encharged with representing them.  It’s a strategy aimed not at genuine representation of the people’s interests, but instead at simple Machiavellian political maneuvering.

And even if one succeeds at “decapitating,” or eliminating the leader, regardless of how objectionable he may or may not be, he is just one person.  There are still tens of millions of others to deal with.  And now they are pissed off.

How likely is this to alienate Bernie supporters, and stiffen their resolve?  Make them likely to dig in their heels even deeper, even irrationally, in support of him?  

But that’s not the goal, is it?

The reason this is such an important lesson is that Clinton has managed now to make the effects of this tactic personal for a big constituency within the Democratic party.  Now they are on the receiving end and they understand.

And this is at a critical juncture.  Because there is another constituency in America, toward the opposite pole, who feels the same.  Exact.  Way.

The Great Risk of 2020

To wit: The people in the Republican party who hold the worldview embodied in Donald Trump support him specifically because he champions a perspective they feel to be very important.  They are passionate about that perspective and this comes through in their support of Trump.

And if people wonder why they seem to dig in their supportive heels, the more Trump is under attack . . .

Now you know.

There is an alternative approach that sidesteps making the leader into a rallying-point lightning rod.  An approach that targets the genuine issues of his supporters, instead dismissing them all in a sole focus on him. An approach that undermines his support by making the conversation actually about what his supporters want — their needs acknowledged and addressed.

Trump wants to be the lightning rod.  Is it wise to indulge him?


(Side note: Yes, one would be accurate to point out that Hillary has engaged on the issues of import to Sanders’ supporters, and did so even in the same interview in which she attacked Bernie.  But if the headlines are all about the attack on the leader, if the subsequent national discussion is nearly entirely about the decapitation instead of the empathy, then those engagement efforts are moot.  She chose to attack the leader, and in a very demeaning way.  This is the result.)

One Comments

    Anne Tumlinson

    Posted at Reply

    Is it boring to say here that I completely agree with Hank again? Democrats have been railing against Trump (rightfully so) for the entirety of his campaign and presidency. What has that gotten us? Nothing. Just more digging in. Time to try a different approach. I recommend Paul Krugman’s article (and book) with his wife about how terribly this country is wasting its human resources. So why not talk to these humans about what their pain points are and see if we can address some of them. This is marketing 101. And at the same time that we are investing in them, maybe we can maintain economic growth by making the case to Wall Street that we are investing in the country’s resources — human and natural, rather than just creating an environment that is unfriendly to business, and making Wall Street the enemy. All of these sides need leadership and vision and to feel a part of that vision. If we can accomplish this, Trump is very beat-able.

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Divisive partisanship is preventing us from accomplishing “jack.”

Americans’ propensity to quickly leap to negative prejudgements of ideological opponents poisons our ability to interact with the teammates we need to advance our personal and national goals.

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