By Alec Wheeler
With a 60+ point lead on the next contender, Hillary Clinton is looking more and more likely to be the Democrat’s presidential nominee in 2016. In fact, the last contender who looked this assured of being nominated was Al Gore back in 2000.
Now, if she wants to ensure that she becomes President Clinton in 2016, here are five things she can learn from Gore’s failure to make her own run successful.
1- Campaign with your predecessor
Due to the Lewinsky scandal, Gore chose to distance himself from President Clinton to appear more distinct. Fair enough, except that Bill Clinton was hugely popular during his later years. A few campaign stops in either Tennessee or Arkansas (Gore/Clinton’s home states) might have swung those states in Gore’s advantage, making Florida’s 25 electoral votes less vital. Obama may not be popular with all Americans, but he still does have character, charisma and popularity amongst the Democrat base. Clinton will need that base and his votes in many of the swing states if she wants to succeed.
2- Relax; be personal
Clinton is an inspiring and passionate woman who can get a crowd working when she speaks her mind. However, nothing makes you sound blander than when you just deliver your points for the sake of it. You appear wooden and distance and it’ll give your opponent an opportunity to be the friendly, down to earth guy who you’d like to have a beer with. After all, whom would you rather know, a warm smile or an emotionless grin? Whenever Gore tried to play it loose, he just looked awkward, safe and uncomfortable, even though he could get a crowd going, as he did years later when lecturing on global warming. Clinton needs to tap that magic that made Obama, Bush and her husband successes on a personal level.
3- Choose your running mate carefully
The VP running mate is never more important than during an election. Obama’s selection of Biden was brilliant as he was able to use the fact that both were against the Iraq War to their advantage. Biden later proved his worth by proving to be an effective debater against his opponents. Had Clinton been the nominee, as was assumed, the ticket would’ve been thrown off balance due to Clinton’s pro-Iraq War Senate vote. When Clinton chooses her running mate, it should be someone that has a similar record or stance on issues, as well as being distinct and an addition, rather than a duplication. In Gore’s case, Joe Lieberman brought some distinction to the ticket, but due to their dissimilar stances and lack of personal relationship, it was seen for what it was, a move to curry up more votes. Gore didn’t need to curry the votes and neither should Clinton.
4- Make your campaign points distinct from your opponent
Nothing is worse than having two candidates that have the same platform and stances but are members of different parties. It makes elections seem pointless at times and in 2000 Gore, try as he might, could not stop agreeing or making the same points as Bush, be it on religion, the economy, trade or the environment. It doesn’t matter if your opponent doesn’t really mean what they say, (as Bush proved after eight years), during a campaign, all eyes are on you. If you both have the same positions, it becomes a popularity contest, something that Gore couldn’t hope to win against Bush. Clinton already has many points to build a campaign on and she should use as many as she needs in order to stay distinct, fresh and progressive. As long she does that, she won’t have to worry about being pushed into a popularity contest. (Something I imagine the Republicans won’t push for, as a popularity contest against her will likely produce odds not in their favour).
5- Don’t stop fighting until you cross the finish line
Just because she’s assured of the nomination though doesn’t mean she shouldn’t fight for it. Nobody likes people who think they can just walk in and assume the job with little or no effort. Gore and Clinton had/have been working their entire careers to get the nomination, fighting their way through the backroom and primaries against challengers and peers throughout the years, but the fighting doesn’t stop once you have the nomination; you still have to prove to the general public that you want the job. Gore never really conveyed that well onto himself in public; he’d just stand there, give speeches and sort of leave, no energy, no fireworks. Clinton has worked in a number of positions already in her career and has waited over ten years for this moment but she should remember on the campaign to focus on the here and now, not what colour outfit she’ll wear at her inauguration.
BONUS TIP: Don’t upset Rage Against the Machine
Back in the eighties, Tipper Gore, Al’s then wife, created the (mostly useless) Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) which criticized profane language in music and promoted Parental Advisory stickers. Combined with Gore’s shift to the centre, you can bet that the left-wing Rage Against the Machine wasn’t going to do any favours for his campaign. Using their position as artists, they likely influenced a majority of those between 18-24 to not vote at all with, perhaps the real tipping point in 2000, the ‘Testify’ music video. Even if Clinton does everything above, she could still lose if she loses the youth vote, a crucial vote for any candidate, particularly Democrat, since Nixon in ‘72. So for the sake of everyone Clinton, please don’t upset RATM; America isn’t in the position to halt the progress they’ve made because they believe that the new boss is the same as the old boss.
Featured image used Creative Commons and can be located here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nrbelex/2232632457/