Amidst all the discussion of the new book Shattered, describing the failed Hillary Clinton campaign, Rolling Stone author Matt Taibbi has written an article emphasizing Hillary’s failure to even know why she was running, and the inability of her campaign to convey any reason to the public:

“…a root problem that confounded everyone on the campaign and outside it,” they wrote…”[was that] Hillary had been running for president for almost a decade and still didn’t really have a rationale.”

Allen and Parnes here quoted a Clinton aide who jokingly summed up Clinton’s real motivation:

“I would have had a reason for running,” one of her top aides said, “or I wouldn’t have run.”…

Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?

And yet, were most people really puzzled as to why Clinton was running? No one I knew, Hillary supporters or not (and I knew plenty of both), seemed the least bit puzzled by the question. The answer was one, some, or all of the following, depending on the point of view of the observer:

—personal ambition
—to become the first woman president
—for Obama supporters, continuing the good parts of the Obama administration
—for certain others, being a bit more hawkish than Obama on foreign policy
—to defeat Donald Trump
—to appoint liberal SCOTUS justices
—because there was nobody else in the Democratic Party ready or able to run, except the far leftist Sanders

Those really aren’t such difficult to intuit or hard to understand reasons. Nor are most of them especially unique: for example, everyone knows that most candidates have a lot of personal ambition as motivator. Most run either for or against the policies of the previous president, and most try to present a contrast to their opponents.

And in fact, those reasons might have been more than enough without explaining further, had there not been other problems—big ones—with Hillary and her campaign. But Taibbi connects Hillary’s messaging/motivation problem to a messaging/motivation problem of the Democratic Party as a whole, particularly the Washington, DC contingent:

What Allen and Parnes captured in Shattered was a far more revealing portrait of the Democratic Party intelligentsia than, say, the WikiLeaks dumps. And while the book is profoundly unflattering to Hillary Clinton, the problem it describes really has nothing to do with Secretary Clinton.

The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people outside the Beltway…

Shattered is what happens when political parties become too disconnected from their voters. Even if you think the election was stolen, any Democrat who reads this book will come away believing he or she belongs to a party stuck in a profound identity crisis. Trump or no Trump, the Democrats need therapy – and soon.

During the Obama administration, everything was blamed on a messaging problem, an inability to communicate, an inability to describe various things properly to voters (for example, Obamacare). The administration blamed miscommunication, and the media blamed miscommunication. Neither ever said that it wasn’t communication skills that were lacking, it was the message itself—and far more than the message, the administration’s actions and their consequences in the real world.

I happen to think that propaganda and messaging matter, but that they don’t matter nearly as much as results do. I happen to think that the majority of people can’t be fooled most of the time (and certainly not all of the time), and that after a short grace period you’d better deliver more than a pretty message if you want to reach them.

One of Trump’s great skills during the campaign was the ability to speak directly—and apparently extemporaneously—to the people. It’s one of the things that made him a populist. But what helped his election most was probably the idea that he would do things very, very differently. And what will make or break his presidency is what he delivers or fails to deliver. So far he’s hit the ground running.

It would be far more threatening for Democrats to seriously contemplate not their messaging problems, but what they have actually failed to deliver, and why. Hint, hint: that failure isn’t just a deficient message or slogan.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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