How Clinton’s Own Negative Ads and No Focused Positive Message Sunk the Clinton Campaign

Posted on November 10, 2016

We kept hearing it every day, Michelle Obama’s refrain from her DNC Speech where she said, “When they go low, we go high.” Unfortunately for the country that refrain was never really true. When the history written about the election of 2016 it will be the salient fact that Hillary Clinton’s campaign spent an overwhelming percentage of their resources trying to define Trump’s character through negative ads.

The ads in and of themselves were not bad. If anything, they were highly effective… trained targeted and polled precisely. The campaign was clearly able to define Trump as unfit for the presidency. What the Clinton campaign should have known and anticipate were the coordinated efforts by the Trump campaign, the RNC, and various PACs to depress voter turnout among key democratic demographics. The only way Trump could eke out a victory was to depress the democratic vote and vastly raise the red vote out of rural America. Trump and co. can pat themselves on the back for mission accomplished. At the end of the day fewer Americans voted in any election since 2004 and 2000. Something like 45.6% of all registered voters sat it out. The question is, why. The Trump campaign’s operation was only part of keeping the turnout low. The other support came from the Clinton campaign itself.

Even if true, week after week of negative message caused a large part of the electorate to disengage. Hacking and FBI meddling magnified the negativity even further. However, at the end of the day, it was the hundreds of millions that were spent on anti-Trump ads that did in the Clinton campaign. Extra noise in a cacophonous and poisonous environment drove voters away. This left the hardened-core of each party to vote and those who were voting who basically didn’t give a damn about Trump’s character.

But why, in the end, didn’t Trump’s character matter to them? His clear focus on core issues kept them aboard no matter what.

The Clinton campaign learned absolutely no lessons from Bernie Sanders and his supporters. They had a platform and policies that were Progressive, but little else. A prime example was her VP choice. In the end, it was absolutely clear Kaine gave Clinton no boost at all. Hell, she even came close to losing his home state of Virginia. He served only as an empty vessel for whatever her campaign poured in. While not a bad human being, he added nothing to the ticket. She missed a huge opportunity in that choice to send a message to the party base about the core issues that she supports. There were plenty of popular progressive (hell, would even Sanders have said, no?) What her team never did was distill those issues such as income inequality, healthcare, equal rights, civil rights, and education into a clear focused message (not just pages and policyspeak). Her team did not understand the difference between policy on paper, or a website and a message. Check my website is not a message. Meanwhile Trump was busy projecting core message (not policy specifics), Clinton was attacking character almost exclusively and rarely even talked about policy, never delivering a forceful progressive agenda.

The Clinton campaign helped suppress the vote. Time to own it and learn the lesson. The message is absolutely and always as important as the messenger.

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