It Wasn’t Hillary’s Fault

It was a sickness of campaign strategists in general:

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.

In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters’ need to understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.

…Reading your employees’ emails isn’t nearly the same as having an outsider leak them all over the world. Still, such a criticism would miss the point, which is that Hillary was looking in the wrong place for a reason for her 2008 loss. That she was convinced her staff was at fault makes sense, as Washington politicians tend to view everything through an insider lens.

Most don’t see elections as organic movements within populations of millions, but as dueling contests of “whip-smart” organizers who know how to get the cattle to vote the right way. If someone wins an election, the inevitable Beltway conclusion is that the winner had better puppeteers.

The other problem was this:

Stumped for months by how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how “Because it’s her turn” might fly as a public rallying cry.

This passage describes the mood inside the campaign early in the Iowa race (emphasis mine):

“There wasn’t a real clear sense of why she was in it. Minus that, people want to assign their own motivations – at the very best, a politician who thinks it’s her turn,” one campaign staffer said. “It was true and earnest, but also received well. We were talking to Democrats, who largely didn’t think she was evil.”

“Largely didn’t think she was evil” is a powerful endorsement.

This was what sunk Ted Kennedy’s campaign in 1980, when he couldn’t articulate in an interview why he wanted to be president. Of course, Roger Mudd was a real journalist (no, really, that was his name). Hillary didn’t make the mistake of setting up an interview with anyone who would ask her such a penetrating question. There’s an old saying that some people want to be something, while others want to do something. Reagan wanted to do things. And to be fair, so did Obama, even though they were mostly terrible things in his case. But the Bushes and the Clintons just wanted to be president.

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