In a general election campaign, it’s smart politics for any candidate to try and court disaffected voters who belong to the opposition party.
In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan had success in attracting what became known as “Reagan Democrats” (white, blue-collar Democrats who’d grown frustrated with Carter’s economic failings).
Donald Trump, in recent weeks, has been fanning the flames of angry Bernie Sanders supporters, who feel the DNC has been tipping the scales in Hillary Clinton’s favor. Trump, of course, is hoping that these voters will move over to his camp out of spite for Clinton’s imminent nomination.
With Trump’s “unfavorable” poll numbers as high as they are, Clinton would be a fool not to follow the same examples. Poaching disenfranchised Republicans, who are disgusted with their party’s choice of nominee, makes perfect sense. There are policy areas, after all, in which Clinton is actually more conservative than Trump. One could even make a case that she’s even more honest (though they’ve both set the bar astoundingly low).
If Clinton were smart, she’d market those differences directly to Republicans, while continuing to stoke concerns over Trump’s temperament.
Unfortunately for her, her political team doesn’t seem to understand the anti-Trump (or #NeverTrump) sentiment in this country. If they did, they wouldn’t have started a new campaign called Republicans Against Trump.
As The Politico reported yesterday, the new website (created by Hillary’s campaign) calls on Republican voters, who feel rejected by their party, to take a pledge against the presumptive GOP nominee. Their payoff for signing the pledge? A Hillary bumper sticker featuring the slogan.
It’s insulting, tone deaf, and even counter-productive.
#NeverTrump is an organic, conscience-driven stance held by traditionally Republican voters who are genuinely concerned with the idea of another reflexively liberal, grossly ill-prepared, chronically dishonest individual leading the country. These people’s unease isn’t a trophy to be held up and commercialized by someone who exemplifies those same characteristics—unless that person wants these anti-Trump people to start reconsidering their position on the man whose candidacy they abhor.
As conservative commentator, (and firm NeverTrumper) Guy Benson, said on Twitter last night, “I’d vote for Trump before I’d put a Hillary campaign bumper sticker on my car.”
If Clinton is truly interested in winning over some of these people, she shouldn’t be trying to co-opt the #NeverTrump crowd for her own use. Instead, she should be trying to convince these individuals that she respects their decision to stand on principle. She should be explaining how she can better address some of their concerns than Trump can. She should be presenting herself as less than ideal alternative, but a begrudgingly acceptable candidate.
Empathy and the promise of a better path is the correct method—not pretentiousness and the flashing of Republican bling.
Still, even if Clinton hits all the right notes with this discontented bunch, the overwhelming majority of #NeverTrump people will not pinch their noses and vote for her. They understandably don’t trust or admire her, and will go with a third-party or write-in candidate instead.
However, some of them will be swayed if they determine Clinton to be the lesser of the two evils that the major political parties have given us to choose from this year. It will only work, though, if they don’t believe they’re being used as pawns, which is exactly what Republicans Against Trump is all about.
A lot of voters who value personal integrity, and believe in small government, individual freedom, and a hawkish foreign policy, feel totally unrepresented in this election. Yet, neither of the parties’ presumptive nominees (despite their claims), have shown any serious interest in even throwing them a bone.
So why not just stop pretending?