As a veteran political strategist I get to see the Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton presidential campaigns play out from a different vantage point than the ordinary voter or layman. And over the past three weeks I've seen the transformation of one candidate and the scared bombast of the other. Let me start by saying that Hillary Clinton deserves the Democratic Party's standard-bearer in the November presidential elections. She has run a really organized and focused campaign. Weeks earlier the Republican Party all but settled on their candidate in the person of Donald J. Trump.
But some challenges still remain for BOTH campaigns. For the Hillary Clinton campaign there is the issue of Senator Bernie Sanders and how she handles him given the fact that she has not been able to win over the "Obama Coalition" that she desperately needs to win in November. And both Hillary and Bernie have to get past the ego trips and stand offishness and come together to unite the party. Ultimately he has to get behind the Democratic nominee. He's won 23 of the caucuses and primaries. He's electrified younger voters in a way that nobody has seen in a very long time. Dismissing him or not treating him with respect will be a major mistake -- angry, disillusioned Sanders supporters may just stay home. I'm sure that Hillary knows all of this and back channels are now open and working.
He also has 46% of the delegates. That said, I believe that it is high time that people who like, hate or dislike Hillary Clinton, understand that that by becoming the Democratic Party's nominee she's the first women to do so in 240 years. She stands on the shoulders of Shirley Chisholm and others whose campaigns were killed off by the good "ole boys" -- mainly white -- club in both parties. Still, despite this historic achievement Hillary Clinton does evoke strong feelings of love and hate from many people in this nation.
Many are sometimes miffed at her military hawkishness that is more in line with Republican positions in Congress. Others have bought into the false media narrative that has not been kind to her. Still others have tried to lump her record in with her husband and former president, Bill Clinton, and conflate his flaws unfairly passing them on to her in a weird phenomenon of guilt by association or osmosis, depending on where you sit.
Today the paradox of her victory is that she's done something in American politics and history that no woman has come even close to doing while at the same time, especially from Republican quarters, she's considered flawed, inept and a generally crooked candidate. I think that it is time that, hate her or love her, we acknowledge that this is one truly remarkable woman. In 2008 most Americans thought that her path to the White House would be easy peasy. That was not the case and the media pundits dismissed her then as weak and scripted just running because she wanted to break the glass ceiling as the first woman to become president of the United States.
And drunk on their own narratives the elites in Washington did not listen to her. Bowed and beaten by then Senator Barack Obama she vowed that the next time would be different. So she licked her wounds but kept her political machine in place as she boosted her formidable resume as the United States Secretary of State while mending fences with President Barack Obama. She also jumped into this presidential race after carefully considering her options and looking at and analyzing the Republican Party field.
The fact is that Hillary could have beaten any of them and she knew it. Meanwhile, the GOP went into attack mode in the early stages of the election with its Benghazi witch hunt and when that did not stick exaggerated the private server and email issue into idiotic overdrive. Underestimating her has been a cardinal weakness of the Republican Party that still see her as a wonkish woman who cannot compete with the "boys on the Hill." Fact is that she shrewdly used the Benghazi hearings as a public forum to show her toughness and how she could hold her own against the almost all-male congressional inquisition, thus appealing to a major voting block in the United States - women. This was her wooing a buffer to white males as a group that has never supported her in large numbers.
For me, I get the nagging feeling that Hillary Clinton's detractors, especially those who would malign her on a purely partisan level, have not yet grasped nor understood the full scale of her achievements. Perhaps, people are just now starting to see her as not just a "former first lady " but a formidable politician in her own right. And in the aftermath of her California win that effectively clinches her party's nomination, people are still too shell-shocked to appreciate the fact that this particular glass ceiling took a lot of effort to f**king break. Before Hillary Clinton, no one even came close.
So even if you like Clinton or hate her -- and plenty of Americans hate her -- it's time to admit that the reason Clinton was the one to break it is because she is actually really very, very good at politics that has always been seen as "a man's game." Yes, Hillary Clinton does have her flaws and that's why Bernie Sanders -- and she's admitted that -- was so crucial to her campaign. He had the effect of making her a truly great candidate while keeping in the pubic eyes the key issues of the day. She did start by initially dismissing him and calling him a "one issue" candidate. That backfired and she quickly regained her footing and adopted many of his campaign issues and repackaging them as her own in a way that reminded people of her husband and his triangulation strategy when dealing with the Republican Congress when he was in office.
Donald Trump, perhaps the Republican candidate with the most amount of political and other baggage in history, secured his party's nomination by insulting, name-calling, using incoherent grandiose statements and alienating segments of the American public. Fundraising is going to be a major challenge for him as well as a national "ground game" that could compete with the Clinton Machine. Winging it and insulting people worked for him in the Republican Primary but the general election is a horse of a different color. And while he and his party are still pretty confused as to how exactly did Hillary Clinton get to where she is without any particular soaring oratory or animal charisma that is typical of national male politicians, you underestimate her at your peril.
So now Trump now faces an experienced, well-organized, and coordinated Clinton Machine that is really a political juggernaut. She comes at him with an intact Black voting base and an immigrant base that's supporting her in the 80 percentile. When Bernie Sanders joins the Clinton Machine - and he will -, Donald Trump will face that energy-laden segment of the Obama Coalition that he's all but written off.
If you doubt the level of organization of the Clinton Campaign look no further than her recent "foreign policy" speech that took a sledge hammer to Trump and then finished the job with a sharp scalpel. Trump, out of his league and caught with his pants down, reacted by name calling and ridiculous accusations in a disjointed, incoherent harangue with Hitler's favorite military music as the backdrop. Although the timing of the speech -- just before the California primary -- was well known, the Trump Campaign did not have a "message response team" in place to combat it and was not capable of reacting quickly to minimize the ensuing political bloodletting.
What is amazing about Hillary Clinton's achievement and political strategy is that she and her campaign know both her weaknesses and strengths. I do not think that she's a great campaigner and she does not give particularly great speeches. She does not inspire people like Barack Obama or her husband Bill do. Both are excellent orators and can bring you to tears with their soaring rhetoric. That's not Hillary Clinton. Here's how she put in her own words: "I am not a natural politician, in case you haven't noticed, like my husband or President Obama." This year the presidential campaign has been dominated by much shouting and angry outbursts, especially by "the boys." Donald Trump's supporters are now accustomed and used to his yelling, bit****g, and screeching. To them this is no problem. Bernie Sanders also yells, though not as incoherent as Trump. But nobody finds it odd or has a problem when "their man" speaks loudly, shouts or yells.
But just let Hillary Clinton raise her voice and she's described in the newspapers, especially those that lean Republican, her detractors in the corporate mainstream media, as shrill and loud. That in and of itself underscores the fact that American politics is still "a man's world" and that it is all right for men to "speak over" women in politics. We saw that in the Republican primary how Donald Trump treated Megan Kelly of Fox 5 and Carly Fiorina, a former Republican presidential candidate, who has largely disappeared from the Trump Campaign after he named her his running mate.
So Trump and Sanders can "speak loudly" but if Hillary does it she considered a b*tch with the connotation that her assertiveness is "abrasive, haughty and man-shaming." Therein lies the tight rope that she has to walk as a national politician. As her campaign unfolded many balked at a coronation in the Democratic Party and accused Hillary Clinton of using her husband's influence to lock up the endorsement of the so-called super delegates. BOTH Trump and Sanders railed against a system that they claimed was rigged.
She had to overcome these objections by proving that her dominance in the primary was the result of a well-oiled ground game and her ability to reach out and touch many people in America's diverse communities. Bernie Sanders came to this party as an inexperienced presidential first-time candidate while Hillary was an old hand at it. No one doubts that he's run a great race and that his achievement is important. But he and his team had to learn on the fly; she and her team knew what to do. And in politics campaigns are not lost because of bad candidates, though that's a contributing factor, but by poor campaign organization. In this Bernie Sanders's campaign was at a distinct disadvantage; he did not fully understand the system while she was up and running from jump street.