What would be a successful Democratic convention for Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine ticket (photo credit hillaryclinton.com), what kind of message Clinton needs from the convention to boost his campaign? Read few comments.
Diana Carlin, Professor Emerita of Communication, Saint Louis University
A successful convention for Hillary Clinton will be one that is “error” free and allows everyone to stay on message. Bernie Sanders and his supporters need to show support for Hillary because she has heard his message and she needs to show that she has heard his message and that of his supporters and is incorporating their concerns into her plan for the country’s future… Her acceptance speech needs to do many things:
1. She needs to acknowledge Sanders and the contributions he made to the dialogue in the campaign and making her a better candidate.
2. She needs to challenge the Republican theme “Making America Great Again” and claim that America is great even though it is not perfect and that part of the country’s greatness is acknowledging our problems and challenges and coming together to resolve them. Then she needs to list all of the things that the US leads the world in. She needs to attack by being positive and let surrogates go after Trump
3. She needs to congratulate the Republicans on saying they are concerned about working mothers, children, people of all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientation but the past record of the Republican party doesn’t suggest the political will is there to back their candidate’s statements and then she needs to point a few examples of Democrat-led initiatives that got nowhere because of the Republican Congress.
4. She needs to acknowledge that there is anger in the country among a portion of the electorate and that the anger is what fueled an unusual election year. She has heard those messages and she needs to address the issues of safety, US position in the world, immigration, jobs, the racial divide in ways that are not based on fear but are based on solid American values. She should relate to past periods of history that were also rife with conflict and division and the type of leadership that got us through it. And she needs to emphasize the qualities she shares with those leaders.
5. Her message needs to address the dystopian tenor of the Trump acceptance speech–are there problems, yes. But how far have we come in the past 8 years? She needs to take a page from Harry Truman’s 1948 campaign and blame it on the “do-nothing” Congress. I think she needs to go so far as to quote Republican leaders on election night in 2008 who declared that they would make Obama a one-term president and would not give him legislative victories and call for everyone in the room to work for candidates for Congress to support her and the interests of the American people. This would allow her to circle back to the anger that is due in part to a broken Washington.
6. She needs to accept the insider label and explain why only an insider can figure out how to make it work and recount examples of her working with Republican colleagues during a George W. Bush administration for the good of the country.
7. She needs to be her own woman. She has to walk a fine line between recalling accomplishments as First Lady or her husband’s accomplishments and making it clear that she will be the president and that it won’t be a co-presidency. How she refers to her husband and his successes has to be carefully nuanced.
8. She should accept the fact that neither she nor her opponent has high favorability ratings and that while everyone thinks they know her, what Ivanka Trump said about her father–that he is one of the best-known men no one really knows–in some ways applies to her. She has to define her character and not let it be defined for her. She needs to go so far as to say she has learned from past mistakes. All of the research on politicians who failed in light of controversy shows that those who did not know how to apologize in a constructive way failed. Richard Nixon in 1952 with his Checkers speech was an example of how to admit problems in a constructive way versus the Nixon of Watergate or the Bill Clinton of Monicagate.
9. She needs to remind everyone of what the Obama administration has accomplished and what role she played.
10. She needs some specifics. While this isn’t a State of the Union address, it is one given Trump’s lack of specifics that needs some concrete ideaS.
11. She needs to project a lighter side, even some humor and needs to deliver the speech in a modulated manner that builds and has a variety of tone.
12. And the speech needs to be under an hour–even with the applause.
Obviously she has a lot to do and what she says in the speech is what she has to keep saying until November.
Allan Louden, Professor of Communication, Wake Forest University
The unfamiliar political season, including the soon to be notorious GOP Cleveland Convention, opens nearly unlimited options in fashioning Clinton’s response. Almost certainly the tour-de-force of Trumps Convention “screech” will dominate headlines and media talk up to the moment of Hillary taking the stage.
Perhaps too many directions are possible, with advice for Hillary’s DNC Convention coming from every possible venue. She will be instructed to be as strong as Trump, but not evoking the “B” word, to be reasoned but with enough fire to counter his impulse, to be wonkish but not in a way to loose “real voters,” to Feel the Burn yet ground in the realities of governing. Whew…
The grave danger is the speech will try to be all things to all people, hyper-political in form and tone.
There is a pathway for Hillary that just might work… How about just going for being REAL, for saying what you really think (with clever eloquence, of course), for eviscerating Trump with humor and ridicule.
It may be too much for candidates to actually trust that a majority of voters get it and are yearning for authentic assessment. Trust is established via a person, not just piling up political calculations. If Hillary would thread that needle this election could be a crush. The Trump speech creates fertile occasion.
Marty Linsky, Adjunct Lecturer, Harvard University, Co-founder, Cambridge Leadership Associates
This is Hillary Clinton’s election to lose, and she could do it. The convention is a challenge. She must simultaneously inspire Sanders’ supporters and reassure moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. That’s not an easy task since those groups have very different world views. She must defend the Obama Administration, while demonstrating some independence from it. She must reveal some vulnerability, while not seeming weak in the face of Trump’s stridency. And she must walk those razor edges without leaving the impression that everything she does and says is orchestrated and scripted for political purposes. The good news is that she and her team know all that. The not-so-good news is that she has not excelled under this kind of pressure.
Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas
I think that Clinton is going to offer a stark contrast to the vision of a Trump presidency–and the current state of America. She’ll need to be sure to reach out and “feel the pain” of those who are skeptical of the direction that the country is headed. But she can be a clear alternative to Trump by offering a more positive vision of the next four years.
I also think that, if the Democratic convention is run even a tad better than the Republican event, the Clinton campaign will enjoy a larger bump than Trump will receive…if he receives one at all. Clinton will, I am sure, be more specific than Trump was, and I think that is something that Americans are looking forward to.
In many ways, the election is Clinton’s to lose. An important first step to that eventuality is a strong, positive convention message, but one that empathizes with those groups in the nation who are, indeed, hurting.
Mark Rozell, Dean and Professor of Public Policy, George Mason University
A well-managed convention where all the speakers actually support the nominee would itself be quite a positive contrast to the Trump convention.
A big advantage for her is projecting stability and sensible leadership. The convention needs to reinforce this obvious contrast to the GOP convention. A well-managed convention for many signals the ability to manage a large enterprise. It may be mostly symbolism but a convention for some voters is their window into how a candidate and a campaign operate.
Brian Frederick, Department Chair, Political Science, Bridgewater State University
Hillary Clinton needs to unify the party and convince supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders that she is genuinely committed to the progressive platform changes that were adopted.
She also needs to convince independent voters she is honest. That will be more difficult to do because there are still so many unanswered questions about her state department email set up that she can’t answer in a speech. She also needs to explain how her policies will lead income and wage growth which has lagged over the last decade. The economy is leading issue on the minds of voters.