Friday, May 16, 2014

Nudging toward Washington

Is the Democratic nomination of Hillary Clinton for President a done deal?  To read the press reports these days, you would think it is.  Focus now is on who Hillary would pick for Veep.  Many suggest Elizabeth Warren, although the energetic young San Antonio mayor Julian Castro has also been mentioned, as has senator-elect Cory Booker.  But, what is to stop any of these persons from running for President her or himself?

Back in 2006, Hillary was well ahead of her potential challengers for the 2008 nomination.  Obama had only recently appeared on the radar screen.  Edwards, Gore and Kerry were the more likely challengers.  This year, she enjoys a much bigger, some would say insurmountable, lead over her potential challengers, but the primaries are still a year and a half away.

Her stint as Secretary of State seems to have helped her considerably.  It boosted her foreign policy credentials tenfold, even if she made a number of gaffes while serving the Obama administration.  When it came to negotiating with Russia, Obama tended to do so directly.  I suppose he wanted to use his "nudge" approach, as Hillary is a noted Cold Warrrior, who has spoken out against Russia any number of times.  Most likely, this will add to her appeal given Russia's recent actions in Ukraine, but I think Obama had the right approach.  It's just that Putin is proving harder to "nudge" than was Medvedev.

This Nudge Theory was put forward in a book in 2008 that showed how "nudging" more often yields the results you want than do more forceful approaches, such as "bullying."  People are more likely to respond to little nudges than they are being pushed around, largely because they don't feel like they are being coerced into making a decision.  So, how are Democrats going to respond to Hillary being presented as the obvious nominee?

So far so good, it seems, largely because Hillary has chosen to keep a low profile.  After stepping down as Secretary of State, she has been relatively quiet, not forcing herself on anyone.  It seems a little bit of this "Nudge Theory" has rubbed off on her, and she is content to have the media nudge her along, rather than show any interest in the nomination herself.

The media has not been very subtle about it, which may hurt her later.  Democrats currently feel delighted by the prospect, largely because Republicans appear so distraught by it.  Many feel the Benghazi House select committee is nothing more than an attempt to derail her presidential aspirations by dragging her through the proverbial mud one more time.

More amusing was Karl Rove's recent attempt to psychoanalyze Hillary, which appears to have blown up in his face.   Jon Stewart hilariously dubbed it "Brainghazi."  Catch it at the 4-minute mark of the attached video.  Rove seems to think Hillary is suffering from mental illness brought on by a fall she took late in 2012.  He blew up many of the particulars, like the amount of time she spent in a hospital, and commented on her glasses, which in his addled mind was a tell tale sign of some hidden dementia.  Stewart had a field day with Dr. StrangeRove, who seems to think Hillary's age and health is an issue.

I don't recall him being similarly dismissive of John McCain, who was 71 and not looking so spry in 2008.  But, I guess since the "lamestream" media raised the issue of age then, Rove feels compelled to do so now in what was intended to be a "whisper campaign," but went viral on the Internet.

It's kind of hard to "nudge" in the current media age.  Twiitter has changed the dynamics considerably.  Just ask Donald Sterling, who was trying to "nudge" his girlfriend not to sit with black guys (especially Magic Johnson) at Clippers games.  Now, Sterling is banned from all NBA games.

One wishes this would be the case with Karl Rove, but most likely Fox News will let him keep his seat, as they did after his infamous Ohio meltdown on Election Night 2012 when he insisted there were still plenty of Republican votes out there to turn the state in the Romney column.  As it turned out, Obama didn't even need Ohio, as he won by 126 electoral votes.

Rove had similarly been off base in 2008, when his electoral maps had Hillary as a stronger Democratic nominee than Obama against McCain.   The conservative media had tried to "nudge" Republicans to cross over and vote for Hillary in the open primary in Ohio, which Hillary won by 10 per cent.  There were cases of this in other states as well.  Maybe it was just an attempt to throw off Obama's momentum, but there were conservative talking heads who considered Hillary a better candidate than John McCain, and said they would vote for her if she was the nominee.

All this is actually good for Hillary, because it takes attention away from what was her lackluster record in the Senate and her relatively inconsequential stint as Secretary of State.  She is largely riding on "brand" appeal at the moment, being the most recognizable Democrat among potential nominees.  We will probably have to wait until 2015 to see if any other Democrat is willing to challenge her.  At the moment, she is running like an incumbent President for the White House.

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