Clinton must not patronize Sanders voters

Hillary Clinton told Glenn Thrush last Friday: “There is a persistent, organized effort to misrepresent my record, and I don’t appreciate that, and I feel sorry for a lot of the young people who are fed this list of misrepresentations. … I know that Senator Sanders spends a lot of time attacking my husband, attacking President Obama. I rarely hear him say anything negative about George W. Bush, who I think wrecked our economy.’”

It is very strongly in Clinton’s interest to stop talking this way. Indeed, she should adopt almost exactly the opposite position. There is room to her left on the ideological spectrum. Sanders voters are in that space. Many of them happen to be young, but it’s their beliefs that line them up with the Sanders campaign. Clinton will need their votes in November. They will be weighing whether to vote for her–or stay home. She must communicate very clearly that she respects their positions, that they are the future of her party, that she has a different “theory of change” from theirs but is open to learning from them, and that the Democratic primary debate has been dignified, substantive, and valuable.

Instead, she is implies that they are naive and callow youth who would vote for her if they hadn’t been misled about her personal contributions by a cynical pol. It would be difficult to devise a message with more power to alienate a pivotal group of potential supporters.

About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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