First of all, I’m glad you’re doing it. You’re young, energetic and smart, and seem to have a moral compass that can still find true north, so you probably won’t do very much harm to anybody. At first. I’m glad you’re running as a Democrat, because the wind is at your back this year. But I have to tell you — you, and your party, are blowing it. Hugely.
You’re doing all the right things that all the right people tell you to do. You’re spending six hours a day and more on the phone, begging strangers for money, answering their inevitable question: “Where do you stand on (fill in the special-interest blank)?” Then with the little time you have left, you’re spending the money on consultants: fundraising consultants, social-media consultants, data-analysis consultants, communication consultants, campaign-management consultants, consultant consultants. And after all the meetings you need to have with them, you rarely get a chance to go to a public event.
It feels wrong, doesn’t it? The reason it feels wrong is that it is wrong.
Those consultants you’re relying on either are, or were recommended to you by, the people who lost the most winnable campaign in the history of presidential elections. They were beaten by the worst candidate, running the worst campaign, in the history of presidential elections. Tell me, please, how is it they still have impeccable credentials?
They are telling you to do what the Hillary Campaign did — hew to the center line, or maybe a bit to the right, promise only to help some of the people some of the time, mind your donors, and above all be careful: comb and curry every single statement until it cannot possibly offend anyone, or help anyone, or make sense to anyone. Oh, and put your faith in the leading-edge application of Big Data, which will deliver your incomprehensible message with laser accuracy to the people least able to make sense out of it.
She lost. (Forget the Russians. What they did, despicable as it was, did not amount to a bag of hammers and sickles.) The significance of that election is not that Donald won, it is that Hillary lost it. And now you’re being told by everybody who is anybody to do exactly the same things in exactly the same way, in the hope that this time it will turn out differently.
What should you do? Start by taking another look at the 2015 fiasco. Who was the most exciting candidate for people capable of forming complete sentences and consecutive thoughts? Who proved for the first time in modern political history that you can run a major national campaign without either being rich, or paying any attention to the major, perennial campaign donors (his campaign did not even hire a fundraiser for the purpose)? Who drew crowds of unbelievable size, each bigger than the last, and who is today the most popular political person in America?
Of course you know who. And he not only showed you how to pay for your campaign without selling large chunks of your soul, he market-tested for you the perfect issue.
If you turn over your fundraising to the geeks who do email and social media, and from now on you say to every person you encounter the following:
I’m here today because I want every single person in this room to never again have to worry about how to find health insurance, how to pay for it, how to afford a doctor or dentist when you need one, how to pay for a hospital stay or the medications you need, to never again wonder whether you’re going to lose your home or your life’s savings because you get sick — I don’t want you to have to worry about any of that, ever again, as long as you live.
We can take that burden off your back, and we can do it soon. People are going to say we can’t afford it, and I want to ask them this; how is it every other civilized country on earth can afford it, but we can’t? You know who is just now finalizing the implementation of universal, single-payer health care insurance as a right for its people? Vietnam, that’s who.
Say that, and raise your money in 27-dollar increments. Reach out to the suffering millions in this country with passion, offering something that will tangibly, actually ease their burdens and their life. Don’t do it because the polls tell you it’s okay to do (actually, they do) or because the consultants tell you to do it (they won’t) or because the leadership of your party stands for it (they don’t). Do it because it’s right. Do it because you’re a leader. Do it because history rarely presents any candidate with a slam-dunk issue like this one.
Do it and you will win. Play it safe and you will not even be an asterisk in the political history of this sorry time.