On January 22, 2007, as Senator Clinton went viral with her announcement that she was, essentially, running for The White House, we noted that her first challenge was to shatter the prism of the right. We wrote,
[T]his simply is a fact of modern politics in America. For the past three decades, the right wing has employed a powerful strategy of “$ell and $mear.” They insist on being the gatekeepers to public opinion and have developed a powerful machine that tells us who to like – and who to hate.
… They $mear Democratic and Progressive heroes, reducing American success stories such as George McGovern, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis into humiliated historical footnotes. They destroy our leaders. They destroy those that might become our leaders. There is no Democratic or Progressive leader of any note of the last twenty years that has not been attacked.
Essentially, what we meant was:
Imagine if your worse enemies were the ones describing you and creating the world’s impression of you. And imagine they did that for close to fifteen years, how would people who hadn’t ever met you feel about you? Exactly.
There are far too many people who have never met Hillary who have a fully-formed impression of her, usually quite negative. Not defendably negative mind you, but more of a “I just don’t like her” kind of impression.
The prism of the right.
This is Senator Clinton’s primary challenge. Because since this strategy has been deployed, no one, not one single politician has been in the eye of the machine longer than Senator Clinton. For almost fifteen years, Americans have been bombarded with smears and negative commentary about her. Virtually every aspect of her life, personal and political, from her hairstyle to private decisions she made within her marriage, has been criticized.
That’s the reality that Senator Clinton, her supporters and her staff have had to deal with every single day and to their great credit, they didn’t either ignore it, as John Kerry’s campaign did in 2004 on many levels, nor did they whine and complain about it.
What Hillary did was what she did in New York State.
She and her staff rolled up their sleeves and went to work. One voter at a time, one appearance at a time, one county, one district, one state. And what happened in New York State was a pretty good precursor to what is happening nationally. Today, she is at the top of the list of home state own-party favorability ratings. Her 81% favorability rating among Democrats in New York State is right up there at the very top, tied with Ted Kennedy’s rating among Democrats in Massachusetts. And Kennedy in Massachusettes is probably the golden standard for being liked by your party in your own state.
Grudgingly, we hear from senior people in other campaigns that they are impressed at how hard she works, how good her team is, how they keep working all day, every day.
They’re right. She’s top in the polls and in the fundraising race not because of some unforeseeable chain of events, she’s there because she understood the reality of her situation and she has outworked everyone else.
If she is our nominee, it will because of two core factors.
She didn’t attempt to smash the negative perception as much as she shattered it softly and slowly – one person at a time.
She, and her team, have worked hard, and smart.
Kudos to all of them.