Letters to Secretary Clinton … Private meetings with small groups … #3, #4, and #5

At the Democratic Party Convention last week you said that you had been devoted to public service all of you life, but you always had problems with the “public” aspect of this service. Some of your closest associates have admitted to being baffled by your low trust ratings in the polls, saying that these ratings related to your public persona; but in private they had always found you to be a warm, caring person. This leads me to my third, fourth, and fifth pieces of unsolicited advice:

#3. Stop making public speeches because you don’t do them well; shift to small, private venues because that’s what seems to work best for you.
#4. Get to know the concerns of Mr. Trump’s supporters directly from his supporters via private meetings.
#5. Get to know the concerns of Bernie’s supporters directly from Bernie’s supporters via private meetings.

I write this note after a weekend in which “The Donald” put his foot in his mouth yet again, this time by criticizing the Muslim parents of a dead U.S. soldier in a manner that was so crude that it would have demolished the ratings of any other candidate. But so far you have only pulled ahead of him by a few points in the polls.

  • I attribute Mr. Trump’s lesser fall to the fact that he has tapped into the deep wells of dissatisfaction that most of his supporters feel about their lives in today’s USA, a USA that you and your inner coterie of upper middle and upper class supporters insist is still “great”. Trump’s supporters don’t trust you in part because they don’t think you or any political leader other than Mr. Trump has a clue about what’s really happening in their lives. Worse still, they don’t think you give a damn
  • I attribute your lesser rise to your failure to convince most of Bernie’s supporters that you really understand their concerns. Most think you added so many of Bernie’s points to your platform as a cynical ploy to get their votes. In other words, they don’t trust you because they don’t think you give a damn about their concerns, and will probably forget about them shortly after you are elected.

My assessment of why your speeches are so ineffective with these two groups is the same. You spend too much time on the “details” of how you would achieve your goals, but not enough time conveying your deep commitment to these goals. So even when your goals coincide with the goals of Trump’s supporters or Bernie’s supporters, you do not persuade.

A self-described policy wonk, you still don’t understand that wonks care about policy details; most other people don’t. In your acceptance speech you tried to defend your wonkish obsession with sharing details that most people would prefer to ignore by saying that “It isn’t a detail if it’s your kid” …Yes it is. When my house is burning down and and I’m outside crying on the sidewalk, I don’t wan’t the fireman to tell me the details of how he or she will go in and save my child; I just want him or her to save my child.

So no more speeches … or only as few as you can get away with. You need to convince Trump’s supporters and Bernie’s supporters that you share most of their goals. Your most ardent supporters say that you are great in one-on-one’s and small groups. I believe them because you have attracted so many ardent supporters over the course of your decades of public service … and you certainly didn’t do so by making bad speeches.

Of course you can’t engage all of Trump’s supporters or all of Bernie’s supporters via small group meetings in private. So I suggest televised focus groups. Just you and a few of them engaging in conversation, with everybody else in the country watching what you are saying to each other. (Of course you should take care to be sure that at least one or two of them have already formed a favorable opinion of you via prior small group meetings. No sense in organizing your own lynch party.)

And I suggest that you let them do most of the talking. You can’t say you “feel their pain” until they tell you what’s really hurting them. Of course, your husband could do this and convince most people that he really understood what was happening in their lives because he has a peculiar charismatic talent that very, very few people have in these regards.

But if you are half as good in small group conversations as your most ardent supporters say you are, you must be a hell of a good listener. That’s your talent. So get out there and listen. No speeches. Ask questions to gain better understanding of their complaints, but no speeches. Convey your understanding of their problems and your sincere commitment to finding solutions … but no wonky details. At the end of each session, you can sum up their points, mentioning the other speakers by name when you mention their particular points to make it personal, because it has to be personal or else they still won’t trust you … and neither will millions of other folk watching you on TV.

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