Hillary Clinton is Missing the Secret Ingredient - And it Could Mean She Loses the Nomination

When keeping it real goes wrong

Hundreds of millions of Powerball tickets were sold ahead of the $1.5 billion jackpot this week. At least one was bought by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as she revealed in a Good Morning America interview with George Stephanopoulos. The ABC host asked her what she’d do if she won, and she responded, laughing, “I’ll fund my campaign.”

Uh, what? Not, like, give a bunch to charity? Or use it to accomplish a policy goal? On the surface, this sounds like a very bad political answer.

But in fact this is a window into who Hillary Clinton really is — an ambitious-to-a-fault politician who doesn’t think like average people. And this is a problem when you’re running for president, the most important political office in the world — to win the presidency, you need the Secret Ingredient, and Hillary Clinton doesn’t have it.


Becoming president of the United States requires you to accomplish something that isn’t asked of senators or governors or mayors. It is unique to the presidency, a— perhaps irrational — need to convey yourself to the country as someone who could be a friend. Some call it the “beer test,” but the Secret Ingredient is actually more than just which candidate you’d most want to drink a Bud Light with (although that’s a start). The country doesn’t just want to see a presidential candidate as a friend — certainly not that lazy friend who can’t keep a job. No, it must be the aspirational friend — the smartest person in the room, but also the life of the party. The friend who got straight As but still went out every night. And above all else, the friend who we can relate to, because this friend has hobbies and flaws. Flaws are key — everyone we know has flaws. Hobbies too. Everyone we know has things that keep them busy…and things they wish didn’t keep them busy. Without the Secret Ingredient, a politician is nearly ineffective on a presidential stage.


Barack Obama’s hobbies were vast — playing basketball and golf, he was skilled at being in his element with celebrities and musicians and athletes. His flaw would be his “no drama Obama” attitude, a sort of too-cool-for-school nonchalance. But we know people like this. George W. Bush’s hobby was baseball and going to Crawford to be a rancher, and his flaw was mispronouncing words and fumbling with his grammar. We know people like this. Bill Clinton, perhaps the bearer of more Secret Ingredient than any other presidential candidate, had a hobby of playing the saxophone, and flaws that included eating too many McDonald’s cheeseburgers and getting the occasional BJ from an intern. Yeah, we know people like this too.

Those three politicians make up the last 24 years in the White House, and while they all differed greatly in policy and personality, they all shared the Secret Ingredient. And look at who they beat. Bob Dole didn’t have it, Al Gore didn’t have it, John Kerry didn’t have it, John McCain had it but ran against someone who had more, Mitt Romney didn’t appear to have it (but maybe really did, as we saw from the documentary released after the race).

And from the candidates running and performing well in 2016? Clinton’s opponent, Bernie Sanders, has it, somewhat surprisingly. His flaw is his curmudgeonly attitude — certainly a relatable flaw. Donald Trump is oozing the Secret Ingredient, clear from his 1987 book, and the way he carries himself on the trail. A Trump supporter I spoke to recently described him as an “asshole” — but “I know a lot of assholes” he said. Donald Trump’s flaw is being an asshole, and it is perhaps the best presidential flaw, because we all can relate. Marco Rubio has it, Chris Christie has it, Jeb Bush even has it, with his combination of awkwardness and competence and earnestness. Ted Cruz may struggle with it, although I suppose his hobby is his humor, which we’ve seen bits and pieces of (and through his impressions), and his flaw may be his appearance as the smart kid in class who raises his hand all the time to argue with the teacher. Cruz’s relatability will need help, though.


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…unless he runs against Hillary Clinton, who has far less of the Secret Ingredient than Cruz does. Maybe she can borrow some from her husband, who has Secret Ingredient running through his veins — an endless supply of personality and realness.

Hillary Clinton’s flaw is her unwavering ambition. Hillary Clinton’s hobby is accruing more political power. The average person cannot relate to this quest for dominance. These flaws and hobbies are not the flaws and hobbies of people we know. And when Hillary Clinton is pretending, she’s less convincing than other politicians who also have to occasionally pretend. When she’s real, she’s not someone we know.

In addition to her lottery gaffe (which really was a glimpse into who she is), Clinton appeared on Ellen this week, and just like she did last year when she was doing the whip and nae nae, she subjected herself to the “cool” fad of the moment, dabbing. Radio host Charlamagne tha God concisely summed up the end result to his 1.2 million Twitter followers:

Charlamagne was previously a Hillary Clinton supporter, but announced he would change his vote to Bernie Sanders because of this moment.

He explained that Sanders is “talking about real issues” while Clinton “is dabbing.” But more importantly, he explained that it’s not just that Clinton was dabbing, it’s that she so clearly was trying to be something that she’s not. When Bill Clinton played the sax on Arsenio, he was doing so “organically,” he wrote. Bill Clinton plays the sax. He doesn’t have to pretend to be that person.

Hillary Clinton is not really the person who is dabbing on Ellen, and she’s bad at hiding it. But she really is the person on ABC, laughing about how if she won $1.5 billion, she’d use it to try to secure the election win. And that’s not a person we know. That’s a person devoid of the Secret Ingredient. Her time to find it is running out.