Is good policy a campaign liability?


Amy Davidson starts out with observations on Hillary Clinton’s “Between Two Fenrns” appearance (I generally find these quite entertaining, and this was no exception), but segues into a broader critique of Clinton.  The part that frustrates me so is that being smart and sensible about policy is essentially a campaign liability.  Here’s Davidson on college expenses:

Many of the policies outlined by the campaign and available on its Web site are serious proposals, rooted in academic research and the more-respected center-left think tanks in Washington. For example, her proposals about student debt and the cost of higher education—which she raised at that rally in Philadelphia—are sophisticated and complex. Her team worked with many thoughtful wonks, including Sandy Baum, of the Urban Institute, who is one of the nation’s leading scholars on the topic. The plan recognizes that the federal government must work with state and local officials, as well as parents and students, to improve access to affordable higher education. It is also based on an understanding that wealthier families have different needs than the poor, and so it offers graduated benefits for families that earn less than a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars a year. It reads as if Clinton told her staff to find a workable solution to a big problem, one that seeks to have a real impact while recognizing political and economic realities. It stands in marked contrast to Bernie Sanders’s free-college-for-everyone idea, which was popular among some of his supporters but would have been extremely costly and was designed in a way guaranteed to alienate the state and local officials who would need to partner on any public-education plan. Clinton’s plan was widely hailed by education experts, while Sanders’s was quickly dismissed as unserious. Clinton’s higher-education policy is flatly superior to Trump’s, as he has no education policy, other than to eliminate or cut “way, way down” the Department of Education. [emphasis mine]

And we all know who the Democratic voters– especially the young ones– loved on the college issue.  And the general electorate currently has 40+% support for a man who essentially has no serious issue proposals whatsoever.  It’s almost as if our country deserves bad policy.  Sad.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Is good policy a campaign liability?

  1. R. Jenrette says:

    It’s an old saying – people get the government they deserve.

    Not to worry – we’ll be turning world management over to the AIs one day. Maybe not by choice.

  2. ohwilleke says:

    The problem is not “good policy” it is a lack of message discipline. What better campaigners do, but Clinton has consistently failed to do in either the primary or the general election, is to identify one to three simple, bold policy positions that are top priorities and capture the imagination of the American public. FDR implemented lots of obscure legislation with alphabet agencies and complicated details, but he campaigned on a larger vision that summed up his key priorities: “A chicken in every pot”, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”, an economic bill of rights.

    Clinton has scores of ten point plans with exacting detail but just cannot seem to focus on a handful of simple, big picture, visionary messages that capture undergird what her campaign is about. She lags in the polls to a great extent because she has failed to find a message and stick to it and get people excited about it.

    It is a travesty of the quality of her own campaign when the most exciting and energizing slogan of her campaign, which really did motivate the base, was coined by someone trying to rebuke her, i.e. “a taco truck on every corner.”

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