Technology and politics forever redefined presidential campaigns in 2008. Now Clinton is shattering the technology ceiling again in her historic second bid for the White House.
Like so many of us then, the media initially, in 2008, assumed Hillary would easily vanquish her rival. After all, he was only an upstart first term senator from Illinois, the state of Lincoln, and he was black…very, very noticeably black. It should have been a no-brainer, but it wasn’t, in spite of our nation’s historical fetish with racism and Clinton’s unimpeachable political pedigree. Again, why was that? What happened to the inevitability – the invincibility – of the Queen Mum of American politics? Was it Obama’s soaring rhetoric or that we’d finally left our racist past behind? Was he more organized with a better ground game and more money? Hardly. No one plays politics better and has more fundraising prowess than Bill and Hillary. Everyone knows that. So what was it then and what is it now that’s making the difference?
The answer is simple. “It’s about the technology, stupid,” to paraphrase long-time Democratic operative and longtime Clinton advisor, James Carville. Obama fully embraced the use of technology and politics like no one ever had before. Even though Hillary’s margin of loss was far smaller than Bernie Sanders’, while the president-in-waiting was busy taking victory laps, his rival was furiously taking notes and names. It was a pivotal moment in American politics. The past suddenly collided with the future and although she’d lost – she actually won. She understood that fundraising capacity and global name recognition could no longer buy the presidency. In the war for the White House, you may not be the smartest guy/gal in the room, so if you’re not, you put the one who is on the payroll. And that’s exactly what she did.
Enter Elan Kriegel, the analytical genius nobody has ever heard of…until now. Back in the out brush, Cro-Magnon Age (circa 2000 AD), everyone assumed Karl Rove (senior advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff under George W. Bush) and his team of dirty tricksters were the wise guys, the puppet masters pulling the strings. Maybe they were the evil face of Oz, but history will be left to sort out that sordid tale. Today is a different story and Hillary knows that she’s not the fairest maiden in the kingdom. Her mirror may reveal some grayed hairs and battle-weary wrinkles but it never tells lies. Neither does the man behind it, Elan Kriegel, the secret Santa, the new Kris Kringle of American politics.
Kriegel cut his political teeth on Obama’s winning campaigns and Clinton was smart enough to snatch him up while the Republicans were still having manhood measuring contests in the primaries. Elan uses different metrics to express his prowess and it is about the numbers… although he uses supercomputers, a team of analysts and enough spreadsheets to reforest Brazil. And don’t bother looking for a ruler in his desk.
He knows when you’ve been sleeping, he knows when you’re most likely being bad, he knows where you’re living… and most importantly, he knows how you can be had. He and his team of elves are busy in Brooklyn preparing to deliver a very disappointing pre-Christmas surprise to Trump Towers in Manhattan and The Donald doesn’t even know they’re coming. Trump has exactly one campaign office in Sarasota, Florida. Hillary has 34 across the most pivotal of swing states. Even in Texas, the reddest of red regions. In conjunction with the DNC, Democrats are opening new offices in Dallas and Houston while Trump is still trumping about building walls. Blame it on math or Elan, but this is the new face of political technology and strategy. If any big league candidate ever has a prayer of winning again in the future, this is the indispensable factor.
Once upon a time, we thought actuaries were math nerds with pocket protectors employed by insurance companies to pre-arrange the precise time, place and cause of our death. With today’s analytical masterminds and a few good Men In Black, funeral arrangements can be made for political opponents as well (ie., Donald Trump. “Footnotes of History.”) And in the city that never sleeps, these guys are not fond of napping on the job, ever. Nancy Reagan may have had her astrologer to help define and refine Ronny’s itinerary but Hillary has Elan and his MIB’s that shape her every move, craft every message, and ultimately are about to propel her back into the White House again. Only this time, there is no “Reagan-era” dementia, no “Bush-era” puppeteer pulling the strings. She knows exactly what she’s doing and, and more importantly, she knows why.
Make no mistake. This is war and Hillary Clinton is waging it. Her massive, secret weapons of destruction (promotion) are a thing to behold. She has a carpet-bombing ground game and fifty-state strategy coming to a living room near you. Trump has a crew of bloviated Nascar exoskeletons running his delusory campaign. Much like the legendary Saddam Hussein, he is simply overwhelmed, outgunned and just too stupid and arrogant to know it. Unlike either of them, Sec. Clinton actually scraped her knees, dirtied her hands and got back up. Not one to hide in basement bunkers or penthouses, she is about to unleash a blitzkrieg against the poverty of ideas, suppression of the underrepresented, lack of creative innovation, and the stymied stalemate of a do-nothing Congress.
Technology and politics nor the marriage of the two as political technology can or ever will solve all our problems. It may win an election in 2016, but there are no single-button solutions in an infinitely complex world. No one can save us from ourselves. Only one candidate seems to grasp this. And thankfully, she now has an army of special-ops MIB’s (guys and gals both highly trained), specially outfitted and ready to show the world that “Orange really isn’t the new Black.” Check back. That first Hundred Days will come faster and be more surprising than the Daytona 500 crowd might see in their tiny rear view mirrors.
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