When it comes to convincing someone to give them a job, most people will likely put their résumé front and center. Conventional wisdom dictates that emphasizing one’s experience and accolades is the best way to earn an employer’s confidence. This might work for hopeful plumbers, urban planners, snake handlers, and hedge fund managers, but presidential politics is a peculiar vocation, even by this guy’s standards. Since officially launching her campaign earlier this week, Hillary Clinton’s approach has deliberately contrasted to what the average American might do when sitting down for an interview. Instead of emphasizing her long list of titles, which includes Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady, she is sending a much different message. Her bottom up approach to earning people’s votes is a carefully thought out communications strategy that she hopes will reset public perception and minimize liabilities.
Clinton’s announcement was markedly different than her GOP competitors who have already officially thrown their hats into the ring. While Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz kicked off their campaigns with impassioned speeches at carefully chosen venues, Clinton immediately took to the internet, posting a YouTube video simply titled “Getting Started.” Over a soft, vaguely indie-rock sounding melody, the video depicts a cast of “everyday Americans” getting ready to take the next step in their lives, whether it be re-entering the work force or getting hitched. The video is bereft of any mention of her previous time in the halls of power, devoid of any specific policy message, hyper-consciously diverse, and doesn’t even feature the candidate until the clip is nearly over.
Unlike Rubio and Paul, who both rattled off the policy prescriptions they would offer the nation in their announcements, Clinton’s only real allusion to policy in her video was her mention of an economic deck still stacked in favor of those at the top. While Paul promised to lead an effort to “take our country back” and Rubio posited himself as the forerunner of a generational movement, Clinton doesn’t come off as similarly authoritative. Instead, she says that she “wants” to be a champion of everyday Americans and “earn” their votes. To that end, while Rubio and Paul framed their announcements in the context of an epic struggle for America’s identity, the Clinton video is far calmer and more restrained.
Clinton hopes that she can reconfigure her celebrity status in order to connect with average voters, but she’s also getting ahead of the criticism she’ll face from both the right and the left. Republicans will hope to portray her as aloof and out of touch, living in a bubble of wealth and privilege. Democrats will question her sincerity as a progressive and hammer her close ties to Wall Street. No one will accuse her of lacking experience, but emphasizing where she’s worked isn’t the sort of aggressive stand she wants to take, at least not right away. Instead, she has entered the fray close to the ground, shielding herself with soft statements and denying her own inevitability. So far, she isn’t saying “meet the new president”, or even “meet the new Hillary.” If this initial video is any indication, the message that Clinton 2016 hopes to project is: You know who I am and where I’ve been, but it’s not about me. I’m here to empower you.