Hillary Clinton in Trouble Again for Populist Message to American Voter

Hillary’s Populist Message Not Working

Poor Hillary Clinton! The emphasis here is on the inappropriate word “poor.”

Hillary has been trying to push her new populist message to American voters. It isn’t working well – at all.

In her Tuesday speech, she has been trying to counter the criticism that her personal wealth undermines her populist economic campaign message. Her message, focused on the economic problems of ordinary Americans shows she isn’t exactly one of them. Her counter-message is that her family fortune is “secondary” to most voters.

Sure thing Hillary!

“I don’t think Americans are against success.” That was the message Hillary Clinton had for reporters in Concord, New Hampshire. “Those of us who do have opportunities ought to be doing more to help other people do the same.”

Very true, but that’s not what governments do, and we haven’t seen Hillary actually helping anyone else “do the same” over the past 10 years.

Hillary and Bill Clinton collectively pulled in hundreds of millions of dollars since they left the White House. Bill made more, of course, but Hillary is no slouch in the paid speech stakes.

She has been struggling to explain how her money makes her like the Americans she says she wants to identify with her, in her campaign speeches.

How Different Is Hillary?

We don’t need to look very far back in time to see examples of how different she really is. Just last year, she crashed into a storm of political criticism when she said her family was “dead broke” at the end of Bill’s second term. Granted they were reported to be deeply in debt after huge legal fees from fighting a number of controversies. That didn’t last very long, as they fairly quickly moved from debt into the top one percent with book sales and speaking fees. Those things rocketed them from what they said was “abject poverty” into the multimillionaire class virtually overnight.

So “dead broke” seems a lot like a political whitewashing of real life.

Hillary and Bill only had themselves in mind as they stuffed their bank accounts over the years, and they were recently pushed into the position of admitting they earned more than $30 million in speaking fees and book royalties since January 2014.

How would ordinary Americans like to go from zero to over $30 million in just the most recent eighteen months? That is what Hillary and Bill did.

And just how did they help other Americans to do the same? They didn’t, otherwise we would have heard about it. That isn’t a good way to present her message to “give the money to the poor through the wealthiest of Americans.”

The Clintons don’t appear to be ready to start giving their fortune – or even parts of it – to the less fortunate anytime soon.

hillary dollars

Taking A Different Path

Obviously, Hillary’s campaign wants to steer clear of any discussion of personal fortune. They lean on her family and career. The massive – and often controversial – Clinton Foundation has not been in the spotlight, but it is sure to come up eventually, after having contributors from within the US and around the world, including Saudi Arabia.

Her opposition has plenty of time to work on the negatives.

On Tuesday last week, her focus was on her campaign’s first major policy proposal, relating to universal pre-K education. That is a relatively safe bipartisan issue favored not only by liberal voices in her party, but also by conservative governors in Republican-led states, including Texas. Hillary’s campaign managers obviously know this is a safer bet than continuing to push a populist line at the outset in her presidential campaign.

Showing that Hillary and Bill aren’t the only ones with money on their minds, Hillary’s daughter Chelsea worked at a hedge fund founded by a major Clinton campaign donor, and her husband Marc Mezvinsky has been working on the family ties angle to raise investor money for his hedge fund.

How much trashing of Wall Street and big corporations will Hillary be doing? Little chance of that!

What Next: KISS

What next for Hillary now? Using the KISS principle, you would have to say she is likely to use the same coalition of blacks, Latinos and other minorities that delivered two terms in the White House for Barack Obama.

Is the populist message over and done with? Probably not completely, but given that eBay paid her $315,000 for a 45 minute speech back in March, and the fact she spoke at financial firms such as Deutsche Bank and Ameriprise Financial, you’d think the populist message won’t hold up for very long.

Early perceptions of her candidacy, outside the faithful, some have been impacted by months of questioning how the Clinton family leveraged political connections into personal cash. The question is, has that resonated outside of the conservative vote that would be opposed to her anyway?

Looking at the results of a recent CNN/ORC poll, it is hard to tell. The poll showed that about 47 percent of Americans say Hillary Clinton cares about people like them.

The same poll taken last summer put that number at 53 percent. Another poll, from ABC News/Washington Post released the same day also found a slight decline over the past year on the similar question, whether Clinton “understands the problems of people like you.” 49 percent think she does, 46 percent think she doesn’t. This may be part of the reason the campaign is now moving away from the populist push, while it moves to other areas of strength.

Reframing The Message

It has been said that she is now re-framing her candidacy before she loses control of her base, but it isn’t likely she will lose her base, although those on the edges might be shaken up.

Mitt Romney, recalling bitter experience in his failed 2012 candidacy, knows that populism and huge income don’t mix. While talking to MSNBC, he said “Hillary Clinton has to expect the same kind of treatment. How could she get out there and sell a populist message when she makes in one hour a multiple of what the average American will make in a year?”

Hillary Clinton is virtually alone in her candidacy for the Democratic nomination right now. But she is leaving herself wide open for future challengers because it isn’t clear she has it locked up. In any case, others need to be ready, should she falter, and other need to have the experience of running a campaign.

Stay tuned to see what happens next.

Dwight L. Schwab Jr. is a moderate conservative who looks at all sides of a story, then speaks his mind. He has written more than 3500 national political and foreign affairs columns. His BS in journalism from the University of Oregon, with minors in political science and American history stands him in good stead for his writing.


Dwight has 30-years in the publishing industry, including ABC/Cap Cities and International Thomson. His first book, “Redistribution of Common Sense – Selective Commentaries on the Obama Administration 2009-2014,” was published in July, 2014. “The Game Changer – America’s Most Stunning Presidential Election in History,” was published in April 2017.


Dwight is a native of Portland, Oregon, and now a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area.