Let’s try a quick exercise. I’ll throw out a phrase. You guess which 2016 presidential candidate it’s associated with.
Build a wall? Donald Trump.
Millionaires and billionaires? Bernie Sanders.
Please clap? Jeb Bush.
Anger? Now, that’s a tougher one. Both Trump and Sanders have been credited with attracting voters frustrated with the American political system, the state of the economy and broader issues of socioeconomic decline, both real and perceived.
But Hillary Clinton as an anger candidate? It’s a little tough to reconcile with her pitch to continue President Obama’s policies, her status as a member of the Washington elite and her “America is already great” optimism.
Yet, in a speech in Washington state late Tuesday, Clinton reached out to “worried” and “angry” voters.
“A lot of people are frustrated. A lot of people are worried. A lot of people feel that their best days, and therefore our country’s best days, are behind us,” she said. “What I want you to know is, we’ve got to reclaim the promise of America for all of our people — every single one of them.”
One of the biggest hangups Sanders supporters have about Clinton is that she’s about as “establishment” as a candidate can get. She’s been a fixture of Washington politics for decades and has ties to lobbyists and Wall Street. Many Trump supporters see her as dishonest and weak on foreign policy. So disaffected voters, especially those who recoil at the idea of career politicians, might be a tough sell.
But there’s a big payoff, if her pitch works. Targeting angry and worried voters is a 2-for-1 deal for Clinton; it could win her votes in her primary contests against Sanders and her (increasingly likely) contest against Donald Trump in November. And in an election in which disaffected voters have controlled the narrative, winning over even a few could be critical.