Although Hillary Clinton is touring industrialized states to meet with disenfranchised workers, it is clear that to insure victory in the 2016 presidential contest, she needs to offer a bolder and more innovative plan to grow the economy and create well-paying jobs.
Insecurity and the desire for change in a harmful globalized economy is the issue that looms large and favors Donald Trump in key battleground states, especially rust-belt and mid-western states. Those states will be critical to win the election.
Clinton generally addressed these issues in her acceptance speech. However, confronting the problems of globalization and unfair trade practices that devastated the industrial sector; a low wage, low benefit, part-time work economy; and providing for the return of well-paying jobs requires more than acknowledgment and assuring general statements.
Clinton needs to announce bold action — like devoting the first 100 days of her presidency to creating legislative and administrative plans to rebuild the infrastructure and reindustrialize areas impacted by unfair trade practices and a globalized race to the bottom with respect to labor costs.
Attacking Donald Trump as unfit for office, dangerous, and offensive is not productive and will not help the Clinton effort.
His 16 Republican primary and caucus opponents attempted to use the same tactic and failed to derail his candidacy. Trump won with 15 million votes. His tough, offensive attitude and mocking style are seen as the aggressive and strong approach needed to deal with unfair foreign competitors, civil unrest, and the threat of terrorism.
President Barack Obama and other Democrats offered a largely positive spin on the economy in their addresses to the Democratic National Convention. Indeed, the economy is substantially better than it was in the midst of the 2008 recession when Obama became President. However, 75 percent of the population believes that the nation is headed in the wrong direction and over 55 percent believe that we are still in recession.
The rate of economic growth is at 1.2 percent annualized, the weakest pace of post-recovery expansion since 1949. Labor force participation is at 62.7 percent, the lowest rate in nearly 38 years.
In the industrial, manufacturing sector countless middle income jobs have been lost to globalization, outsourcing, and unfair trade practices. The new jobs created have been low wage, low benefit, part-time, contract work.
Economic insecurity and uncertainty have become the norm for most who lack college degrees and even many with college degrees in an economy with limited opportunity for the non-elite college educated.
In this environment, Clinton must compete for votes in battleground states where voters have been affected by these problems.
In addition, Clinton faces the incumbency problem. Since the end of World War II, only once has a political party won a third consecutive presidential election — the Republican Party with George H. W. Bush, in 1988, following the popular Ronald Reagan and a faster growing economy.
The tepid growth of our current economy is not a good omen for Clinton.
To win the presidency a candidate needs 270 votes. Donald Trump, at this juncture, can count on 191 safe Republican Electoral College votes from the South, Southwest, Upper Midwest, and farm states. Hillary Clinton can assume 200 safe Democratic Electoral College votes mainly from the coastal states, New England, and the Northeast.
Eleven states with 147 Electoral College votes are battleground states: Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
Most lean toward Clinton, but Trump has closed the gap in these battleground states and is strongly contending in the crucial states of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Over the coming weeks the convention bumps will dissipate and we will have a clearer picture of the direction of the Electoral College vote.
The Democratic Party held a more unified and upbeat convention than their Republican opponents. However, the momentum is in Trump’s direction. He has better reflected the desire for change.
A recent poll indicated that 56 percent of those surveyed wanted a presidential candidate who would affect substantial change. In addition to economic insecurity, recent events have many Americans fearing civil unrest and terrorism.
Trump comes across as the stronger candidate, more willing to protect America and take on our adversaries. To shift the momentum and win, Hillary Clinton must project herself as that agent of change that her husband, in his convention address, claimed that she is. She must offer that bold first 100 day plan for economic revitalization and assertively assure us of her commitment confront civil unrest and terrorism.
Jonathan Sandman is a professor of political science at the University of New Haven who has studied the presidency for five decades.
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