On April 11, 2015, the Guardian wondered if Hillary Clinton could “bridge her enthusiasm gap.” In November, 2015, the New York Times published a column titled “Lack of Enthusiasm From Supporters May Undermine Clinton’s Lead.” These and countless other similar pieces are part of an untold story: The profound strategic oversight by Hillary’s detractors, who have failed to acknowledge or understand the unshakable devotion of Hillary’s voters.
There is perhaps no more accepted (and wrongheaded) piece of conventional wisdom in the 2016 election than Hillary’s so-called “enthusiasm gap.”
As far back as last August, Chris Weigant took to the Huffington Post to address the myth:
Hillary’s campaign, to read the headlines, is in such a sorry state that it’s a wonder she hasn’t just hung up her hat and gone home. If you just woke up from a coma and read only the past week’s headlines, you’d be wondering when Clinton will be scheduling her concession speech, as she prepares to exit the race. That this is patent nonsense seems to have escaped everyone.
That this deeply-entrenched talking point has taken absolute hold of the commentariat is incontrovertible. How many times have we heard that Hillary’s supporters aren’t excited by her, that she “appeals to the head and not the heart?” How many times has Bernie claimed the mantle of momentum and marginalized her supporters? (He did it again today.) How many awe-struck media reports have marveled at Bernie’s and Donald’s rallies while lamenting the “passionless” and invisible Hillary supporters?
The utter and complete dismissal of 13 million Americans is a travesty of historic proportions, but this article is about something different. It’s about how the jaw-droppingly ludicrous and demonstrably false “enthusiasm gap” narrative is a grave error by Hillary’s political and media opponents.
If your operating strategic assumption fails to account for your opponent’s greatest strength, you will most likely lose to them.
In Sun Tzu’s words:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
Hillary’s indomitability is intrinsic, yes; she is a highly disciplined human being with an unparalleled ability to withstand assaults on her character. But her power also lies outside of her, with the millions of loyal supporters whose resolve and dedication matches hers.
As someone who has been a public conduit between Hillary and her supporters for a decade, it’s not a mystery to me that Hillary is winning in the face of a brutal onslaught from Bernie, Donald and the national media. As her digital strategist, I built long-standing relationships with thousands of her most devoted advocates. As the CEO of this publication, I’ve helped build a channel of communication that can reach a quarter million people with one post.
The grassroots energy for Hillary is an unstoppable force that shows up primarily in the voting booth, not in polls — and certainly not in media coverage.
When I hear from the oh-so-brilliant pundits that Hillary is hated, disliked, dull, I smile quietly, knowing the truth.
I hope Hillary’s rivals continue to misunderstand the dynamic between her and her supporters. I hope they don’t see the pride, joy, courage, and enthusiasm I see when I look in these eyes… because the more they ignore it, the more likely Hillary will win.