Hillary Clinton Might Want to Learn from Her 2008 Mistakes

Rep. Reggie Fullwood

Sometimes two unprecedented movements cannot survive at the same time. One has to precede the other. The Civil Rights Movement paved the way for other humanitarian movements around the world – including the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

Back in 2008, political history was made in this country. For the first time ever, a woman and an African American were in position to be a major political party’s candidate for President of the United States.

What’s interesting is that some people recognized the magnitude of the battle between Hilary Clinton and Barrack Obama at the time, but many did not. For the first time since this country declared its independence in 1776, a woman and an African American were in position to be a major political party’s candidate for President of the United States.

That was profound. I am guilty as well. I watched the battle unfold and almost missed the magnitude of it until it was over. Using a “David versus Goliath” analogy wouldn’t be out of line.

This kind of opportunity was actually what blacks and whites fought for during the Civil Rights Movement. Well, let’s take it back even further – this is what black folks have been fighting for since the Emancipation Proclamation.

Again, sometimes two powerful movements cannot coexist. Hillary Clinton was the right woman, but at the wrong time.

It was Obama’s time to challenge the hearts of Americans. It was his time to test the waters and see if this country was ready to live up to its founding creed that all men are created equal. The race between Senator John McCain and Obama was essentially for more than the presidency of the United States – it was a race that would forever change politics in America.

Hillary Clinton would have challenged the establishment in the same way Obama did in 2008. No woman had come close to being a major party’s nominee for President. Fast forward to 2016 and Clinton is back in position to become the Democratic Party nominee.

But much like 2008 when many assumed that Clinton would cruise to the nomination, there is one major obstacle – Senator Bernie Sanders. And no – he’s no Barrack Obama, but he is a real threat.

Again, in 2008 Clinton simply ran into an immovable force. That force was the message of change and hope. That force invigorated young folks who have never voted before and those who have felt disenfranchised for years.

Not to be outdone by the Obama movement, Clinton had a movement of her own – women, Hispanics, and many working class whites latched on to her message.
Many Bill Clinton supporters became Hillary’s base and she built on that group of supporters creating a massive campaign machine.

Again, the problem for Clinton wasn’t necessarily her shortcomings. She was up against something that this country has never seen before.

Obama was the figurehead, but it was his message that won so many people over. All it takes is to look at any of the rallies he held. From Oregon to Iowa, he packed arenas. He did extremely well with his base of well-educated, affluent voters, the younger generation, and blacks of course.

At least three out of the four groups would have been Clinton supporters if not for Obama, with affluent voters being a possible exception.

So here is where Clinton can learn from her missteps from seven years ago. The biggest of those was the fact that she underestimated Obama early on. She assumed that she would run away with the nomination and before she knew it, she had been punched in the mouth and didn’t quite know what to do next.

By the time she realized that Obama was real, his machine was fine-tuned and well organized. From fundraising to grassroots fieldwork, he out organized her, and his supporters were much more passionate.

It almost sounds like Déjà vu in many ways. Some have criticized Clinton for running as an arrogant front-runner,while Sanders and his supporters are passionate and building momentum. He has tapped into the liberal base and is slowly changing the dynamics of the Democratic primary.

Senator Sanders has gone from being considered a long shot to now an underdog with a chance of shaking things up. He has caught fire, and the biggest question is, will that fire continue or simply fizzle out as Clinton works to close the deal?

Sanders has spoken before crowds of nearly 30,000 people and in many polls has drawn to within less than 20 percentage points of Clinton.
As Winston Churchill once said, “All men make mistakes, but only wise men learn from their mistakes.”

Signing off from Tallahassee, FL., Reggie Fullwood

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