A Canadian friend of mine at Yale told me there’s only one reason she’d become a U.S. citizen: to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
She certainly isn’t Hillary’s only enthusiastic supporter. Since early October, Yale undergraduates have been promoting Clinton’s potential candidacy through a newly founded group called Yale Students for Hillary, a branch of the national Super PAC Ready for Hillary. For the most part, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. Of course, there are also people who will probably never be ready for Hillary — though we will try our best to change their minds. But there have also been a small minority of people who, though they theoretically support her candidacy, see our efforts as futile — or even counterproductive and self-serving. I hope to address some of these concerns.
Undoubtedly, overconfidence was a major factor leading to Hillary’s defeat in the 2008 primary. Ready for Hillary is working to ensure that a potential Clinton 2016 campaign does not face the same fate. The organization is cognizant of the risks associated with achieving front-runner status early on: namely, complacency. But Ready For Hillary and offshoots like Yale Students for Hillary do not demonstrate overconfidence. Rather, we recognize that clinching the nomination — even with Hillary’s broad approval ratings — will likely prove challenging. Ready for Hillary organizers are working to avoid the mistakes Clinton’s campaign made in 2008.
For one, we are placing new emphasis on organizing at the grass-roots level. The organization has received more than 25,000 donations — with 97 percent of them under $100. Second, the organization is ensuring that a potential Hillary campaign takes full advantage of social media platforms, an area where Obama clearly had her beat in 2008. Already, the Ready for Hillary Facebook page has more than 1 million likes. Ready For Hillary’s strength is reflected in its numbers: the organization has already attained more than half the number of electronic contacts that the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign had by the time her presidential bid ended. If and when Hillary does decide to run, she will be the most prepared candidate by a long shot.
Some fear that current supporters could exhaust “Hillary fever” by the time 2016 rolls around. While this is valid, the benefits of preparedness far outweigh the potential drawbacks of hearing Hillary’s name too often. Furthermore, the Ready for Hillary organization recognizes this possibility, and does its best to prevent it. The organization does not bombard supporters with constant emails, nor does it solicit huge donations. In fact, they have rejected all donations above $25, 000, a move unheard of by most Super PACs.
Ready For Hillary is not just helping Hillary — it’s strengthening the Democratic Party as a whole. It breathes new energy into the Party, even during a time when progressives have good reason to be jaded. Ready for Hillary, though predominantly focused on encouraging Clinton to run, also uses its extensive contacts to help Democratic causes throughout the nation. After Hillary publicly announced her support for Bill De Blasio in New York and Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, Ready for Hillary ardently campaigned for them.
As for other potential Democratic candidates who are looking toward 2016, the solution seems obvious to me. If these candidates have the same broad appeal as Hillary does, then supporters should feel free to form their own organizations. If anything, Ready for Hillary could inspire other similar groups. It was neither Clinton insiders nor the Democratic National Committee that started Ready for Hillary, but volunteers at a grass-roots level. Only after the Super PAC gained national attention did big names like Craig Smith and Mitch Stewart sign on. Additionally, the organization has done nothing to inhibit other candidates’ efforts. What is to stop other Democrats from rallying around their preferred candidates?
Perhaps that hasn’t happened because the demand for other candidates does not exist. The fact of the matter is that it is going to be difficult for a non-establishment Democrat to win in 2016. Many individuals look at the current political situation and yearn for a leader who understands the ins and outs of Washington. They crave a president with experience. I find it hard to imagine a situation in which an “outsider” can win the primary in 2016, let alone the general election.
At the end of the day, politics is opportunistic. But, unlike our critics, I do not say this referring to the Yale Students for Hillary volunteers. I say this in regards to the unprecedented enthusiasm that surrounds Hillary’s candidacy. Why should we not take advantage of this excitement? There are no handicaps awarded in politics. As such, there is no reason for Hillary supporters to intentionally level the playing field for other Democratic candidates. Ready for Hillary and the Yale Students for Hillary are seizing an opportunity to channel energy into a productive movement.
Haley Adams is a sophomore in Timothy Dwight College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.