By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Hillary Clinton, in perhaps the world’s least suspenseful reveal, announced her candidacy yesterday afternoon, first (around 2:30PM EST) via email from her campaign manager, John Podesta, rapidly tweeted, and then (a little after 3:00PM EST) by launching a video — “Getting Started” — on her site. The tweet came at 3:27PM EST (55 minutes of activity total). Clinton herself made no personal appearance. Here’s the video, and no, I’m not going to issue any trigger warnings; Clinton enters at 1:33:
Of course, analyzing campaign videos is a time-honored way of going meta, since the nature of the video then becomes the story, and not the candidate themselves, or, heaven forfend, their policies. But hey: What’s wrong with a little meta? In any case, I’m going to present the video transcript first, and then, based on it, develop a few questions that a mythical Iowan might ask Clinton on the small group listening tour she’s about to begin. Who knows? Maybe there are some Naked Capitalism readers in Iowa who will get lucky, get in the hall to ask a question, and can pose a zinger or two!
Here’s the transcript, via lybio.net:
[#1:] I’m getting ready for a lot of things. A lot of things. It’s spring, so we’re starting to get the gardens ready and my tomatoes are legendary here in my own neighborhood.
The Des Moines Register tracked down some of the people who appear in the video; this is West Des Moines Democrat Julie Stauch. And how smart of the Clinton campaign to lead with an Iowan before the Iowa primary. (The Times — granted, in “instant analysis” — says: “A bevy of actors and stock footage.” Not so, at least for some of the footage.)
Of course, Stauch had me at “starting to get the gardens ready.” But this opening is more subtle than it may appear; we might contrast it to Reagan’s famous “Morning Again in America,” where a voiceover talks of people working, but doesn’t actually show them working — or let them speak for themselves.
We might also consider that opening with spring — growth! quickening! — is a subtle nod to the putative success of Obama’s economic policies in getting us out of the long hard winter of the recession.
And much as I loathe the DNC’s National Narrative Project, segments like this, and each of the tiny segments that follow, could be effective, cumulatively, in sending the message that “the Democratic Party historically has grounded itself with the people—the great majority of hard-working citizens from every background” (Democratic VIctory Task Force, PDF).
Finally, those tomatoes are a more subtle nod to Iowa agriculture than, say, a guy driving a tractor in a corn field would be.
[#2:] My daughter is about to start kindergarten next year, and so we’re moving just so she can belong to a better school.
So the housing market is doing OK. With a further subtle nod to “getting started.”
[#3:] Mi hermano y yo estamos empezando un primer negocio [English subtitle:] My brother and I are starting our first business.
It’s a good time to start a small business; identity politics (Hispanic, pre-empting Jebbie.
[#4:] After five years of raising my children, I am now going back to work.
Starting over in the workforce; identity politics (women).
[#5:] Every day we’re trying to get more and more ready and more prepared. Baby boy, coming your way. (Laughs).
Getting started with a child; identity politics (black).
[#6:] Right now I’m applying for jobs. It’s a look into what the real world will look like after college.
Getting started in the workforce; identity politics (Asian, women, student).
[#7:] I’m getting married this summer to someone I really care about.
Getting started in marriage; identity politics (gay). (And kudos for this.)
[#8:] I’m gonna be in the play and I’m gonna be in a fish costume. [Singing] From little tiny fishes.
I’ve gotta say, I love “from little tiny fishes.” But I can’t find the lyrics anywhere. But if the lyrics are made up, that’s quite an imaginative feat!
[#9:] I’m getting ready to retire soon. (Laughs.) Retirement means reinventing yourself in many ways.
Getting started on retirement, lucky lady; identity politics (women).
[#10:] Well we’ve been doing a lot of home renovations. But, most importantly, we just want to teach our dog to quit eating the trash. And so we have high hopes for 2015 that that’s going to happen.
Sean Bagniewski and his wife, Vidhya Reddy, are Clinton volunteers from 2008, says the Des Moines Register. And if only we could teach Jamie Dimon to stop eating the trash! (I can’t help but think this segment was meant as bait; dog-eating-trash jokes were propagating over the Twitter within an hour of the video’s release.)
[#11:] I’ve started a new career recently. This is a fifth generation company which means a lot to me. This country was founded on hard work and it really feels good to be a part of that.
Getting started in a new career — after the layoff? The unemployment? Working at Walmart, most definitely not a career? — ergo the labor market is no longer totally trashed; identity politics (white working class male). Say, I wonder if this family firm is unionized? As far as class goes, the Times instant analysis:
This is very much a middle class-centric video.
Someone starting a home renovation project. Another starting a business. Someone starting a new career at a fifth-generation company saying “this country was founded on hard work.”
I’m not so sure, since “middle class” is such an elusive concept; I think it means the top 20% who are “pillars of the regime.” But as far as cultural markers, sure, I’d go with “middle class.” I’m not seeing any part-time Walmart workers here, or farmworkers, or fast food workers, or anybody banging in at 7:00AM; the ad skews up, and down; in some ways, it feels aspirational. Bringing us to Hillary:
[Hillary Clinton:] I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m running for president. Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion. So, you can do more than just get by, you can get ahead. And stay ahead! Because when families are strong, America is strong. So, I’m hitting the road to earn your vote. Because it’s your time, and I hope you’ll join me on this journey.
Well, this part doesn’t make me want to throw things at the computer screen, but it still rings a bit false to me; there’s something off about the rhythm of Hillary’s speech. She’s not quite reading, not quite speaking. On the other hand, I do like that her scale is in no way larger than life, just like all the other people in the video; she isn’t shot with her head against the sky, for example; there’s no triumphalism. Now, I’m not going to get out the Magic Markers, but here are some of the equivocations I see on first reading:
1. “Fought their way back from tough economic times.” Well, why the heck where they so effing tough, anyhow? And how did they get that way?
2. “Deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.” More Warren-esque than might be expected, perhaps, but note the lack of agency in “is still stacked.” Why hasn’t the deck been “unstacked” already? And “stacking the deck” is cheating. So who did the stacking, and what’s going to be done about them? And who are “those at the top,” anyhow?
3. “Everyday Americans.” What the heck does that mean? It reeks of the focus group. Not the 99% (more like 80%) for sure. Is Warren Buffet an every other day American? Is Lloyd Blankfein an American every day but Tuesday, when he teleports back to the Lizard Planet to buff his head and feed? It’s like the various identities don’t sum to anything, because there’s nothing commensurate that would allow them to do so.
4. “Join me on this journey.” Well, at least she didn’t say “conversation.” Seriously, though, I could care less about a “journey”; the Presidency may be a personal quest for Hillary, but that doesn’t make her campaign a collective quest of which I am a part; there are outcomes I want. The arrival matters, not the journey.
5. Finally, we might note there’s no mention of the role of government at all. So why run for President? Why not be the people’s champion at the Clinton Foundation?
So, readers — and especially Iowa readers, if any — let’s get started ourselves, and try to imagine some questions we might ask Clinton on her listening tour, should we be lucky enough to be invited to. Here are a few. But the rule is, you have to be Iowa nice! (That is, nicer than you would be in the rough and tumble of the Naked Capitalism comments section.)
1. Do you support a minimum wage of $10.10 for all workers and, if so, why not a minimum wage of $15.00, sufficient to move most Walmart workers off public assistance?
2. Should the United States Congress hold hearings on adopting a single payer system, given that the Affordable Care Act will never achieve truly universal coverage?
3. Do you believe in a steeply progressive effective tax rate? If not, why not?
4. In the nature of the business cycle, we know there is another recession coming, even if we don’t know when. What lessons have you drawn from Obama’s handling of the last recession?
5. In the 2008 campaign, you advocated for HOLC (Homeowner’s Loan Corporation), a New Deal-like program to keep people in their homes during the foreclosure crisis. How would you contrast HOLC to the program Obama ulimately adopted, HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program)?
6. Do you believe that the Social Security benefits should be increased, be made age-neutral, and that the eligibility age for Social Security should be reduced?
7. Many countries, including Germany, provide free university education to all citizens (not simply community college). Should the United States?
8. Do you support a Post Office Bank?
9. Do you believe that the Fourth Amendment’s right for people “to be secure…in their papers and effects” applies to digital records like email or chat?
10. In what specific theatres do you see a possibility for committing American ground troops to war? Specificially, in Ukraine? The Middle East?
11. Do you believe American small and especially organic farmers should be protected from globalization under trade deals? Do you believe that seed savers should be protected under any intellectual property regime?
12. Do you support the TPP? The TTIP?
That will do to go on with. Readers, feel free to revise these questions, and add your own!
I’ve certainly seen worse campaign videos. But then, a billion or two ought to buy good video.
 A little braggadocio from the developers: I did a “view source” for the site, and this is right at the top:
 I got rid of my TV a long time ago, but I also stopped listening to the radio during the Bush administration, so I didn’t break any bones pounding my fist on my desk when I heard his voice, and the same went for Obama. So I fully understand if you want to turn down your sound now.
 I actually think this is a smart move by Clinton and plays to her strengths.
 For how this looked in 2008, see Mayhill Fowler:
Here filling the gym risers at the Bristol Borough Junior-Senior High School, listening to John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” and chanting Hillary-Hillary-Hillary! were the working class folk who would stick with her until the end in South Dakota because she, more than any other candidate in decades, was finding a way to speak to the many and varied losses in these Americans’ lives.
That’s the background for “started a new career recently” (emphasis mine).