Dear Secretary Clinton,
Congratulations on becoming the Democratic nominee for the President of the USA. You’ve inspired millions of women and girls in America, and around the world, by making history as the first woman to be nominated for president by either of the major 2 political parties in this country. And indeed, your post convention bump in the polls over your Republican rival, Donald Trump, has shown that you’ve united the party and gotten Millennials and other Bernie Sanders supporters to back you. But don’t think you’ve got this in the bag yet.
Donald Trump is perhaps the most formidable foe you could’ve had out of the 17 GOP candidates running this election cycle. His unorthodoxy, his charisma, and his unpredictability is what propelled this political outsider to the top of the polls in the primary, where he remained from June through his acceptance speech just a few weeks ago in Cleveland. The Republicans that challenged him either brushed him aside as a joke, waited too long to confront him, or believed he was someone else’s problem. Many of his former competitors have since endorsed him, reluctantly or otherwise. All along, you seem to have been the sole person in politics that took him seriously, which is wise: it means you’ve probably spent months preparing for the upcoming presidential debates against The Donald. But in order to beat him, you need to listen to people like me, who were once swayed by many of his views, and found themselves on the fence between the two of you.
There’s a reason that 63% of Americans think we’re on the wrong track. While you’re right that President Obama and Vice President Biden are often targets of unfair criticism from the GOP and do not get the credit they deserve for saving us from the Great Recession, you should stop presenting yourself as Obama 2.0. While the President’s domestic policy has been pretty good, and his first term was mostly successful, his second term feels like he’s given up. His foreign policy is a disaster. President Obama said that there was a “red line” to which the USA would act in Syria. When crossed, he ruined our credibility with our enemies by not acting; this only emboldens traditional foes like Iran and Russia, while encouraging new ones, such as ISIS. His negotiation with Iran over its nuclear program was a selfish attempt at building a legacy for himself, and has endangered the USA, Israel, and the regional order in the Middle East. In fact, the reason the Arab countries haven’t “stepped up” the fight against ISIS in Syria & Iraq (much to the president’s ire) is because in light of this nuclear deal, they see the primary threat being Iran and its proxies in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria. The president has been very critical of the Netanyahu government in Israel but has failed to discuss and condemn in depth the shortcomings of the Palestinian Authority, the racism of the UN in its hostility to the Jewish state, or the human rights abuses committed by Iran. Perhaps most disastrously, by going for sanctions against Moscow two years ago due to the Crimea invasion, he fell right into Putin’s trap by giving him a Western boogeyman to blame for Russia’s economic ires. This only dissipated the numerous protests against the Russian leaders and reignited ultra-nationalist and aggressive rhetoric and behavior by Moscow in both Europe and the Middle East. It has also created closer ties between Russia and China, which is now trying to increase its own global clout. You said it best in 2008: Barack Obama simply didn’t have the experience needed to lead America. But you do.
Madam Secretary, you know very well that you suffer from a trust issue. Much of this is unfair and rooted in sexism, but there is much you can do to improve your image. For one, you must come out far more forcefully against the TPP and for preserving the environment. While your speeches are very informative and chock-full of economic and foreign policy specifics, more can be done and mentioned to discuss alternatives to the TPP that will keep jobs home and satisfy Millennials and other liberals, as well as blue-collar workers, for whom globalism has been a failure. You can also do more to go on the attack against those Republicans who deny global warming and put our planet and the lives of our descendants in grave danger, while speaking of your own ideas on how to slow climate change and reduce carbon emissions. If you’re seen by millions of people advocating for common-sense regulations on keeping climate change at bay while also wanting to create jobs at home and combat outsourcing, it’s imperative that you make sure this is mentioned in more of your speeches, campaign emails, interviews, and ads so that it doesn’t just come across as a talking point to get you elected.
You also should just say what you mean. At this point, most know that you’re far more hawkish than either your husband or President Obama. Ignore those that claim this is a negative–after seeing all of the terrorist attacks in Europe and Israel within the past year, and even a few here at home, it’s time to come out with a new and strong plan for fighting ISIS and other jihadists. If it means saying “radical Islam” or “Islamists” to bring comfort to Americans who fear you and Democrats may not truly grasp, then so be it. The whole point of those two terms is to differentiate between extremists and normal Muslim citizens, not to offend anybody. It also means you must differentiate yourself from President Obama on certain things, particularly in the Middle East. Even before the election, and presuming you win, your inauguration, you need to display to wonkish Americans and Middle Eastern leaders alike that you, unlike Obama, understand their concerns about the Iran deal. More forceful rhetoric on enforcing the nuclear deal should be more well-integrated into your speeches, as should regular condemnations of Iran’s continued violation of UN resolutions with human rights abuses, funding terror, and missile testing. To please Jewish voters and other pro-Israel voices, it’s imperative that you follow through on what you said in your AIPAC speech: “Israel’s security is non-negotiable”. This means it’s time to change the traditional way of looking at the Middle East. Do not let the GOP get the best of you or the Democrats on support for Israel: support for Israel should remain bipartisan. But there can be no two-state solution when Palestinians, too steeped in racist, Muslim supremacist ideology, refuse to negotiate with Israel.
If Obama played the “bad cop” with Israel, it’s time to play the “bad cop” with the Palestinians during your time in office, should you win. Move our embassy to Jerusalem; recognize Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights (after all, Syria has fallen apart and probably won’t be put back together again); go back to the 2004 Bush-Sharon letter in terms of setting a road map to a two-state solution, if you must back it as presented in the traditional way. And realize that settlements are not the obstacle to peace: anti-Jewish racism in the Arab World is. After all, there were no Jewish settlements in Judea & Samaria, or Gaza, between 1949-1967, and there was still violence. If you can show Israel that you understand their concerns, and even grant them recognition of Jerusalem and the Golan, it’s likely that the most extreme voices in Jerusalem will be silenced and that the government will be more willing to work with you. Dennis Ross’ book, Doomed to Succeed, can attest to this in many different cases, as I’m sure you know. The Arab World would feel much safer and work with you more on beating ISIS if you take a more forceful approach to Iran and its proxies, especially Hezbollah. Finally, it’s time to end the wishful thinking approach in Syria and Iraq. President Obama and former president George W. Bush are the opposite sides of the same coin: both were too naive to realize that democracy in the Arab World at this time, especially in the current borders, just won’t work. Bush believed he could do it by toppling dictators with force, which only lead to a power vacuum exploited by jihadists, and increasing Western mission creep. Obama thought he could do it by backing various, difficult-to-vet rebel groups or protestors, who in turn elected the Islamist Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, a friend of terrorists like Hamas. The borders drawn up a century ago for Syria and Iraq simply don’t work. Even if ISIS were vanquished tomorrow, what’d be left? Arab supremacists trying to conquer the Kurds and deny them their sovereignty, as Iran and Turkey have done; sectarian warfare would break out in Iraq between Shiites and Sunnis, with Iran’s imperialist urge likely to drive it into Baghdad to assist the Shiites. Syria will descend into similar chaos. To make a safe haven for refugees, end the bloodshed, and act upon our values, it’s time to embrace a new vision of partition for Iraq & Syria where every nation fighting in the battlefield can have a state.
Donald Trump’s relative secularism on gay marriage and even abortion (until the selection of Mike Pence as his running mate) swayed some moderates to his side. So, too, did his opposition to globalist trade deals, his willingness to improve relations with Russia (especially for cooperation against terrorism), and even his desire to remain out of many foreign quagmires and spend money here at home instead. I know, because I was one of them. Trump is funny and seems down to Earth. Moreover, many Democrats just don’t seem to “get it” on many issues that concern blue-collar workers or more hawkish voters, and seem too afraid of offending people than telling the truth. If you want to win, Mrs. Clinton, I suggest that you appeal more to these voters. The anti-war activists usually have noble hearts, but have an unrealistic vision. Moreover, these groups will either vote for you (because for them, President Trump is unthinkable) or sit the election out altogether, as they would have otherwise. You–not Bernie–won the nomination for a reason. More Democrats agree with your more centrist ideals and foreign policy than did Bernie. Even though most Millennials preferred Bernie, far fewer of them turn out to vote anyways; plus, most of those who do are now backing you after Senator Sanders’ endorsement at the DNC. A growing number of anti-Trump Republicans are also rejecting his isolationism and supporting you. In 1980, it was Reagan Democrats. This year, it can be Clinton Republicans. You just need to appeal more to the center-right, and you’ve got this in the bag. I’ve concluded that Donald Trump is woefully unprepared for the presidency. We cannot lose the White House and Congress this year, not after all the progress we’ve made with gay marriage, overturning voter ID laws in places like North Carolina, or an improving economy that works for all. So now more than ever, it’s important that you make your campaign about your ideas, not Obama’s; appeal to the moderate majority; and most importantly, win this thing.