The Silent Majority: How Hillary Clinton's "Enthusiasm Gap" is a Complete Media Fabrication

The Silent Majority: How Hillary Clinton's "Enthusiasm Gap" is a Complete Media Fabrication

Hillary Clinton takes a selfie with a supporter at a campaign rally at Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina. Photo by Nathania Johnson, Licensing: Creative Commons.

Are you excited for the election?  

How a particular individual answers this one question can tell us a wealth of information. If this person is excited then it means they will most likely vote. Not only that, but their excitement might be so contagious that they might be able to successfully convince people close to them to vote as well. They might even be so excited that they would be willing to volunteer for a campaign, either by going door-to-door or phone banking for their candidate of choice. This excitement means that for some reason a particular campaign has inspired this person. If this one singular person can be inspired then others can be inspired as well. It is up to the particular campaign to figure out how exactly to replicate that enthusiasm across a broad electorate.

On the opposite side, if a person isn't excited for an election it could also reveal a lot about this person as well as the campaign. First off, it means that there's a good chance this person will not vote. It also means that this person most likely won't be taking an interest in politics and won't be discussing the election with his or her family or friends. This person won't be volunteering for a campaign anytime soon either. As a campaign, this has to be disconcerting. No matter how many debates, or campaign stops, or political ads that were viewed, this person simply doesn't seem to be particularly enthusiastic for your candidate. For some reason, this lack of excitement is a clear indicator of apathy and your campaign must now go back to square one to determine how and why this person is seemingly apathetic during an election with so much on the line.

As our country heads toward the second half of the primary season as well as the general election, the national media is doing its best to gauge the level of excitement for each of the remaining five campaigns. From rallies to political donations to online polling, our friends in the media are attempting to quantify the unquantifiable level of excitement that each campaign is generating. By using this immeasurable measure, the media feels it can then interpret its result to create an overall narrative for how each campaign is doing. Clearly the campaign with most excitement is the one where the people are excited for their candidate and are going to go all out for him and her. This campaign will be the one with all the momentum moving forward while those campaigns with less excitement are likely to fall flat as we approach the conventions. 

But let us take a moment to examine this theory, particular with the Democratic primary. Based on all the metrics listed above, it should be clear that Bernie Sanders is the candidate whose campaign is engulfed in enthusiasm. His rabid army of supporters have flocked to his rallies, producing crowds of upwards of 30,000 people, causing many venues to overflow. He raised nearly $44 million last month and now has amassed over 6 million contributions and growing. His loyal followers frequent online polls and exuberantly declare Sanders the winner of each and every Democratic debate or town hall performance. In fact, a recent NBC Poll has shown Sanders within 6 points nationally of Hillary Clinton, the closest that number has been since the race began. All this combined with victories in five out of the last six states and it would appear that the enthusiasm and momentum are clearly on the side of Bernie Sanders. 

Especially when you compare his campaign to that of Hillary Clinton. Clinton's rallies are never raucous, overflowing events. In fact, her most recent rally was held at the Apollo Theater, a venue that seats a mere 1,500 people. Clinton raised $13 million less than Bernie Sanders last month and she only recently amassed her one-millionth campaign contribution in mid-March. She often loses online polls by 60+ points after debates regardless of how well either her supporters or the media say she fared. Her national lead in the polls has all but vanished and after having won five consecutive primaries on March 15th, she has only won a single one since. Based on all this, there would appear to be a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton's campaign at this point in time. 

But appearances can be deceiving, especially appearances falsely created by our mainstream media. Despite everything mentioned above, Hillary Clinton has a 2.5 million vote advantage over Bernie Sanders. She has a larger delegate lead now than Barack Obama ever had in during the 2008 Democratic primary. She has solidified her support among the Obama coalition of African-American and Latino voters and has continued to have a strong showing among women. She swept all five states on March 15th, including the swing states of Ohio and Florida despite being outspent on ads. Looking ahead, she is favored to win in the electoral-rich states of New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and California leaving Bernie Sanders a nearly impossible path to the nomination. Clinton has accomplished all this with a perceived lack of enthusiasm for her candidacy. 

So what gives? 

What gives is the fact that any sort of perceived enthusiasm for a candidate is just that: perceived. A person who is all in for a candidate, who supports him, who tells his friends and family to votes for him, who votes for him in online polls, who volunteers for his campaign, this person has one vote. A person who doesn't do any of that, whose only political involvement is simply by voting, has his or her vote count just as much. Just because a person isn't head-over-heels for their candidate of choice doesn't mean that they aren't committed to that candidate. They simply might have a different way of showing their commitment. And sometimes that strong, silent commitment can be just as powerful as one that is vocal and outgoing.

Don't believe me? A recent Gallup poll showed that Hillary Clinton's supporters are actually more enthusiastic for her than Bernie Sanders supporters are for him. Shocking, I know. Yet, it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Sanders has drawn the bulk of his support from White millennials, a group noted for their, well, "opinionated" personalities. These people flood his rallies that are held primarily in college towns and swamp his online polls to vote for him with zeal and zest. But they're only one small voting demographic. Those demographics that aren't as boisterous are also voting, and they're voting in favor of Hillary Clinton. As the Gallup poll shows, they're also excited to do so. These voters might not thump their chest and yell from the highest rooftop, but they are quietly becoming part of a committed coalition of voters that Hillary Clinton is amassing to set her up for success in the general election.  

And she's doing it in a way that is both smart and efficient. While Sanders is churning through money by booking large venues that cost his campaign lots of money, Clinton is targeting her campaign stops. Sure a Sanders speech at Safeco Field in Seattle might provide great optics for the evening news, but by talking to influential African-American leaders in Harlem, Clinton is solidifying her base for both the upcoming primary as well as the general election. While Sanders is spending nearly five times as much as Clinton on Wisconsin ad buys, Clinton is releasing anti-Trump ads in New York, a state with three times as many delegates at stake and a state where she is currently leading by roughly 40 points in the polls. Sanders may very well eke out a win in Wisconsin, but that win will be quickly erased and then some in New York should Clinton be able to maintain her dominant lead in the delegate-rich state.  

Because Clinton knows that her supporters are, in fact, enthusiastic despite what the media may tell you. Tens of millions of Americans are excited for her revolutionary campaign and how she's spending less money but getting more votes and winning more states, essentially running the campaign that Bernie Sanders had initially promised to run. They are excited that she remains the favorite to not only win the Democratic nomination but win the general election as well. They are excited to witness the political bloodbath that will occur at the Republican convention in Cleveland in July where Republicans will finally decide on their nominee. And they are excited for the fall and the opportunity to help break the ultimate glass ceiling and elect our country's first female president. For those supporting Hillary Clinton, there exists a multitude of reasons to get behind their candidate and each and every Clinton supporter is genuinely excited to be part of what very well could become a history-making campaign.

Even if they don't always show it.

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