When Issues Have Faces, Clinton Wins


Akshay Prabhushankar, Deputy Opinion Editor

On the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has set out to prove to voters what issues she would tackle as president. But in the town hall debate this past weekend, the Democratic nominee spoke mostly through faceless statistics and general statements about progress under Obama. From healthcare to immigration, substance abuse to women’s rights, Clinton has outlined an ambitious set of goals, but she has faced resistance from voters who feel such issues do not affect them. Specific and meaningful examples can help.

Middle-class voters, the bulk of the electorate, often dismiss underprivileged groups as deserving of the issues they face. In recent weeks, many politicians have targeted Obamacare as a bureaucratic failure, with most citizens now paying more for health insurance. Donald Trump specifically referenced Bill Clinton’s remarks about the Affordable Care Act in the last debate. Not only was his classification of the former president’s statements inaccurate, but Trump — along with too many voters — also failed to recognize the benefits the plan has brought so many Americans. Take, for example, the case of Brent Brown. In March, the White House posted a letter and video of the man who had voted Republican his whole life and was a vocal opponent of Obamacare, until it saved his life. He had a preexisting condition and could only find healthcare thanks to the president’s actions.

Similar examples exist for any political issue today. Diane Guerrero, an actress from Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, recounted the heart-wrenching story of her parents’ deportation in an LA Times op-ed. Her family came to Boston to escape violence in Colombia, but at 14, she came home from school to find an empty house and neighbors telling her that immigration authorities had taken her parents away.

Just last month, an Ohio police department released disturbing photos of two parents who had overdosed in the car while their young son sat in the backseat. The photos, which went viral, offered a glimpse into the opioid epidemic clutching the country.

Voters can empathize with these testimonials, which help them understand that these issues do not plague some people in a faraway land. The woman down the street who signed up for subsidized health care while in between jobs, the actor who graced television screens across America who died of a drug overdose at age 35, the immigrant children who study all day and work at night at the local McDonald’s to provide for their families. Hillary Clinton has good policy proposals — in stark contrast to her opponent — but she faces trouble when convincing voters of their worth. By humanizing political issues and statistics, like the references to Captain Khan and the viral Aleppo boy, the Democratic nominee can show voters what a Clinton presidency would prioritize.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 11th print edition. Email Akshay Prabhushankar at [email protected].