Of course Sanders’s answer about Hillary’s emails was great politics




CNN would have been remiss last night to not ask at least one question about Hillary Clinton’s emails. The issue has been dominating coverage of her campaign, and she’ll be the first to admit that she has been less than adept at handling said coverage.

But what journalists who get off on the prospect of wrongdoing via shady, technically complicated communication between Hillary, her employees at the State Department and foreign leaders miss in all of their coverage is that the median Democratic voter does not give a single bother. To be clear, they don’t find Hillary Clinton to be particularly trustworthy or transparent, but that was the case before her email story broke. They are much more concerned about her flip on the Trans-Pacific Partnership and flakiness on Wall Street reform than they are about where and how she housed her email server.

Despite that being the case, however, there’s only so much a candidate can do when posed with the question, “Your opponents say you did something illegal. Did you?” While Clinton came prepared with a good answer to the email question, there was only so much she could say. Which is a shame, because the media’s obsession with her emails is positively ridiculous.

Which is why, during her answer, I tweeted this:

And Bernie Sanders immediately obliged:

As Sanders said (emphasis added):

Let me say — let me say something that may not be great politics. But I think the secretary is right, and that is that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails.

You know? The middle class — Anderson, and let me say something about the media, as well. I go around the country, talk to a whole lot of people. Middle class in this country is collapsing. We have 27 million people living in poverty. We have massive wealth and income inequality. Our trade policies have cost us millions of decent jobs. The American people want to know whether we’re going to have a democracy or an oligarchy as a result of Citizens Union. Enough of the e-mails. Let’s talk about the real issues facing America.

Sanders’s preface that his answer wouldn’t be great politics was echoed by the same journalists who have been covering Clinton’s emails like they are the thing the voters really truly care about in this election:

But for the reasons stated above, that assumption turned out to be wrong. Sanders’s declaration that the American people are tired of hearing about Clinton’s damn emails drew one of the biggest applause lines of the night, in no small part because the American people are tired of hearing about Clinton’s damn emails. In a focus group conducted by Fox’s Frank Luntz — who has every incentive to play up the email scandal as a negative — Bernie’s dismissal of the issue as a waste of time was hailed as on of his best moments in a debate that participants felt he won by a mile.

Sanders’s answer was great politics for Hillary in that it scored more points for her than any answer she could have given on the issue herself, but it was also great politics for Sanders in that it reinforced everything people like about him and his brand: Bernie Sanders does not trade in political bullshit. The American people are worried about economic inequality and the disastrous effects it is having on our democracy, so that’s what he’s going to talk about. As far as he’s concerned, any attempt to distract from that message is nothing more than misdirection, and deserves to be treated as such.

Sanders has been rewarded thus far in his campaign by being the kind of candidate everyone says they want: a no-nonsense non-sellout with a laser-sharp focus on the country’s most pressing issues and a willingness to call out the Washington establishment for ignoring them. Being offered a chance to attack Clinton over her emails was, in this respect, a wheelhouse issue for him — a prime example of the politics he loathes and has spent the last few months campaigning against. It should come as no surprise that he knocked the question out of the park.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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