Hillary Clinton recently announced her presence on Snapchat with a photograph of herself with the expression “Yaaas, Hllary!” splayed across it.
It was a quintessential Clinton social media post – a desperate stab by her team to “speak to” millennials by sounding absolutely nothing like the candidate herself. I daresay Clinton is more likely to admit she used her family foundation to solicit donations from dictators than she is to utter the word “yaaaasss” in real life.
Sadly, this is not the first time that Clinton has “yaaasssed,” which itself is just the latest manifestation of her covetous outreach to young voters. As Amanda Hess T:
IRL, Hillary Clinton is a 68-year-old grandparent who pronounces Beyoncé “Bay-oncé.” Online, she speaks the language of a millennial fangirl on all the relevant apps. Since its official April launch, her campaign has partnered with Bitmoji to create a Hillary-themed avatar; asked followers to tweet their feels on student debt “in 3 emoji or less”; marketed a cross-stitch pillow in the style of ironic feminist Tumblr; tweeted an ice-cold GIF of Hillary appearing to brush off her shoulder during the Benghazi hearings; sat for an interview for Lena Dunham’s newsletter; Snapchatted the “praise hands emoji” in a diverse array of skin tones; ’grammed a #TBT of Hillary’s 1995 Dolly Parton costume; and called up a set of Star Wars reaction GIFs to illustrate the “Dark Side” of the Republican field. Also, the candidate posed for a selfie with Kimye.
This pattern of ridiculousness is not, as they say, on fleek. But more to the point, it belies a fundamental misunderstanding of how to reach millennials voters. They value authenticity, not slang fluency. That’s why the decidedly un-hip Bernie Sanders, the 75-year-old Vermont Senator who wouldn’t know a whip from a nae nae, was able to win over legions of young people who then built a bevy of memes for him.
Sanders captured nearly 70 percent of the youth vote in the primary, revealing a remarkable if unsurprising dominance among the age group. So the numerous stories this week suggesting that millennials have cooled on Clinton seem misplaced. They were never especially warm on her.
It’s not as if Clinton isn’t trying everything she can think of. In addition to her silly social media alter ego, she’s recruited a rash of surrogates who she’s hoping can carry her message better than she’s managed to thus far. Specifically, the campaign has dispatched Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren to key swing states to convince their fervent supporters that Clinton isn’t all bad. Or at least not as bad as Sanders made her out to be when he was still running the race.
Another surrogate, the ever-popular first lady, Michelle Obama, has been barnstorming Virginia universities to talk up Clinton. But one event from Friday was a microcosm of Clinton’s issues with young voters.
“It is so hard to believe that it is less than two months to Election Day and that my family is almost at the end of our time at the White House,” Obama said to cries of “No!” Yeah. It’s almost time.
The anxious crown then broke into chants of “FOUR MORE YEARS,” which seemed to be as much about keeping Clinton out of the White House as it was about keeping the Obama’s in it.
And that’s the problem. Young voters don’t want Clinton because they don’t trust Clinton. In fact, a remarkable 77 percent of them don’t feel she is honest, according to a new Quinnipiac national poll. That’s a reputation that can’t be repaired by creating a false social media persona who magically speaks internet slang. Nor can it be fixed by sending out myriad surrogates, who have proven very adept at getting young adults to like them, but completely ineffectual at translating that into support for Clinton.
The fact is, Clinton has to be her genuine, authentic self if she wants to win over the masses of millennials. But after years of stage-managed living among the upper echelons of society does Clinton even know who that is anymore?