Election 2020

Former Clinton Adviser: Democratic Party’s ‘Technocratic Speak’ Turning Off Voters

Former Clinton Adviser: Democratic Party’s ‘Technocratic Speak’ Turning Off Voters
Hillary Clinton speaks after losing the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9, 2016, in Hooksett, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON – Alec Ross, a former senior adviser to Hillary Clinton, said the Democratic presidential campaign’s ideas were not “digestible to blue-collar America” and suggested that the party use less “technocratic speak” in the future.

PJM asked Ross, who was the former secretary of State’s senior adviser for innovation, if the Democratic Party should change its positions on certain issues to win back blue states that flipped from President Obama to President Trump.

“Our party has become too technocratic and too incrementalist and we need big, bold ideas that people in West Virginia, western Michigan and Pennsylvania can see themselves in. I think they have really pushed back against a lot of what they see as technocratic speak,” Ross said after a discussion about his book The Industries of the Future at Busboys and Poets in D.C.

“I think Bernie Sanders in certain respects had a lot of it right, where he called for things like free college – which may not be at all feasible, but the reason why it was appealing, in part, was because it was big, bold and un-nuanced. And I think we’ve become too much the party of technocratic incrementalism, which just does not resonate with blue-collar America,” he added.

Trump promised to bring back manufacturing jobs and coal jobs to states like West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Ross was asked if the Democratic Party is going to be able to gain more support from blue-collar workers while advocating for government investment in green technology.

“Ultimately, the White House is not ours and it’s not going to be ours soon, so ultimately I think there’s an opportunity for governors to show what can be done on a statewide basis, to show how this actually works,” he said.

“Blue collar workers, they want to see the jobs, they’re like ‘show me the jobs, show me the results,’ so we have to take some of our technocratic pie-in-the-sky ideas and produce some truck rolls – like we have to actually enact some of these ideas of ours on the state level to demonstrate how they can actually produce real jobs with good wages,” he added.

Last year, Politico reported that Ross was playing “a key role” in managing the Clinton campaign’s technology policy advisory network.

Ross, a distinguished visiting fellow at Johns Hopkins University, told PJM he had a role in policy discussions on the Clinton campaign as a volunteer but that he was “not omniscient.”

“I would say that ultimately a shortcoming of the policy products coming out of the Clinton campaign was in part because they were not digestible to blue-collar America; you know, there were too many commas and semicolons and it missed them, and so I think the ideas themselves weren’t always bad but sometimes they lack sufficient boldness and they were overly nuanced and overly parsed in terms of how they were communicated,” he said.

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