Guest Op-Ed: Hillary Listens and Acts (for People in Iowa)

By Pat Rynard
January 31, 2016

Guest post from Tracy Sefl

I’ve been in political communications for years. And believe me: campaigns make plenty of noise. But the best candidates do more than just talk; they stop and listen to everyday people. If Bill Clinton was “Explainer-in-Chief,” then Hillary Clinton may well be “Listener-in-Chief.” She’s that kind of candidate—the type that learns and reacts out of full-fledged empathy.

You may have spotted Hillary at Kirkwood Community College in Monticello or Fuel Espresso in Mount Vernon, or at dozens of other Iowa landmarks big and small. For the skeptics among us, it’s easy to call these appearances stagecraft or public relations stunts. But I assure you: these meetings are meaningful.

PR stunts don’t start with grievances from the mother of a child with Asperger’s in Council Bluff, then lead to a phone call with policy writers in Brooklyn, then become a key addition to the frontrunner’s healthcare proposal. No way. PR stunts start and stop when the cameras are rolling. PR stunts are for opportunists.

Hillary listens and acts where most candidates simply hear. Pushing to improve autism research is one example. So is cutting red tape for entrepreneurs, which evolved from a small business roundtable in Norwalk. Or fighting to stop drug abuse, as inspired by talks with Davenport families. Each began with a conversation and resulted in a policy proposal.

Listening is hardly new for Hillary. She’s been listening for years, well before entering politics. Whether visiting rural counties in Arkansas or meeting with women across the globe, Hillary has long sat down with the disenfranchised—and made their voices heard.

With women, especially, these sit-downs inform her decisions. Paid family leave is now central to Hillary’s gender equality plan, as are reproductive rights. And her meetings with gun victims’ mothers no doubt shape her criminal justice platform.

As Amy Chozick of The New York Times wrote last May, Hillary has, in addition to in-house policy experts, some “35 million more advisers—also known as the Democratic primary electorate.” Other politicians might follow up by signing photos or shaking hands. When Hillary sees a problem, she follows up by finding solutions.

I have roots in Iowa. My parents have retired here. My niece and my godson are growing up here. Macro concerns like ISIS and tax loopholes certainly matter—and Hillary has the know-how to tackle them. But when Iowa families like mine cast votes, other, more private concerns can come into frame—student debt, small business loans, Alzheimer’s disease. Hillary has listened carefully and addressed each one with a nuanced plan.

Come November, we can finally have a “Listener-in-Chief,” someone who enacts change from the ground up instead of shouting ideas from a mountaintop. We can elect a President who cares about and acts upon so-called small issues—the ones that stay out of headlines but mean the world to everyday people. We can elect Hillary Clinton.


by Tracy Sefl
Posted 1/31/16
Tracy Sefl is a former senior adviser to Ready for Hillary

  • Pat Rynard

    Pat Rynard founded Iowa Starting Line in 2015. He is now Courier Newsroom's National Political Editor, where he oversees political reporters across the country. He still keeps a close eye on Iowa politics, his dog's name is Frank, and football season is his favorite time of year.



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