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There are election countdown clocks everywhere.

The (mostly) secret faith life of Hillary Clinton | America Magazine

There are men and women all around, many of them young and eager, and so many of them black. Thirty-eight, in fact, are stationed at her headquarters. They are designers, accountants, and senior policy advisers. They are campaign veterans and political neophytes. Summarily, they have all strapped themselves to the Hillary train and are willing it forward through the recalcitrant tracks of America.

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A conductor on this train is senior policy adviser Maya Harris, sister to California senate hopeful Kamala Harris and a political Goliath in her own right. She arrived at the campaign in April, fresh off a brief stint at the progressive think tank Center for American Progress, where she prophetically wrote about the importance of women of color in future elections. The Stanford-trained lawyer and former university dean helps shape the policies Clinton relays in stump speeches and debates. When asked about the policies that would affect black women the most, Harris points to three main issues: the gender pay gap, support for small businesses, and criminal-justice reform.

When you talk about ensuring equal pay for women, that will have a distinct and dramatic impact for women of color, for whom the wage gap is widest. Harris notes that African-American women make up the fastest growing sector within female entrepreneurship, and that the capital Clinton intends to make available if she were elected would help launch and grow their businesses.

But the seed had been planted. Though Hillary is wildly popular among older black voters, millennials are finding her a tough pill to swallow. By the end of May, she had amassed a lead over Bernie Sanders that ranged from 85 to 89 percent among black voters 45 and older, but lost the and- under vote to Sanders. When it became clear she would become the party nominee, the Twitter generation vocalized their reluctance in hitching their support to her campaign with the hashtag GirlIGuessImWithHer. The uncompromising and incorruptible style that made him a failure at the inside game of Washington was precisely the reason he was poised to take advantage of a populist renaissance in the electorate.

That populist renaissance had begun on the Republican side, with the rise of the Tea Party in They were mirrored on the Democratic side by the Occupy Wall Street movement, which had failed to achieve its goals not because of a lack of passion but because of organizational weaknesses and because the left had less appetite for destruction with a Democratic president in office.

On the left, voters often viewed the existing government as an impediment to greater redistribution of wealth and more benefits for the middle and lower classes. However, these two sets of populists did overlap in a few essential areas.

Hillary Clinton’s Forgotten Career: Corporate Lawyer

They were mad about corporate subsidies, trade agreements, and American military intervention overseas. Bernie felt that way too. So while no one in Washington was paying attention to Sanders in April , the tinder for an anti-Hillary outsider was spread across the country, just waiting to be lit. He planned a dinner at his Capitol Hill home, an elegant townhouse an easy walk away from the cramped, square-foot, two-floor row house Sanders had bought for nearly half a million dollars after winning his first six-year Senate term in As Press called around, he found that it was difficult to assemble a crew to even meet with Sanders.

No commitment necessary or expected, he said. But few heeded his call. The group was large enough that Carol Press served beef stew in the living room rather than around the dining room table, and Sanders made a pitch very similar to the one he had given Bill Press at their lunch meeting a few weeks earlier. Then he polled the room, seeking input on the various aspects of a campaign and whether he should run — and how he should do it if he did. Devine thought that was a terrible idea because it was so off-brand for a political reformer.

He had studiously avoided association with the party, caucusing with House and Senate Democrats to secure seats on committees in Congress but never calling himself a Democrat or doing all but the most perfunctory of fund- raising for the party. It would mean sacrificing a major piece of his identity. This former intern now sat on the board of UVM Honors College, but she was better known as a longtime fund-raiser, scheduler, and troubleshooter for President Barack Obama.

Over the course of two decades, Alyssa Mastromonaco, a petite brunette so obsessively organized that she set calendar reminders to take her vitamins, had risen through the ranks from intern for the fringe socialist congressman to deputy chief of staff at the White House.

When people wanted to see Obama in the Oval Office, they had to talk to her first. After all, Clinton had already sucked up a lot of the political oxygen in Democratic circles. Becoming a Democrat was no small matter for him. If he ran as an independent, she knew, no one would hear him.


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Sanders also wanted to know about the rigors of the campaign trail and what had made the difference between the losing Kerry campaign and the winning Obama bid in Not Sanders. This was all new to him. The most valuable insight Mastromonaco shared with Sanders was the difference between the party-regular candidacy of Kerry and the fresh-outsider campaign of Barack Obama. He was always convinced that he was missing one key staffer who could solve all of his problems.

Obama, with the help of advisers David Plouffe and David Axelrod, built a cohesive team that was neither beholden to, nor heavily influenced by, Democratic Party insiders.

They would rise and fall together, unfearful of missing out on the advice of party stalwarts. Stay focused. Bernie could run without that baggage. Beholden only to his supporters, he could be more agile and more pure than Hillary. He could be like Obama. Bernie took it all in. Then he asked Mastromonaco the most dangerous question in all of left-wing politics: Will you come to the next meeting?

Mastromonaco, who was starting a job as chief operating officer of Vice Media, came to give counsel. For several others, including Devine and McCue, it was a return engagement. Devine, who had counted delegates for Jimmy Carter in and worked on presidential campaigns for a long string of Democratic candidates not named Clinton, delivered a presentation on the race.

Bernie knew agricultural and environmental issues, which mattered to Iowa and New Hampshire voters, as well as anyone. The demographics — nearly all white and not very wealthy — fit him too.

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Moreover, Iowa Democrats were dovish, and New Hampshire voters had shown an affinity for presidential candidates from neighboring states. This sounded like quite a lot of money to the penurious Sanders. Devine laid out more of the challenges that Bernie would have to overcome. Hillary would have advantages at every turn, including her monster fund-raising network, her existing relationships with superdelegates who would have votes at the convention, and the institutional power of a Democratic Party to which Bernie did not yet belong.

If the first meeting was a toe in the water for Sanders, he was now up to his hips in the chilling and soon-to-be- turbulent tides of a presidential campaign.

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Sitting next to McCue, a cold-eyed, warmhearted political mercenary, Mastromonaco spoke up to warn Sanders about the rigors of hitting up donors for money. Mastromonaco knew what she was talking about. Altogether, Mastromonaco told Sanders, Hope Fund had built a list of fifteen thousand to twenty thousand donors in a set of states where there had been competitive Senate races. But it would turn out that Mastromonaco had vastly underestimated her former boss.

After listening to everyone, Sanders spoke up. He emphasized that his goal would be to seize enough attention and support to set the agenda for the Democratic primary.


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  5. That could be a fatal error, Press thought. It would be a mistake, he warned Bernie, to let Clinton jump into the race first. And, as Democratic insiders knew in those days right after the midterm debacle, she was being advised to get out of the blocks early. Sanders risked a failure to launch if he waited too long. Get in now, before the calendar turned to But he wanted to know which of his allies were committed. Then he went around the room. Yes, yes, yes, yes, came the replies. Everyone was with him. Not many professional political operatives had an appetite for getting in a fight with Hillary Clinton.

    So Sanders hired a longtime loyalist, Jeff Weaver, who was running a comic book-and-video game shop in the Washington suburbs. Weaver, bald with a clean-cropped white beard and square, black-rimmed glasses, was a student-activist type now nearing fifty.