Hillary Clinton Wants You to Know She Has a Plan

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Democratic National Convention: Day Four
Proud of her wonkiness, Hillary Clinton says Trump's just winging it. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

In one of the passages of her acceptance speech contrasting her point of view with Donald Trump’s, Hillary Clinton made an interesting boast: >

[Trump] offered zero solutions. But we already know he doesn’t believe these things.

No wonder he doesn’t like talking about his plans.

You might have noticed I love talking about mine.

In one of the passages of her acceptance speech contrasting her point of view with Donald Trump’s, Hillary Clinton made an interesting boast: >

As the Washington Post’s James Downie noted, this was normal pol-talk:

I love talking about [plans]” functions superficially as a laugh line. But underneath it is an uncommonly — in the public space at least — frank defense of wonkiness. Confronted with an idea-less opponent, Clinton could have simply noted that he had “zero solutions” and then listed her own. But she went beyond that to make an affirmative case for love of policy. A presidential candidate is suggesting you vote for her because, unlike her opponent, she believes legislation is not boring, that thinking should be celebrated, that governing — especially the presidency — is not for amateurs.

That’s probably true. But I think there is another political argument embedded in this wonkiness. A candidate with a “plan” can be held accountable for what she or he ultimately proposes or disposes of in office, and has at least gone to the trouble of sketching out an agenda — a sign of respect for voters.

In 2004, the idea was to make it clear that Kerry and Edwards weren’t just critics of George W. Bush; they had a positive agenda for the country. For Hillary Clinton it’s about making herself more than a candidate of the despised status quo and, again, providing a benchmark against which her performance in office can be judged. It’s a bit of a gamble — too many plans and the American people start to suspect you’re just another politician making too many promises. But, at some deep level, voters think hiring someone to run the country bears at least a slight resemblance to hiring someone to provide any other valuable service: They need to have a clue. As Joe Biden demonstrated at the convention, the claim that Donald Trump does not have one will be central to the Clinton-Kaine campaign message. Having a plan is a nice contrast.