In an interview with PBS’s Judy Woodruff airing today, former President Bill Clinton urged his fellow Democrats to effectively communicate what’s at stake in the election this year, to avoid having voter anger steamroll them at the ballot box.
“I would advise [Obama] and all the Democrats to talk about what we are going to do now and ask them who is more likely to do it,” Clinton told Woodruff, according to the transcript made available by PBS. “If this is a referendum on people’s anger and apathy — so our side stays home and their side’s inside — we don’t do well.”
Clinton said that without effective messaging on the issues — including health care, financial reform, student loans, Social Security and Medicare — Democrats will lose the election to apathy. And though he said Obama and Congress “have done better than the American people think” governing, on the political front he said: “I don’t think we’re putting up a good fight yet.” Democrats have yet to come up with an “effective defense” against Republican attacks, attacks which “angry” and “frustrated” American voters are “buying.” Clinton volunteered a line of argument for his party:
“You gave them eight years to dig this hole just give us two more years, give us four years to dig out of it,” Clinton suggested Dems should argue. “Just half what you gave them and if it’s not better you can throw us all out in two years.”
Still, Clinton didn’t direct all his criticism at the Democratic Party. He reserved some stern words for voters who supported Democrats and Obama in the last two national elections. If they stay home and Republicans undo Democratic policies, non-voting Democrats will share in the blame, he said.
“What’s more important is that all those people who voted for the first time ever in 2006 and 2008 realize that this is not, there are no one-time miracle votes,” he said. “Citizenship is a lifetime job and if you want to protect the votes that you cast and protect the policies you support, you got to show up again and if don’t you can’t complain if you lose and everything you voted for is washed away. It’s your fault for staying home. That’s what people have to understand.”
Clinton also expressed approval of Obama’s higher visibility around the country as the election nears.
“The president’s out there now and I think it’s high time,” he said. “And its good, and it’s good that he’s taken some shots. That’s what people want to see. They like to see their presidents get hit a little bit.”
He told Woodruff he hadn’t heard the Larry Summers was leaving the White House, but he didn’t see it as a troubling sign.
“I think Larry may feel that he’s done the major thing that he was supposed to do, which was to stop the wheels from coming off the track,” Clinton said.
Watch an excerpt: