How does Hillary Clinton, the queen of old-school Democratic partisan politics and bane of the "vast right-wing conspiracy," woo movers in the be-nice and collaborate-on-a-couch tech economy? During her speech at Salesforce.com's San Francisco Dreamforce mega-convention Tuesday, the former U.S. secretary of state showed a softer side to the beanbag workforce.
To those of us who have been following politics for years, La Hil is the consummate pol. At Dreamforce, she shed her old brand to become, as she was billed, a "visionary." This was not your father's business convention. Participants used a lingo best defined as Davos-World-Economic-Forum-meets-tech talk. Before Salesforce.com founder and CEO Marc Benioff introduced the woman he sure seems to want to be America's next CEO, he didn't talk about profits or total market domination. Benioff said he wants more "multi-stakeholder dialogues."
Benioff and his wife, Lynne, have given $200 million to the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland. Clinton praised Benioff's commitment to "doing good while doing well."
We know this is an approach Hillary and Bill Clinton value. Though the Clintons like to talk up their dedication to "public service," Politico has reported that they earned $109 million in the eight years preceding 2008. Mrs. C herself earns six figures for speeches — even at public universities. She was paid $300,000 to speak at UCLA, $225,000 to speak at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. (How much did Salesforce.com pay Clinton? It won't say.)
It must have been a relief for Clinton to appear at a venue where the big issue was not income inequality but Net neutrality. (Clinton said she supports Net neutrality.) It's been a rocky road since she stepped down as secretary of state. Sales of her book "Hard Choices" slumped despite a big PR splash. And Clinton didn't help her book sales or 2016 presidential prospects when she asserted that after Bill Clinton left the White House, the couple were "dead broke."
It's no wonder, then, that Clinton readily offered up: "I don't want to make any news today."
So she played her new grandmother card. She talked about the need for parents to talk to their children, lest "the word gap" harden into "the achievement gap." Clinton did not address the edge enjoyed by children in two-parent families.
Instead of trashing Republicans, as President Barack Obama cannot stop doing, Clinton talked about the need for "relationship building." Smart. According to the Pew Research Center, half of millennials describe themselves as political independents, and less than a third see a big difference between the two parties.
She's come a long way since 1992, when Bubba's campaign theme song said, "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow." At 66, Hillary is approaching the age when many seniors can't stop talking about the good old days. The digital generation has taken the reins of a churning economy. At the close of the Dreamforce events Tuesday, The Beach Boys crooned before a thin crowd. She knew how to talk to this digital force. But then, this is a convention that invited The Beach Boys.