THE BLOG

Going Left: Hillary Plays the Shifts

05/22/2015 02:42 pm ET | Updated May 21, 2016

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I race sailboats. Not yachts. Sailboats. The kind that don't come with cupholders and require only three sober souls to keep her fast and upright.  To my chagrin, sailing is right there with croquet in lists of the most popular sports.

JFK at the helm

Even so, there is an enduring connection between my sport and politics. Perhaps it was that the Kennedy's made it cool or that it holds sufficient mystique for newspeople to safely invoke its arcana.  Ropes are sheets.  Corners are clews and tacks.  Tacks are not clews or corners, they are turns through the wind.

So it goes that The Washington Post published this page one headline:  Sensing a voter shift, Clinton tacks to left.  "Nailed it!  E-ffing brilliant!" four readers in Annapolis just snorted. "Yeah, and now she's on starboard," a fifth observed over his dark and stormy.

I won't go into the starboard thing, but it's worth explaining to the uninitiated what exactly a tack is and why Hillary is doing one.

tack verb \ˈtak\ sailing : to turn a ship or boat so that the wind is coming at it from the opposite side

Like politicos, sailboats can't go into the wind, not without a motor, and boats with motors are called stinkpots and everyone knows this was the only kind that Nixon would ever go near.

Nixon at the helm

But I digress.  Sailboats rely on myriad laws of physics to slide away from the wind's primary direction and zig-zag their way against it.  So when Hillary tacks, it is to suggest that her zig has changed to a zag which, in the case of the ever-crafty Clinton seems fitting. Like any decent sailor, her tacticians have seen something that will take her faster up the race course and that, as the headline suggests, is a new wind that's coming from a better direction.

They're eating this up at The Boatyard, I'm sure.

What the writer, Anne Gearan, is attempting to explain, is that Clinton thinks she'll be better off by heading toward previously untouchable issues -- immigration, same-sex marriage, minimum wage, college tuition costs and more. Whereas in the last cycle, these were off the charts, they are now modern, even mainstream and, like pot in D.C., safely held.

To the usual point of this blog, Hillary's plays are (1) a Trial Balloon to gauge the political winds and (2) a Trump, the preempting play that will allow her to make these issues her own.  Watch for Republicans to run Mirrors that explain why Clinton't tack is a loser.

If Gearan shows up for Wednesday Night Racing, she's got a ride with me.  We'll teach her about current lines -- the kind I missed this weekend -- and how, as in politics, they surface first at the edges and then merge into the mainstream.  We'll teach her the difference between a lift and a header -- the kind I sailed into this weekend -- and how Hillary is hoping like hell that on her new tack she'll catch the former, not the latter.

Photo credits: Wikipedia and George Mason University archives