Before presidential candidates embraced Internet video as a medium for showing off their push-up prowess or cell-phone-destroying ability, there was Paul McClure's simple song about Hillary Clinton. If you followed the 2008 presidential election, you likely know McClure's face and his voice.
During the Democratic primaries, McClure filmed a video singing Clinton's praises with his song titled "Hillary in the House," and in the process achieved what amounted to virality in the early years of political memes moving online. Now, seven years later, McClure (under his new musical nom de plume, PAUL+donna) has written a reboot that he hopes to become an anthem for Clinton's 2016 campaign.
The new techno remix, "Hillary in the White House 2016," starts with a barbershop quartet, followed by McClure's well-worn refrain, "We need a woman in the house, the White House / Hillary Clinton is the one!"
In politics, it's rare to find someone as genuine, and genuinely weird, as McClure. He says he spent $20,000, largely out of his own pocket, on the original "Hillary in the House" music video. This time around, he doesn't have the funds to self-finance, but he wants to make a music video for 2016 nonetheless.
McClure, an actor and caterer living in New York, previewed his new song for me recently at Union Station, plugging a CD player he'd lugged down to D.C. on the Amtrak into a wall outlet and singing along. He was asked to turn down the music only twice.
He's also out with a new single, "Always on Your Cell Phone"—partially a reference to the ubiquitously meme'd photo of Clinton looking at her BlackBerry aboard a military aircraft. It features a beat that sounds quite like "Blue Monday" by New Order.
It's easy to dismiss McClure as an anomaly—one musical eccentric in a political landscape shaped by the many eccentrics who make up American culture. But McClure genuinely would like to be included in Clinton's 2016 campaign. In June, he says, he got a response from Clinton herself:
The politeness of the response suggests the Clinton campaign is not all too interested in employing McClure's services. Clinton's campaign did not respond to requests for comment, but it's not a stretch to surmise that they don't want to associate themselves with a song that inspired a parody on the show The Good Wife.
Still, at the risk of giving campaign advice, the Clinton campaign could use a little levity among its ranks.
Above everything, including snark, the Internet values earnestness. That's why a Facebook video of Bugs Bunny dancing to "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" might be more successful than a deeply reported long-read about Syrian refugees. This is human nature, and part of a politician's job is to play off voters' essential human nature for personal gain.
Still, voters don't like to feel they're being played. Consider this tweet sent out by Clinton's campaign last week:
How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) August 12, 2015
Not only was it grammatically incorrect, it backfired, coming off as more of a cynical ploy to look Hip with the Youths than an earnest effort to empathize with recent college graduates. For another example, try not to cringe while watching this Vine—which has amassed more than 17 million replays—of Clinton saying, "I'm just chillin' ... in Cedar Rapids!"
While Clinton staffers can capitalize on Internet memes all they want, it does not make up for the campaign's near-fatal dearth of homegrown weirdness. Earnestness, more than snark, is what draws people to a personality; and McClure is both helplessly earnest, and helplessly weird. It's one of the reasons that the original "Hillary in the House" video was so popular in 2008; it was so at-odds with the Very Serious Campaign Clinton was trying to run.
In the wake of a bad news cycle, why not take a page from the Republican playbook and record some silly videos to take the edge off? Sure, she would get accused of not taking her candidacy seriously, but all she would have to do is point at Donald Trump flying his helicopter over the Iowa State Fair, or Ted Cruz making machine-gun bacon, et cetera.
This is not to suggest Clinton hire McClure, but her camp shouldn't dismiss him as a relic from the 2008 race. Underneath his showmanship and obsession with Clinton, McClure is as human as any other Clinton supporter. And at this stage in the campaign, Clinton needs all the humanity she can muster.