Hillary Clinton committed a minor gaffe last week when, while attempting to board a New York City subway train, she had to swipe her MetroCard five times before getting it right. Her critics, predictably, used the incident to paint her as a hoity-toity aristocrat who doesn't understand how common folks live. Days later, though, Hillary Clinton neutralized the subway MetroCard gaffe by publicly poking fun at herself.
At a light-hearted event with New York City Mayor and campaign surrogate Bill de Blasio, Clinton asked Hizzoner if he would "please fix these MetroCard slots in the subway?"
"It took me, like, five swipes," she said. "The little terminal thing kept saying, 'Please swipe again.' I mean, you've got to fix that. You don't have to worry about horses anymore. Fix the turnstiles!" De Blasio shook his head in mock embarrassment.
Every so often, a candidate screws up a basic task that most non-politicians can perform with ease and, as a result, is branded as "out of touch" with everyday Americans. This happens quite frequently in American politics. In 2007, Barack Obama was criticized for mentioning arugula at a campaign stop, because arugula is apparently an "elitist" food. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell caught flak in 2014 for holding a gun incorrectly, an important issue in Kentucky politics.
Occasionally, stuff like this can actually have an electoral impact. During a Massachusetts Senate race in 2010, Democrat Martha Coakley committed the unforgivable sin of referring to Curt Schilling — former Red Sox pitcher and a hero in Massachusetts sports circle — as "a Yankees fan." Many people blamed that, along with other gaffes, on Coakley's ultimate loss to Republican Scott Brown.
Clinton's gaffe, though, probably won't doom her in the New York primary. For one, it was a relatable mistake. At least, it was to me. I screw up swiping my credit card at grocery stores on a regular basis, and I've been doing that (or trying to) for over a decade. And besides, Clinton isn't the only one in the Democratic primary to mess up some minor subway details. Days before her gaffe, Bernie Sanders revealed that he thinks passengers still use tokens to get on the New York City subway.
If anything, the fact that this is even getting press coverage drives home the fact that the Democratic primary, while fiercely contested and full of passion on both sides, is still a relatively tame affair compared to the existential crisis Republicans are going through right now. Hillary may or may not win the New York primary, but make no mistake: The outcome will have nothing to do with whether or not she's able to use a MetroCard.