With Hillary Clinton’s decision to cease campaigning for the 2008 presidential nomination, I have mapped out a series of posts on her loss, a kind of postmortem on her campaign.
I’ll begin with commenting on the one thing that has always puzzled me — her appeal. First, I had thought that Democrats were merely flocking to her bandwagon out of affection for her husband, the most successful Democratic president in three generations — and the most popular Democrat (until recently) in the past two.
As she began to fall behind Senator Obama, I had assumed she would lose some of her luster as party faithful realized she wasn’t her invincible husband. That didn’t happen. She still enjoyed large and enthusiastic crowds and continued fundraising at an impressive pace (even if not as impressive as that of her party’s then-frontrunner). She won a clear majority of the popular vote in states casting ballots after most pundits declared she had no chance of winning the nomination (about the time of the Wisconsin primary).
To be sure, I grew to admire her tenacity and resilience, that she kept at it when even after those pundits had written her off while leftist bloggers and commentators had castigated her in terms which made the Republican attacks of the 1990s seem tame (or banal) by comparison.
What accounted for her appeal? That she was an outspoken woman married to a successful Democratic politician?
Granted she is a very smart woman with a good understanding of public policy, but so are a number of female politicians who have won election in their own right (that is, not running on their husbands’ successes) and who have greater accomplishments to their credit.
I mean, what exactly has she done in the thirty-five years of experience she claimed? Has she authored and/or otherwise helped pass any landmark legislation? Administered a program successfully and under great odds? Responded to a catastrophe or crisis with calm and determination? Consistently advocated a set or principles over a period of time while convincing others of their merit?
I ask the last question because we’ve see her shift her political positions frequently in order to better tack to the prevailing political winds. It’s that opportunism which makes it difficult for me to respect her even as I have grown to admire her tenacity in face of adversity on the hustings.
So, I wonder, what is the source of Hillary Clinton’s appeal. I encourage her supporters to weigh in with their thoughts in the comment thread. As soon as I post this, I will even be e-mailng a few such supporters, bloggers, readers of this blog and friends, asking them to chime in. With their permission, I will print their responses as updates to this post.
Click on “more” for the first of those responses:Darkeyedresolve writes:
Hillary had various appeals to me, and it wasn’t just when she was losing that she had my support. She was always my first choice for nominee and to be president. First off, Hillary represents the old guard of the Democratic Party and had the best chance to rebuild FDR’s grand coalition that gave the Democrats some of their best and most important electoral wins. She was not the candidate of the the net roots or the real left wing of the party, but she was the candidate of more moderate Democrats. Hillary has given a lot to the party, way more than Obama has, and probably more than most people would. Who else would I want to be the standard bearer and the fighter for our policies than someone who has been doing it for over 25 years? She also brings to the presidency a set of unique experiences that we have not had in a president before. She has worked with each branch of government and at both the state and national level, she doesn’t need to relearn or learn how to manage the bureaucracy of the executive branch. Many reform candidates faulter or fail because they run into unexpected problems of the executive, which will be a factor for Obama or McCain. With all of the problems the president it will face, she would be moving on her agenda much faster just from the experience of having been an active member in a presidency already.The problem for Hillary was that she got comfortable and it wasn’t until she was under fired that she really shined, and people say that often the best of a person comes out at the bleakest of times. She really showed that when push comes to shove, she has it in her to get right back up to shove back.
A friend from Los Angeles weighs in:
â€œWhy did Hillary appeal to me (by the way, â€œGo, Hillary!â€)?â€ I’ve been asked that question numerous times, not only by Dan but also by those of my family and friends who have supported Obama from the get-go. They would express their bewilderment with that piercing look of perplexity, never with words.
I’m not going to list Hillary’s credentials, accomplishments, etc. as a way to explain my support of Hillary (â€œGo, Hillary!â€). To me, it’s always been a futile attempt. After all, I acknowledge that many of this year’s presidential candidates possessed an equally impressive list of accomplishments. Which leads me to this next pointâ€¦
I don’t believe that each of us reaches that â€œwhom-will-I-vote-for-Presidentâ€ decision by exclusively doing a dry analysis of a candidate’s resume and policy stances. If we were to be truly honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit to the influence of the irrational. So, after having completed my dry analysis of Hillary’s resume and concluded that she was capable to be Commander-in-Chief, I confess that the irrational got me across the finish line for Hillary. Here are just a few of the irrational reasons:
- Â I like her spunk. She’s a tough gal who told America that she’s capable of more than just baking a mean sheet of cookies. You go, girl!
- Â After Bill’s well-publicized infidelities, she maintained her dignity and held her head up high.
- She probably kicked Bill’s ass in private when she found out about Monica.
- Man, she’s awfully smartâ€¦
- She’s resilient. She didn’t let the naysayers stop her from pursuing her dream. She’s a fighter!
Even though I’ve wiped my tears and now root for Obama, I do pray that she will continue to have the opportunity to serve our country by putting her incredible smarts to good use. GO, HILLARY!!
A friend of mine, a bright young woman and talented actress who has earned accolades for her stage work in both New York and Los Angeles writes:
I admire Hillary Clinton because she is a strong, highly intelligent woman who has worked her whole life (since she was 12) fighting for the same causes. She has always wanted to help the disinfranchised, especially women and children, and has been doing that through politics since a young age. Politics is her passion and her calling, her voice, the way she feels she can be of most use and what she loves. It’s admirable when someone sticks to what she loves and tries to do good through it. It’s admirable that she’s ambitious, knows what she wants, and goes after it. She has paved a brave, unprecidented path and keeps fighting despite the amount of critism she gets. Nothing gets her down. At the same time, she has been a wonderful mother and is devoted and deeply loyal to her family and her close friends.