I still believe she has the greatest depth of political and real-world experience to help pull us from the bog George W. Bush will leave us in. I respect her grit, the determination she showed in staying put and winning just one more primary race every time a talk show host or Barack Obama strategist counted her out.
Even with her out of the race, I believe Clinton showed millions of young girls that power in politics is well within their grasp. She is the first female to ever get this far in a U.S. presidential race. I have to watch Clinton settle for some sort of consolation prize this time. But, for the first time in my life, I know the trophy is within reach.
Her harshest critics jumped all over Clinton for what they perceive as arrogance and brashness. People blasted her for her ambition, and for having the gall to set her sights decades ago on the presidency. I never quite got that. When I was a kid in grade school, every little boy was encouraged to “grow up to be president.” It was right up there with being an astronaut. If boys were being groomed from age five for the job, why would it be so offensive that a woman might spend her life in pursuit of the same goal? Actually, it should take a lifetime to make a run for the presidency. That’s partly why the Constitution sets the minimum age for the office at 35.
Clinton forced dialogue among Democrats. She had a big hand in helping a wounded party find new meaning over the past eight years, starting with the day the Supreme Court handed Bush the 2000 election.
She has pushed Obama into framing his issues as something more tangible than the pithy pull-quotes of “got hope?” and “change we can believe in.” She may yet convince him of the urgency in adopting a serious approach to health-care reform—and that can’t come soon enough. Obama needs to offer us a plan that, like Clinton’s, makes health care universal. That means everyone. No more waffling, Barack, please.
As I write this column, it’s early Tuesday afternoon. It’s a curse of our Tuesday evening deadline for City Weekly that we never know for certain the outcome of any election day, ever. But news services, pundits and the top advisers to the Clinton campaign have been reporting all day that she’ll concede to Obama after the Montana and South Dakota primaries. Even with a handful of undecided Democratic superdelegates clinging to secrecy, Clinton just doesn’t have the delegate math to win. She hasn’t for weeks. Clinton is saying she would run as Obama’s vice president if he asks.
I wanted her to win.
But not as badly as Donald Dunn, the chairman of the Clinton campaign in Utah. I called Dunn, I’m guessing about 10 hours before Clinton will concede. Dunn said the uncommitted superdelegates still hold the final outcome in their hands, and of course, they don’t have to decide on a candidate until the national convention in August. Still, he all but acknowledged it was over. And then, like all good liberals, the two of us decided to take heart and spin this thing forward.
With Obama finally in charge, I asked, what do you think he can learn from Clinton?
For starters, “He needs her worse than she needs him,” Dunn said. That much is clear in Obama’s remarks leading up to the June 3 primaries. Obama knows Clinton made his a race worth running. Each time he scored a win, she was there, beating him at the next one. He could never take her for granted.
Obama told national news media of a phone conversation he had with Clinton. “I emphasized to her what an extraordinary race that she’s run and said that there aren’t too many people who understand exactly how hard she’s been working. I’m one of ’em because she and I have been on this same journey together, and I told her that once the dust settled I was looking forward to meeting with her at a time and place of her choosing.”
Dunn believes Clinton can advise Obama on how to win over the Rust Belt states—the working class voters she impressed in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan. Political cartoonists had a field day lampooning Clinton for the “brats, shots and beer” persona she played up in those states. But it worked. “They’re called the ‘Reagan Democrats’ for a reason,” Dunn said. “They have felt that the Democratic Party left them behind in the ’80s. Obama has to win those states to beat McCain in November. Sen. Clinton knows how to do that.”
He needs her on health care, Dunn said. She can help him stay on message about the miserable economy and, as gas prices climb to $5 a gallon, the lack of any sound energy policy from Bush that combines innovation and conservation.
After this week, the Obama juggernaut should be unstoppable (while not in Utah, at least nationally). He did a fine job. And Hillary Clinton helped make it so.