Archive for Saturday, August 30, 2008

Grieving Hillary backers must regroup

August 30, 2008


— I didn't make it to Denver. A death in the family kept me close to home where words like healing, closure, catharsis - those theme songs of the convention - took on a whole different meaning.

This was the first convention I missed since 1972 when I was sent to Miami as a younger reporter because there was a "women's story" brewing and they needed one. I was there when Shirley Chisholm's run for the presidency turned into a sprint for the vice presidency. She won more delegates' hearts than votes.

I was there in 1984 as well, just after Geraldine Ferraro sent goose bumps of possibility across the country, saying "American history is about doors being opened." We were sure it was a beginning.

And I was there in 1992, in the aftermath of the Clarence Thomas hearings when angry women energized the Year of the Woman, sending four new women to the Senate. The same year Hillary Clinton made her debut and her audition tape as the favorite target of the right wing.

This time I watched history as a civilian. This time, Clinton's loss - nearly as close as Milorad Cavic's to Michael Phelps - shared the attention with Obama's win.

Every commentator chewed on the same question: Could Hillary deliver her supporters? Every pollster gummed the same numbers: Only 42 percent of Clinton's supporters were solidly behind Obama. Working-class white women between 39 and 50 weren't yet on board. What could/should/must Hillary do short of threatening to jump from the roof of the convention if they didn't move to Obama?

This convention seemed more like the last act of the primary than the opening act of the election. Democrats had provided nearly all the drama of this season, an 18-month run, a narrative with two compelling leads, a race between two people to open the door of history. A door that could only admit one at a time.

For the first time, the woman checked off the box of experience. And watched it reframed as "old politics." A thoughtful, eloquent Obama won the mantle of change from the woman who had always been its Rorschach test. The primary revealed fissures just below the calm surface of race, gender and generations.

Even the Republicans held fast to this riveting narrative. The party that had drooled at the prospect of running against Sen. Clinton held Hillary Happy Hours for her supporters and fueled their grievances. The McCain campaign ran television ads straight from the primary script, wooing Hillary supporters even while she said, "I'm Hillary Clinton, and I do not approve that message."

I was not surprised to see the tenacity of this story line. However many speakers talked about the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, the ceiling is in place. While polls say that women now feel it's more likely to have a woman president in the future, older women wonder, "In my lifetime?"

Michelle Obama offered a pitch-perfect speech, ending in a display of courage appreciated by every parent - allowing her daughters before an open mic. But it was hard not to notice that the only female running 'mate' was again describing herself as wife, daughter, mother. Another woman keeping her edge under wraps and her law degree in her hip pocket.

Some women listening to Hillary's powerful speech heard more reasons to be disappointed. What we know about the "sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits" is that women need a farm team. The real gender gap is an ambition gap. Not enough women imagine themselves running for office and so do not run for office. But what we also know is that you can use disappointment to self-destruct or reconstruct.

"Were you in this campaign just for me?" asked Hillary. It's hard to believe that in the end many Hillary voters will turn to McCain. What kind of revenge is it to vote for a man who doesn't believe in women as moral decision-makers on the thorny issue of abortion? What kind of feminist statement is it to vote for a man who did not vote for equal pay for equal work? To the No Obamas, to the PUMAs (Party Unity My A-) who made more noise than news, she replied, "No way, no how, no McCain."

Hillary's speech was the curtain call of this drama. Near the end, the senator offered a long view. "My mother was born before women could vote," she said. "My daughter got to vote for her mother for president." That, for the moment, is history enough.

- Ellen Goodman is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 9 months ago

I'd say McCain's cynical attempt at sucking up to them will go a long way in helping them regroup-- but it won't get him too many votes.

acoupstick 9 years, 9 months ago

I was on the fence for most of the primary since most of their positions are similar. I still prefer her healthcare plan to his. Although I had been leaning toward Obama given her campaign's tactics, Hillary lost my vote for sure when she met with Richard Mellon Scaife to secure his paper's endorsement. There's a fine line between tough and dirty.

Ronda Miller 9 years, 9 months ago

Hillary fans will do as we have done for most of our lives; think for ourselves and vote for the person (male or female) that we repect and think will do the best job. I don't think Hillary really wants it any other way.I agree with the above in that it was a shame for an educated woman such as Michelle Obama is take the back seat on the bus to stand behind her husband. She needs to lead by example and show her daughters that they can be whomever they want to be - with or without a man.

Jeff Kilgore 9 years, 9 months ago

As a Democrat and after the completely dismal if not criminal record of the last eight years, it astounds me that every single Democrat is not up in arms and ready to vote for Obama. Clinton's selfishness, (me or nobody), has awakened me. That this is even an issue is numbing. I thought that self-righteousness and entitlement was the hallmark of Republicanism, on which the Bush family has based its definitive reign. Now, I see that Hillary's personal ambition is more important to her than her party, and worse, her country. I'm done with politics until 2012. By then, McCain will have finished off the tragic reign 2001-9 and our country with it. If that's who we elect, then that's what we deserve.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 9 months ago

Ronda: "Hillary fans will do as we have done for most of our lives; think for ourselves and vote for the person (male or female) that we repect and think will do the best job."So, you've rethought that whole "closet Republican" thang.

Scott Drummond 9 years, 9 months ago

"That this is even an issue is numbing."This is only an issue because we allow it to be flogged by the corporate media to suppress the Obama campaign as much as possible. I highly doubt that similar feelings and behinds the scenes tensions have not taken place in each and every Presidential election since this country was founded. What you have not had until this race, was Wolf Blitzer, Sean Hannity, et al. pumping it up for all it is worth. Both Clintons came oout and put this issue to bed, let it rest in peace. There is only one candidate for the thinking Hillary backer & that is Obama. He can either be supported and Hillary can work on her agenda in the Senate with his support, or the country can elect McCain and his creationist sidekick and watch this country and all of Hillary's agenda items go down the tubes.

Kontum1972 9 years, 9 months ago

lady u hit the nail on the head squarely....bless u...Hillary has Class...

Paul Decelles 9 years, 9 months ago

I ran into some Hillary supporters at the Farmer's market and they seemed to have finished mourning...if they ever did. Me? I was a Richardson supporter so I am definitely still in mourning. eg

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