March 3, 2008
I've seen a lot of races for the United States Presidency, but nothing like this one.
A lifelong Liberal Democrat, who has veered from that position only when the Democrats weren't liberal enough, I knew from the outset I knew that I would not be supporting Hillary Clinton. Painted as a Liberal by the Republican party, she always seemed pretty much a cipher to me -- she would go the way the wind blows and alienate tons of people on both sides in the process. I wanted her to state her positions.
To her credit, she did. Forced out of her cocoon of protective handlers, she has had to speak up and even take interviews that were not scripted. She has proved herself a thoroughbred, with her expensive haircuts and makeup (take that, John Edwards!), and, despite veering toward fishwife from time to time, she just may come up trumps in the primaries tomorrow. She is unflappable and seems to be undauntable as well.
As for those positions, well, they are almost identical to those of her opponent, Barack Obama. Their "debates" looked as if she were trying to define how many angels could dance on the head of pin to prove that her policies were more valid than his, even though there was little difference, and everybody knows there is not much chance that the policies either one advocates will ever get past the Republican opposition.
But I have come to see that she has the right stuff as a campaigner, something that no matter how she talks about experience, she really hasn't shown us before. Her 35 years were mostly spent in supporting that wastril husband of hers, and the fact is she hasn't had all that much legislative background, nor all that much experience in electoral politics herself.
What has made the race unusual is her opponent. Seldom has such a star as Barack Obama come onto the political scene in this country or anywhere else. Where Sen. Clinton was proclaimed "inevitable" to win the Democratic nomination in a walk, his organizational talents and personal charisma began shellacking her as soon as he won Iowa.
No one could have anticipated his meteoric rise. The press, said by the Clinton forces to be favoring him, were only reporting what they saw. Crowds of 20,000 in Boise? The word unprecedented comes to mind.
Politicians have always talked about change. It used to be a cry of "I'll clean up the mess in Washington," or "It's time to throw the bums out!" Obama talks about something else entirely. He talks about personal transformation, not unlike the kind his supporter Oprah Winfrey espouses, but his vision is that such change can take place for the whole country, at once, if "we" work together and commit to make it happen.
A glorious vision, obviously. One that cannot be defeated by calling it a fairy tale or by mocking it with the strident sarcasm Clinton used in a recent speech in Ohio. It made her look as if she didn't understand. She is pragmatic, businesslike; he has his head in the clouds. She is competent, he is näive. In other words, she doesn't get it. The fact is, probably she does, and is in her heart of hearts, scared to death that she might not win.
The crowds that respond to Barack Obama are not all impressionable youngsters. Look behind him when he's making a speech -- look at the faces, all colors, all ages, men and women. They are not all fainting. They are not gullible losers. They are America, they are tired of not being involved, being ignored, being treated as important only in the trivial power of the vote. They want to matter, and whatever happens tomorrow, they will matter in a new way, because of Barack Obama, from now on.
It's been an exciting campaign, and will continue to be so until November and beyond. This one was not dreamed up by a couple of ad agency guys after Scotch and cigars. It was dreamed up by us.