Denver, August 27
Hillary Clinton gave a great speech last night, full of fire and feeling. She talked about all those "left out and left behind" by the Bush Administration–working people struggling to stay afloat, veterans, single mothers, people without healthcare. She talked about the need to end the war in Iraq, about education, renewable energy and the need to defend civil rights, labor rights, women’s rights, gay rights. She spoke movingly of the seventy-two-year struggle for women’s suffrage, a cause handed down the generations (August 26 was Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment). Often criticized as stiff and starchy, to say nothing of sartorially challenged, she even poked gentle fun at herself and her staff–"my sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits." (Last night’s was a vivid orange, which the glaring lights of the Pepsi Center gave a pinkish cream-of-tomato-soup tinge.)
As I said, it was a great speech–and she not only gave it everything she had, she looked energized, confident and happy doing so. But the most important thing about it was that she called herself "a proud supporter of Barack Obama." In the very first sentence. These were the words people needed to hear–the crowd went wild, perhaps with relief. (I was pretty nervous myself about whether she would convey real enthusiasm.) Just to make sure everyone got the point, she made it again and again. She praised Obama for building his campaign "on a fundamental belief that change in this country must start from the ground up, not the top down." In an inspired piece of oratory bound to resonate with the many black women in the audience, she evoked Harriet Tubman’s fearless determination ("If you hear the dogs, keep going, if you see the torches in the woods, keep going…keep going…don’t ever stop") and segued to the need to "get going by electing Barack Obama." She asked her followers, a little plaintively, "Were you in this campaign just for me?"
That is the question.
The Hillary die-hards have been the uncrowned stars of the convention, avidly sought out for interviews and photo ops. It’s as if the media cannot let go of their obsession with her, and with the Clinton-Obama rivalry narrative that was such a draw for them. We’ve heard about the die-hards’ anger, their disappointment, their sorrow, their grievance, their need to mourn and find "closure," their fears of women’s progress stalled forever. Susan Faludi just wrote one such piece for the New York Times. The paranoid fantasies of a small subset of these women have gotten respectful, if bemused, attention: the DNC sabotaged Hillary. The media–for which Howard Dean and Nancy Pelosi are responsible–sabotaged Hillary. The primary rules sabotaged Hillary–after all, if the primary rules had been different, Hillary might have won, so actually she did win. Besides, the point of the process was to choose the most electable candidate, and clearly that was… Hillary! As I write, the wrangling is still going on about the roll call–will Hillary delegates be allowed to cast a first ballot for her?