Wed 9 Jan 2008
Yesterday, as most everyone knows by now, Hillary Clinton narrowly won the New Hampshire primary over Barack Obama. I'm not sad – Clinton would make a great president. She is smart and capable.
But today, I am very frustrated – not really at her, but at a group of voters with short memories. Let's examine a series of events. Obama wins big in Iowa with a message of change that appeals to young people. He is earnest and hopeful. He gives a MLK-esque victory speech, surrounded by young, passionate supporters who hang on his every word. Hilary comes in second by running a campaign focused on her experience and smarts. She gives a speech with Madeleine Albright, Wesley Clark and the rest of the rich, white, over-50 Democratic machine behind her.
This was all less than a week ago. On that day, give Clinton's campaign credit for realizing they needed to change message. She softens her rhetoric, talks to voters more, has an 'emotional moment' in a diner, and wins New Hampshire. She gives a victory speech, this time surrounded by 19 and 20 year-olds (most of whom, I might add, looked totally bored, and more excited to be on TV than anything else).
Does any of this seem manufactured to you? I have said for months in political discussions that I like Clinton, but I feel like I don't know who she is. Sure, all the candidates are 'handled' and orchestrated by their respective machines, but any commentator will tell you that the Clinton machine is unlike any other. She has armies of strategists who tell her where to go, what to say, and how to say it. She is a fantastic tool for all those smart people – she executes the plans they draw up well, adds her own significant intellect to the show. But when I see Clinton, I see a well-rehearsed act – granted a dynamic and evolving one.
Who knows why Clinton won New Hampshire after all the polls showed her an 8 point dog to Obama? If it's because of her recent turnaround, though, that makes me angry. Obama has been hopeful, personal, genuine, and engaging for a year. Clinton does it for a week, and we all get right on board. Which is the real Clinton? I think it's easy to tell. Watching her victory speech actually made me a little queasy as she said 'you helped me find my voice.' Oh yes, now we're seeing the 'real' Hillary.