On One Hand

January 7, 2008

Hillary’s tears win sympathy

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 2:48 pm
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Barack Obama has been shooting ahead in the Democratic primaries after a comfortable win in Iowa, leading to a surge in New Hampshire polls and increased favorability among Democrats nationwide. Hillary Clinton lost the support of many Democrats when she went negative against Obama in December and early January; campaign statements about Obama’s high school cocaine use and sneaky mentions of Islamic faith on Obama’s father’s side of the family have cost Clinton a crucial level of support. Cuthroat, negative campaigning sometimes works when done in close elections by a lesser-of-two-evils candidate against the other, as it scares voters against the one who was attacked. But Clinton is already painted as a dirty, establishment politician, while Obama is generally liked; Clinton’s negative campaigning only seemed to prove those fears true, and reflected more poorly on Clinton than Obama.

In the face of her loss, a tired and weary Clinton is emerging as a better politician than the campaign machine she evolved from. During Saturday night’s New Hampshire debates, Clinton was asked to discuss her lack of “likeability,” to which she half-jokingly replied, “it hurts my feelings.” All four debating Democrats joked as they sparred through the debate, and Clinton coated her otherwise nasty attacks with a sense of mirth. Days later, she tearfully explained the hardships of campaigning and her heartfelt desire to change America, but in a way that was neither melodramatic nor self-pitying. The real-and-open Clinton is far more likeable than any other, and would prove to be a less decisive figure in a general election.

The truth is that Democrats are generally favorable towards all their candidates, and would rather see them working together as a team than working against each other. The competition between them is a necessary evil for now, but Democrats want to choose from their best tendencies, not their worst tendencies. It may be too late for Hillary to turn Obama’s surge around, but she will certainly do better with Democrats when she is friendly and personal, and avoids nasty attacks at her opponents.

Clinton previously refused to show this softer side, which many attribute to the fact that she must consciously overcome fears that a woman president would be too “emotional” to be a good leader. But an emotionless and calculating woman is going to lose on personality in a culture that expects their women to be kind and warm – and we are so used to seeing men fight dirty in politics that we hardly notice it. For Clinton, the humanness is a double-edged sword; if she shows to much of it, she is seen as fragile or weak, if she shows too much of it, she is seen as a cutthroat bitch who has a grudge against men. All these challenges Clinton faces for the fact that she is female.

In spite of her cold image, journalists and supporters who know Clinton personally say that she is very warm and genuine in a one-on-one conversation. Meanwhile, Obama, who can take one’s breath away in a public speech, seems rambling and sometimes downright bizarre in personal conversation. When NBC’s Brian Williams showed Obama that he was pictured on the cover of Newsweek – an photo of himself that Obama had not yet seen – a visibly exhausted Obama gave a weak response. He said the picture made him think of his grandmother, who would have been proud, and “her chin used to tremble and she would get all weepy.” While Obama’s speech language is powerful, the term “all weepy” hardly contrasts it with something heartfelt and personal. It was hardly an inspiring quote, melodramatic and understated at the same time.

Obama is going to win in New Hampshire, and Clinton, a powerful politician, is going to stay in the race even from behind. One thing the New Hampshire contest might achieve is to weaken Edwars near to the point of elimination, and force his supporters to choose between Obama and Clinton. A true contrast between the two will better determine who is a safer bet in the general election. This is good for Democrats. In spite of Edwards’ perceived electability, he is exceptionally negative towards the wealthy, though he himself is a multi-millionare. His scathing attacks on “special interests” are going to turn off a lot of voters in crucial states and appeal to Republican accusations that Democrats are engaging in “class warfare.” A populist candidate never wins the general election, and Edwards is too entrenched in that route to appeal to moderates or independents later on.

But Democrats still really like Hillary, and Democratic women, in particular, really like what she stands for as a woman who has gone so far. If Obama wins the nomination, Democrats are going to want to see her retain a role in the national scene. She will be encouraged to become senate president or even play a role in the cabinet, and though the vice presidency highly is unlikely, it is a vague possibility.

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4 Comments »

  1. Fuck her tears. She can go to cookie baking hell for all I care. And I love the fact that Obama used cocaine and was honest.

    Comment by timberwolves — January 8, 2008 @ 5:53 am | Reply

  2. Senate President = Vice-President. President pro-temp?

    Comment by erichowens — January 8, 2008 @ 3:51 pm | Reply

  3. I meant to say show me your penis.

    Comment by erichowens — January 8, 2008 @ 10:10 pm | Reply


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