Pondering Hillary Clinton


I was concerned going into the closing night of the Democratic Convention when Hillary Clinton would be called upon to address the delegates and the nation. She has not shown herself to be adept at this sort of thing. As she noted in her speech, the service part of public service comes more easily to her than the public part. Earlier in the week, on that same stage, Bill Clinton remarked that the details of the political process are hard work. Being up there on the stage talking about it is fun. For him, no doubt. For her, not so much.

Clinton would speak at the end of a week that brought remarkable speeches by Michelle and Barack Obama and a succession of merely outstanding ones by Corey Booker, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton, and others. She does not possess the oratorical skills of her husband or the man she hopes to succeed. Few do. How would she hold up by comparison?

She held up admirably. It was a fine speech. I for one found her authentic. Perhaps a case could be made that the success of the Sanders campaign frees her to follow instincts and values that have animated her from the beginning of her career, values that are no less genuine and deeply held for having often been subjected to the demands of pragmatism and a willingness to settle for less than might be wished when the alternative is not more of what we want but nothing. Maybe the centrism for which the Clintons are in some quarters roundly castigated is more Bill's instinct than hers.

I have never bought that Hillary Clinton is all about ambition, ego, and expediency, to which most of us are susceptible. Nor do I buy now that her move to make common cause with Sanders is cynical opportunism that will be abandoned after the election. It may represent a return to her authentic self.

This line of thought is highly speculative and comes with a generous measure of wishful thinking, or to spin it more positively, a generous measure of hope. Many will not find it convincing. I can think offhand of three personal friends, individuals for whom I have the highest regard, who would reject it in no uncertain terms. One will not vote on the principle that both major parties represent the interests of the corporate oligarchy and at bottom there is no difference between them. Another feels he has been abandoned by Bernie Sanders and now supports Green Party candidate Jill Stein. The third is of a strongly libertarian bent with an equally strong social conscience.

My reservations about Hillary Clinton are documented in this space and elsewhere. She has made some baffling moves for which she offers self-serving rationalizations in lieu of the forthright account sought by people of good will. Even so, many harbor an antipathy toward her that strikes me as downright pathological. These minds are closed, the windows shuttered, the doors locked and bolted. Are there enough of them to swing the election to Trump?

Clinton and I differ on any number of issues. The realm of foreign affairs is of particular concern. The bottom line, though, is that she is someone with whom I can respectfully disagree. We may differ about how best to go about putting common values into practice, but they are values held in common.

The call for incremental change can never be as inspirational as the call to the barricades. Rolling up our collective sleeves to take on the messy task of making government work as best we can in a nation of diverse factions and interests will never be as heady as carrying the banner of revolution. Settling for less than we desire will never be satisfying. We settle because it will make a difference in the lives of individual, concrete, living, breathing, toiling, suffering, loving, caring women, men, and children whom we do not abandon for the sake of a golden shore the ship may never reach.

I am hopeful about Hillary Clinton even as I look to November with trepidation.

Tim Kaine. Is it just me, or does Tim Kaine come off as kind of goofy? It is a likable goofiness that would make him a fitting successor to Joe Biden. I had only vague impressions of Kaine before last week, during which the media time and again rode its new favorite figure of speech – he's a workhorse, not a show horse. The consensus seems to be that he is a decent fellow and serious public official. The perception of a little goofiness may redound to his advantage.

Memo from the Editorial Desk

Minor, nonsubstantive edits were made to this piece after it was posted.

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David Matthews

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