PITY THE DEEPLY CONFLICTED NICK KRISTOF IN TODAY'S NEW YORK TIMES' Who Gets It? Hillary. Indeed, pity all Democrats who, in their quixotic quest for the White House in 2008 feel the need to look towards their chameleon candidate, Senator and Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Kristof begins by noting, as others have, Hillary's coming out... for God, that is:
"I've always been a praying person," Mrs. Clinton declared recently. Of course, this approach works in her case only because her religious faith is longstanding.Is it? I suppose eight televised years of attending services with her husband as part of the ritual duties of First Lady could be seen as such, but does that really measure well against the much more (some would say too much more) religious faith of George W. Bush? Many people of faith would have their doubts about Hillary's calling.
Speaking of affiliations, Kristof notes the much bally-hooed shift of Clinton's position on abortion into the "Pro-Not-So-Much-Choice" crowd that occupies the middle: "Mrs. Clinton took a hugely important step in January when she sought common ground and described abortion as a "sad, even tragic choice to many, many women." While it is gratifying to see her assume something approaching a sensible stance, it is also the case that many in the right, left and center will not believe her.
Do these maneuvers alone make Hillary electable? Kristof expresses his limited reservations.
Still, I doubt that Mrs. Clinton can be elected president. I use my hometown, the farming community of Yamhill, Ore., as my touchstone for the heartland, and I have a hard time imagining that she could do well there. Ambitious, high-achieving women are still a turnoff in many areas, particularly if they're liberal and feminist. And that's not just in America: Margaret Thatcher would never have been elected prime minister if she'd been in the Labor Party.Well, you can't go wrong citing "negatives," can you? Nor are you mistaken to say that Hillary-hating thrives. Kristof's been off the farm too long though if he thinks that ambition and achievement are negative factors that will work against Hillary. It's not those things at all. If that was the case, Secretary of State Rice would not be glanced at as a possible Republican candidate. What Kristof can't say, what no Democrat can say, is that the single thing that makes Hillary unelectable is the Humiliation Factor.
In small towns like Yamhill, any candidate from New York carries a lot of baggage, and Mrs. Clinton more than most. Moreover, television magnifies her emotional reserve and turns her into a frost queen. Mrs. Clinton's negative ratings nationally were still around 40 percent at last count, and Hillary-hating thrives.
What the Democrats are dealing with here is the most famous serving Democrat in the country. The problem is that her fame rests, in large measure, on being the most publicly humiliated woman, wife, and First Lady in the history of the world. The length and depth of that humiliation were of an epic quality and will not soon be forgotten or forgiven by the largest voting bloc in the country, women.
It's a romantic country notion to "Stand by Your Man," but I don't really think the songwriter, singer, or female listeners to this anthem took it to mean 'stand by him even while he's lying, cheating, and doing you wrong from earth's four corners on all news outlets foreign or domestic.' And yet she did and they are married still. On the one hand, you might feel that this is a testament to the strength and enduring nature of the Clinton's love -- though that is mighty hard to see when they do, on rare occassions, appear together. On the other hand, it is also easy to see their marriage as a sham that they stay in because it was part of "her deal" -- 'Me President first, you President later.'
Either way, I don't think it parlays into a Presidency for Hillary no matter how "realistic" that may appear to a party desperate for someone, anyone, who can win. In the end, I don't think she can carry enough women to counter the forces arrayed against her. It may have been true that American women once felt that you had to "stand by your man," but there's a whole new world out there when it comes to women who have let themselves be the patsy on the Adultery channel.
It's true that people vote the issues, but they also vote their gut, and there's not a lot of gut support for Hillary out there. Nobody gets elected President because "Hey, its my turn." Presidents get elected because a majority feel, in their gut, that the person has the judgment necessary for the job. I don't think that letting yourself be humiliated speaks for a person who has that judgment. It could be that, given Bill Clinton's health, he could help his wife up by checking out, but a widow's weeds does not a President make unless it is fortunately timed -- say October 10th, 2008.
Absent something as dramatic as that, I don't think Hillary is going to find fulfillment from her makeover, no matter how extreme. Nor will she gain happiness from her relentless drive to the center. What will stop her, ultimately, will be the legions of women who know the limits of standing by their man; those women that know that when the going gets really tough, the tough move out.
Update: In the comments, Allah disagrees very persuasively with plenty of reasons: "... she seems to me to be almost a sure thing."
Update: Captain Ed has a much more detailed examination of the Kristof column at the aptly titled: Captain's Quarters: Democrats And Kristof Still Don't Get It
More to the point, Kristof wants Democrats to change their rhetoric while keeping to the same core values that marginalized them in the first place. In other words, he wants Democrats to lie; does anyone expect Hillary to press for abortion limitations? Has she voted against NARAL positions since being elected to the Senate? Not according to her NARAL rating -- 100%.Posted by Vanderleun at March 16, 2005 6:42 AM