First of all, I like Hillary Clinton. I do not like her as much now as I did half a year ago, but underneath the me-first attitude is a politician whose principles I generally agree with and respect.
Here’s the thing – we had about seven Republicans running for office half a year or so ago. It got rough and tumble with sharp elbows and all, and half a dozen of the major candidates dropped out (not counting “candidates” such as Jim Gilmore or Duncan Hunter) (who?). Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin and Fred Thompson dropped out, as did Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney and even Mike Huckabee, who arguably stuck around as long as he did on principles, making an ideological stand, which Ron Paul is perhaps still doing. They all saw the writing on the wall, and dropped out graciously.
Same thing for the Democrats. Aside from minor candidates, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd dropped out, as did Mike Gravel and Bill Richardson and John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich. You know the kind of speeches they gave, essentially saying this thing is bigger than me, let’s rally together and campaign for the principles that unite us and win in November.
It just looks good. It’s classy and gracious and it makes you like them and, perhaps, think well of them next time. Sure, there’s room for the type of Ron Paul ideological stand, but that kind of stand can come with a cost.
And on what has Hillary based her stand? She has made much of being the first viable female candidate and, with a nod to Shirley Chisholm (who deserves it) that’s true – but I somehow don’t buy it. There was just something of a sense of entitlement to her, the latter stages of her campaign did not seem to me to be about ideals but to be about, mostly, getting Hillary Clinton herself back into the White House. Given what had happened in Michigan and Florida, her position was not one of principle, so much. She did not back those states’ positions in defying the party. At the time of their primaries she abided by the national committee’s position, until the cards were dealt, saw opportunity in her desperation, and then took a position that would reward those states for their defiance.
For if Michigan and Florida were now allowed to seat their full delegations, flouting the national committees, why shouldn’t every other state do the same in the future?
This sort of me-first approach, the sense of entitlement, permeated what I saw of her latter campaign. I wish it weren’t so. I did not and still do not like how long this campaign has been. But if it had advantages, the grueling campaign schedule has given us a sense of our candidates’ characters under adversity.
Much as I dislike the GOP’s platform, I like the way Giuliani and Romney and the Thompsons bowed out. I like the way Biden and Edwards and Kucinich acknowledged the bigger goals and spoke of party unity. It would be a double standard to give Clinton a pass because she happens to be a woman, unless she were leading some kind of principled charge to change the party, as Ron Paul attempts to shift and re-align his party’s identity. But the Democrats’ agenda, the heart of its platform was not being shifted by Hillary Clinton. Hers was not some new feminist agenda opposed by the rest of us — quite the contrary, I think many of us (and include myself) would like to see barriers broken.
Yes, it would have been a first had she been elected president. And it will be a first when a woman is elected president. (Does anyone now doubt it will happen?) But now, after this hard-fought campaign, where it has seemed she did not care if it hurt Obama’s and the party’s chances if it meant keeping her candidacy alive – after all this, and at this late stage, she now reveals that she is open to being his running mate?
There is an avarice here, a desperation and Faustian hunger, that makes me sad.