Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Hillary Clinton’s Unofficial Announcement for 2012

Hillary Clinton's speech tonight to the Democratic National Convention in Denver may well be remembered as one of the most significant speeches in the history of American political party conventions.

Hillary Clinton Democratic Convention Speech

Over the last 18 months, Senator Clinton has developed into a masterful politician.

From launching her campaign from the high perches of arrogance and inevitability in early 2007, to returning to the stage tonight on the wings of generous magnanimity, Hillary Clinton delivered a knock out so decisive that it's clear she's fully deserving - in demeanor if not delgates - to be standing herself Thursday night at the rostrum accepting her party's nomination as candidate for President of the United States.

Whether or not she made the sale for Barack Obama
among her disgruntled supporters, there can be no doubt that a great many Americans saw what must rightly be considered Hillary Clinton's unofficial announcement for the Democratic nomination in 2012.

The speech had it all: From combative partisanship to compassionate public purpose, from bedrock American individualism and bold gendered hermeneutics, from historical lore to histrionic lampoons, Clinton's address affected a near-perfect tone that placed Democratic Party unity above her own immediate personal political interests.

Listeners may recall their favorite moments of the speech. Mine came near the end, when Clinton began
the crescendo toward her conclusion, drawing on the imagery of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad:

My mother was born before women could vote. My daughter got to vote for her mother for president. This is the story of America, of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.

So how do we give this country back to them? By following the example of a brave New Yorker, a woman who risked her lives to bring slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

On that path to freedom, Harriet Tubman had one piece of advice: "If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there's shouting after you, keep going. Don't ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going."
Senator Clinton continued, rallying the delegates at the Pepsi Center, exclaiming, "In America, you always keep going. We're Americans. We're not big on quitting."

Those words, of course, provide the perfect summation for her 2008 campaign. Like Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius of the Academy Award-winning film epic,
Gladiator, Hillary Clinton simply wouldn't die.

From New Hampshire to Pennsylvania to Indiana, Hillary Clinton always kept going, scoring big electoral wins thoughout the primaries season, demonstrating massive appeal across demographic constituencies (not the least, significantly, being working-class whites).

But the power of her winning appeal will be tested over the next couple of days.

Sunday's CNN poll found the 27 percent of Democratic Hillary supporters saying they'd vote for John McCain in November. In Denver this week, Clinton supporters have joined together in solidarity to toast McCain at GOP-sponsored happy hour events.

Of course, it seems incredible that so many people - in their unhappiness with Barack Obama - would either bolt the party or stay home on election day - so the remaining months of the campaign will be instructive.

Much now depends on Obama himself. His political liabilities are manifold. From inexperience to perceived anti-American values, the success of his presidential bid rests fully in his hands.

Hillary Clinton tonight made a resounding case for party unity. If Democrats indeed submerge their rivalries in time to bolster their sagging fortunes, no small amount of the credit will be due to Hillary Clinton's unofficial announcement that she intends to be a major player in presidential politics four years from now.

Photo Credit: New York Times