Hillary Clinton in General Election Mode:
November 1, 2007; Durham, NH
Copyright © Timothy Horrigan 2007
On a grey early November afternoon, Hillary Clinton came to the University of New Hampshire to address a crowd of students and random adults. I was one of the random adults. My mother is a strong Hillary supporter, and not just because they are both Wellesley women. I certainly will— oops, I mean "would"— vote for Sen. Clinton in the General Election, but voting for her in the New Hampshire Primary seems pointless somehow. Hillary, for her part, was campaigning in "General Election Mode," acting as if the other seven guys in the race (I was tempted to say "Seven Dwarfs") no longer exist.
In this speech, and a similar one the same day at her alma mater, Hillary was ostensibly rolling out a new student activist group called "HillBlazers.com".
I wrote DailyKos and BlogForAmerica articles about this event. The DailyKos posting got a few random comments before scrolling down off the bottom of the home page and disappearing from view. The BlogForAmerica posting seems to have gone un-noticed.
During the debate earlier this week in Philadelphia, Hillary Clinton was justifiably ridiculed by John Edwards for saying she was moving into "General Election Mode" even though (as she herself points out in her speeches) no votes have been cast yet. Her speech on a grey November afternoon in Durham, NH was, however, very much in General Election Mode.
For starters, during her UNH speech, she never even acknowledged that anyone else was running for the Democratic nomination. (Although, in Philadelphia, there were half a dozen other candidates on stage with her, all of whom politely but firmly took issue with her stands on the issues.) Strategically, this is understandable: she is very far ahead in the polls, and also in terms of locking up the endorsements of the party's apparatchiks. The only way she can lose is if 1.) her campaign implodes and 2.) one or two candidates emerge from the pack as alternatives to Hillary.
She is clearly going to great pains not to implode: her presentation was carefully crafted not to say anything too controversial (and not to say anything about drivers licenses, of course.) Unlike most of her competitors, who like to give brief presentations before going to Q&A, she answered no questions at all, not even on the "rope line" after the speech (although she did spend a good ten or fifteen minutes out there.) Indeed, aside from the speech itself, the issues were avoided: there were for example, no stacks of issue papers available at the door, and no advocacy groups were encouraged to participate in the event. Even though she laid out a number of strong policy positions, this event was about Hillary the presumptive nominee, not Hillary the policy advocate. Her speech was designed to present a progressive agenda in a way which didn't directly confront the cliches of the right. She came out in favor of universal health care and education and peace and all that good stuff, but she didn't say much about how she would actually accomplish those things. Unfortunately for Hillary, the strongest voices amongst her competition are coming from the left... Edwards (whom I am leaning towards), Kucinich, and even Obama are all unabashed progressives. They are all strongly rooted in Middle America, they are by no means Marxists (although I know Obama would have had to study Marx at Columbia during his Core Curriculum classes) but they are all unrepentant leftwingers. (Also, the right wing noise machine is going label as a "Marxist" whoever the Democratic nominee turns to be... and in fact they are already calling Hillary a Marxist.)
The most interesting part of her speech was the section about "clean energy." (This section even had a little controversy: she ignored nuclear power, but she did come in favor of wind power, which isn't controversial per se-- except when companies try to actually build wind turbines in a specific location.) She claimed that green energy jobs would be jobs which "can't be outsourced." I don't know about that: the actual machinery will probably be built in China, the work will be probably be done by H-1B visa holders from India and gastarbeiter from Mexico... and unless we restructure our economy pretty fast, Corporate America will try to get the work done without paying workers a living wage, without giving them health insurance, without properly training them, etc. During the education part of the speech, she spoke of how there was a skills shortage for (for example) auto and airplane mechanics. Unfortunately, she still has the old paradigm of blue vs. white collar, with blue collars jobs being for those who don't want to go to college. But one of the reasons our economy is in trouble is precisely because of that dichotomy. She noted that vocational education programs are cut, and she also noted that No Child Left behind is a bad idea partially because young people who might be learning auto mechanics and similar skills in school are now too busy being trained to take No Child Left Behind tests. But she doesn't quite seem to fully grasp (as Edwards and some of her competitors DO grasp--- as does her husband, whose name she never mentioned in the speech) that we need to re-value work in our society. And we definitely need to abandon the idea that actually making stuff and doing things is not important.
Anyway, I will definitely vote for her in the general election, should she get that far. In the meantime, I find myself searching for the candidate who can push her away from the dead center and towards the progressive side of the mainstream. So I guess, like Hillary, I am getting into General Election Mode prematurely.
Two side notes: the crowd was not that large, about 1000 people in UNH's indoor track facility, and it was not particularly vocal in its enthusiasm. Secondly, although she hardly ever mentioned her husband Bill's name, she did speak several times in the first person possessive of "Our Administration." (She did at least avoid saying that she "served as First Lady," which sounds silly because technically First Lady... or "First Dude" to quote the "Bill Clinton for First Dude" buttons which some entrepreneur was selling outside the venue... is not a political office.)
In 2010, I cosponsored a somewhat controversial bill, repealing New Hampshire's 200-year-old adultery laws:
The Forgotten Liars: The novel by Timothy Horrigan