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Friday, July 29, 2016

Humanizing Hillary

Now that both conventions are over, the stretch run for the presidency has begun, with a little over two months to go. That Hillary Clinton is only a few points ahead of Donald Trump in the polls is like being in a nightmare and not being able to wake up, but perhaps after the smashing extravaganza put on by Democrats in Philadelphia, following the Walpurgisnacht in Cleveland, perhaps some will come to their senses.

I'm not super in love with Hillary Clinton. I supported Obama in '08, and voted for Bernie Sanders this time around. But once it became apparent Bernie was not going to win, I switched allegiances like a shameless hussy. Partly this has to do with the unthinkable alternative, but despite her being cozy with Wall Street and counting Henry Kissinger as a friend, Hillary Clinton is liberal enough for me.

Following soaring oratory this week from the Obamas and some heavy lifting done by surrogates on Thursday night, namely by Rev. Dr. William Barber and Khizr Khan, father of a slain Muslim soldier (his stagecraft of pulling out a Constitution for Trump may just have turned the election), it was time for Clinton to speak. She has never been a great speaker. The line goes that one campaigns in poetry and governs in prose, but Clinton is a prose kind of person. Her speech was functional, and that is fine by me, because that's who she is. If I had to pick one reason why I'm voting for her, other than Trump being the anti-Christ, it's because she projects an air of competence. That, and she's been committed to public service for forty-something years. Trump has never been committed to public service, and I don't think he's interested in it now. As Khan said, he has sacrificed nothing.

But the American people don't seem to value competence and plain old-fashioned smarts that much, which accounts for George W. Bush. The Democrats have always had the smarter candidate--maybe Nixon was smarter than McGovern and Humphrey, maybe not--but Clinton is clearly is a bulb of much higher wattage than Trump, who doesn't know what the word xenophobia means, even though he practises it. Americans want their presidents affable and neighborly, and thus Clinton has spent her career trying to suppress being a policy wonk and instead a PTA mom (remember her line about making cookies back in the '92 race?) She womaned up and admitted that she sweats the details, which was a startling and refreshing confession, it contrast to Trump, who undoubtedly would shove every detail on a subordinate in his misbegotten administration.

But still there was the soft and fuzzies. Chelsea Clinton came on and talked about being read Good Night, Moon and discussing A Wrinkle in Time, and there was much talk about Hillary Clinton's mother, who was abandoned by her parents and grew up in Dickensian circumstances. I'm surprised it wasn't mentioned that Dorothy Howell Rodham was born on June 4, 1919, the same day that Congress passed the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

I thought it was a fine speech, and matched the speaker. She wore white from head to toe, like a nurse (who doesn't respond well to a nurse, says I, the son and grandson of nurses) and was reassuring, letting us know that Trump's gloomy speech was not accurate, and his despotic solipsism--"I alone can fix things"--was the statement of a madman (she threw in a Seth Meyers/Amy Poehler "Really?").

But of course there were naysayers. We heard the words shrill, strident, hectoring. I don't find this to be true at all. She does not have a mellifluous voice. Maybe men, who did most of the complaining, prefer the breathy girlishness of Marilyn Monroe's voice. But basing a presidential vote on a voice is, in the words of Sarah Silverman, "ridiculous." She laid out what she was about and what she wanted to do. Clearly, she was moved to the left by Sanders, including talk about economic equality and free college tuition.

Now we wait. If the polls don't move significantly, she may be doomed. If after all that contrast, being the Dark Lord and the Angel in White, she, and the country, may be in for rough seas.

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