Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What I Wish I'd Heard Her Say

I realize it's a bit late to be writing about that concession speech some days after it was delivered. I watched it in real time in England, and the days have passed in something of a travel daze for me since then. Besides which, I'm quite sure that everyone else has had their say by now--and what I've heard has been very largely positive. It was a good speech, for sure, delivered with both appropriate sadness and unabated passion for the causes for which Hillary has stood.

There is, however, something that I wish I'd heard her say, and did not hear--or heard it only muffled by the powerful feminist subtext. I wish, when she heard the boos, as I did, and the cries of "Denver! Denver!", that she had been able to go off script and say something to those of her ardent supporters who can see no further than their Hillary. I wish she had been able to say something like this: "Listen, I do appreciate your loyalty. I'm honored by your passion and devotion. I'm flattered that you think so highly of me that you're convinced that nobody can do the job but me. Thank you...

"Thank you, but... I want you to understand that this is not eventually about me--and it's only in small part about my being a woman, no matter how ground-breaking that might be. I do take credit for that, with I think justifiable pride. But this is more importantly still about the ideas we stand for, the principles we believe in, the policies we seek to have implemented for the good of the country. I want you to understand my view that, in these matters, there is little that separates me from Barack Obama and much that separates me from John McCain; and that to even threaten to withhold your support from Obama is to make a mockery of those ideas, those principles, and those policies.

"I think we all know, in our hearts as well as our heads, if we think about it, that what is promised on the campaign trail will certainly be modified by real life political contingencies. Obama and I have differed, certainly, in some details--not only in our approach to health care, but in other matters also. But on the big issues--such as the pressing need for a universal health care system or the need to disengage from a disastrous war--we have no disagreements that cannot be resolved with thoughtful discussion and negotiation. I have noted, even, that the Senator prides himself on his ability to maintain an open mind, and that he promises to listen attentively to ideas other than his own. You may be sure than mine will be among them.

"I do not want you to think of these words as merely an endorsement--though they are that. I want you to understand very clearly that you now have an opportunity and a responsibility to change your mind. I do not ask for, nor do I need your further support. Your love and regard are welcome, and I thank you for these gifts of recognition. As for your political passion, however, I ask you to abandon the notion that this process was in some way unfair to me, even if you believe it to have been so, or that to press forward in my quest would be productive.

"I understand your disappointment and your anger. Truth be known, at some deep level, I share both of them. But, to those of you who boo at the mention of Obama's name, know that you will deeply disappoint me and betray everything we have fought together for if, out of pique or spite, you fail in your responsibility to hold to the values that we share. You will not be doing me, yourselves, or the country any favor. It's time, now, for us all to move beyond personal acrimony and vindictiveness, and to work for what we know to be the common good..."

If I add my own little quibble this late in the game, it's because I take seriously the senator's promise to do everything she can to assure Obama's election in November, and because I believe that this slight adjustment in the tone and tenor of her communications is needed to achieve that end. While I understand that some of the above was implied in what she said last Saturday, I wish she had been able to transcend that imperious, constantly reiterated "I" and exhort her followers to embrace the perspective of the "we". That might have done something to influence obdurate positions, and would certainly have left me feeling reassured that she does mean what she says.


Mark said...

Beautifully written. Very beautifully written.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I, too, felt that her speech fell short of the mark I would have desired because of such omissions.

You should be a political speech writer, though. What you said was perfect, and I wish that Hillary Clinton had been inspired to encourage a "we" rather than "me" point of view in her followers. I don't think her ego could allow it, however, because she has always put herself ahead of the party and taken the position that what is good for Hillary is good for the world.