Farewell, Hillary -- Clinton Leaves Race and Endorses Obama
By Joanne Bamberger on June 07, 2008
BlogHer Original Post
Today was the day -- the one that some of us dreaded and others had prayed for. The day that Hillary Clinton ended her campaign for the White House.
The setting for Senator Hillary Clinton to say 'goodbye' was lovely. The National Building Museum is one of the grandest settings in Washington, D.C. -- all vaulted ceilings and Italian marble columns. Just exactly the kind of place one would like to make a victory speech, but just as inspiring for a farewell to the troops. The weather? A tad on the steamy side!
Even as Clinton's fans were waiting for her, squeezed shoulder to shoulder inside the grand hall in which she chose to make her departure from the race official, and she was preparing to do what so many have called on her to do for weeks, the cable pundits couldn't help take shots at her sincerity.
"If she stops short of a full-throated endorsement, I wonder whether it's an effort at Clintonian wiggle room," Jonathan Alter said on MSNBC, moments before Clinton's arrival.
There was a serene resignation as Clinton took the stage, no warm-up act preceding her and no introduction. Just Hillary, standing with her family, including her mother. Then the 60-year-old Wellesley girl stood alone to face the crowd and the nation.
"This isn't exactly the party I planned, but I sure like the company!" Hillary proclaimed as she tried to keep the smile on her face for the thousands of acolytes who had waited patiently for her arrival.
Clinton did the obvious -- she thanked her supporters and expressed her gratitude in a poignant and powerful way. And then she uttered the Obama mantra that she knew she had to, "Yes we can!" You know that could not have been easy, yet she did it without choking up and without the least bit of cynicism or snark.
In crafting her efforts to make sure her 18 million fans would join with Obama's voters, Clinton spoke of the country's lost opportunities under George Bush and pondered how different our country would look today if more than three out of the last ten presidents in the past 40 years had been Democrats.
Hillary called strongly and forcefully for her voters to unite behind Obama, as she should have. And she still was able to speak about her passions -- health care for all and making this country a better place for all women by working to get everyone to understand the very real barriers and biases that exist.
Convincing those who supported her to line up behind Obama, especially those who were on board from the very beginning, won't be easy. Many Hillary supporters are still grieving and angry because they feel that the Democratic National Committee tacitly permitted the sexism against Hillary that wasn't always so subtle.
Katherine Seelye of the New York Times and The Caucus blog commented on that theme:
Mrs. Clinton and her aides are known to feel deeply that there was some sexism in this campaign, particularly in the media, and she mentioned it in this speech. She spoke of barriers and biases and not only of equal pay but equal respect. While she urged her supporters not to look back, was she telegraphing that she might take on this subject at some point in a more fulsome way? She obviously feels strongly about this or she would not have brought this up in this, her farewell address as a candidate.
Yet, even in this moment as Hillary steps off the Presidential stage, it is still a victory, according to Marie Wilson, the president and founder of The White House Project, because of how women, and rest of the country, will now view the possibility of women as leaders:
"I am here because of Hillary Clinton."
Over the past few months, that phrase has been repeated to me by hundreds of women you've never met but whose names you may one day recognize. They are this country's next generation of female leaders -- women of all ages and persuasions who have been searching for the means and encouragement to step into positions of leadership in their communities; women of all political affiliations who thank Hillary Clinton for making the impossible finally appear possible.
But will her supporters take Hillary's departing words to heart? As the cliche goes, that remains to be seen.
There is clearly a deep divide between Obama and Clinton supporters that perhaps not even her words -- which the TV pundits acknowledged were the ones she needed to say -- can heal. But Clinton did everything she could in a relatively short speech to send her base back out into the political process to make sure there is not a Republican in the White House in January.
I hope it was enough.
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