Hillary? What ha-happened?

By Mike Habegger, Co-Editor in Chief

How did this happen? How did Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady and astonishingly popular senator from New York, fall from being a “shoe-in” president to second place behind a first term senator from Illinois?

I’ve always liked Hillary. Just like I’ve always liked Bill. I like them so much that it has been very hard for me recently, reading many articles, books and blog posts putting down Clintonian politicking to renounce my love for the Clintons. Maybe I like them because I grew up in a liberal academic household, leading to the idealistic assumption that a president, especially a Democrat, could be trusted to make the world better. I distinctly remember Bill, after passing the federal budget and fighting with the Newt for weeks, taking out a marker and writing on a white board, “Federal Deficit = 0!” in front of the TV cameras. To my middle school mind, this seemed like a feat of heroism.

I grew up in the reddest county of Pennsylvania (it voted 75% for Bush in 2004), and I would constantly hear my friends talk of Hillary being “such a bitch.” How dare she try to give us healthcare!? Who does she think she is, running the White House!? Perhaps these perceptions were a result of Fox News socialization, or because Bill always seemed like such a nice guy?who could hate him?

Partly because I am such a contrarian, I was not swayed by such name-calling, and when Clinton escaped impeachment for hav?ing sex in his own office, it seemed like justice had won.

What does this have to do with Hillary? Well, if Clinton could triumph an impeachment and resurrect his historical standing as one of the best president’s ever, then certainly Hillary, by simple association, should have had no trouble in securing the presidency.
After the 2004 Democratic debacle, I was in despair. Very much so. As I ate lunch in the porch of Glar, I prayed for a 2008 presidential run by Hillary to save the Democrats from certain decline over the next 50 years. Well, after trouncing her opponent in the 2006 mid-term elections, I had my wish.

In my visits to upstate New York, where my mother’s side of the family is from and one of the notoriously conservative regions since the Reagan years, I saw an outpouring of support for Hillary. There were yard signs everywhere. Even my grandfather, who has voted Republican for probably 70 years, had kind words for Hillary to the effect of “I don’t agree with her on everything, but she sure has done a great job of representing us out here.”

Used to be that no politician cared about Allegany county, never made the effort to contact the people who populate the region that used to set the world prices in oil and cheese (how far we have come). Hillary did. And she was rewarded. Clearly, she has the political skills. Clearly, she delivers, or at least provides the perception of delivery to constituents.

Therefore, I was pretty psyched for her easy victory in November of 2008, because, if she could con?vince those people to like her, she could certainly convince 55% of nationwide voters. The presidency was just the next stop on the stepping stone route identified by Benjamin Ginsberg in his recent book, The American Lie.

Remember, during the sum?mer, the New York Times’ talking heads were calling for a Hillary victory in November as she had recently edged out Rudy Giuliani, the Republican front-runner (how far we have come) in head-to-head polling (Wikipedia.org).

So what happened to Hillary? As it turns out, she ran into the train of the progressive, anti-es?tablishment Democrats?pundits, activists, grassroots organizers, micro-donors and bloggers. Since Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004 that railed against the moderate Democratic party establishment, culminating in his election to the head of the Democratic National Committee, netroots and grassroots activism has been in pursuit of the Clintons for their moderate views and support for the shrinking of government, something many so-called true Democrats severely disagree with. They have also been dissatisfied with the pandering and negative nature of Clintonian politics.

John Edwards was poised to be the anti-Hillary, Dean-like candidate. He even hired Joe Trippi out of retirement, who hoped that Edwards could be the candidate with broader appeal and name recognition that could deliver the nomination. It took a while for the progressive movement to coalesce behind Edwards largely due to his changing stances on a number of issues to become more liberal?in contrast with his moderate 2004 campaign; but bloggers were also holding out for Al Gore to run. It took until a few weeks after he accepted his Nobel Peace Prize before many progressives would begin to support any of the Democratic contenders.

But then came Barack Obama?a decidedly moderate, highly religious and young politician. Throughout the campaign, he has been forced to progressivize his positions, as has Hillary, by the pressure of Edwards. Obama got the small donors, the celebrity endorsements, the young “hip” energy of college students and voila, with $150 million to spend, he has taken over this race, in a way realistic political analysts never thought possible.

Helped by the sensational media who coattail onto stories that run contrary to reality, the progressive movement grabbed the reins of Barack Obama.

Obama will be the next president. But I hope that the anti-establishment Democrats didn’t get caught up in the success of their movement and forget their ideological platform. Yes, the Democratic Leadership Council, of which the Clinton’s are closely associated with, is corrupt, but Hillary’s policy proposals look suspiciously like what progressives have been hoping for in a presidential candidate. I hope we/they haven’t made the wrong choice for the betterment of this country. I mean, Obama? Talk about putting the party on the line in November.

I guess it takes the right kind of candidate. Sorry Hillary. Keep up the good work in the Senate.