The last few days of political news has a familiar ring. From the Villagers outraged at the mere idea of former Clinton administration staff are part of the transition team, to the haughty rejection of Hillary as the leader on health care reform, to the rumors of HRC being considered for Secretary of State, to anti-Hillary sentiment among former Hillary supporters, to confused responses to whether Joe Lieberman should go because he's in bed with the Clintons (ewww, sorry, here's some bleach for your brain to scrub away that image) to whether he should stay because it is brilliant strategy by The Precious, and so forth, what we see is that for all the swooning over Obama, the center of the political universe is still Hillary Clinton.
The Unity Democrats and the newly amenable Village can't figure out what to do about this obstreperous woman. There she goes again, making statements and writing letters without asking permission or waiting for a signal. She won't quit. She is impervious to their childish maneuvers and rude behavior. Every expression of hatred, every act of frustration elicits a bigger smile and greater determination. How can she keep doing this when all the Very Serious People are telling her she is a political dead letter?
Easy. She has won the hearts of millions and has pledged herself to their defense. It is her driving passion. As Time magazine stated, "Clinton returns to Congress as a champion of women and the working class."
Every successful public figure is motivated by a passion for distinction. Call it ambition. It is a political virtue because it drives the actor to accomplish more even when there are no obvious rewards. It is not always a constructive distinction the person seeks, but our best leaders will be more good than bad. They wish to distinguish themselves in admirable ways. Hillary has chosen to distinguish herself by recognizing and honoring the dignity of the people she encounters, giving them the respect that they may not deign to offer her in return. By never failing to respect the dignity of those she met, Hillary maintained her own. There is nothing she has done over this long and dismaying campaign that she needs to be ashamed of, which none of her rivals can say for themselves. Instead, she has shamed them with her persistent, unshakeable dignity. Nothing they did could reduce her to their level.
You cannot intimidate someone who doesn't want what you have to offer or who will not be dismayed over territorial displays and backroom intrigues. Every vindictive claim that has been offered up by right, left and the media about what Hillary will/won't do/say (She'll sabotage! She'll kill him! She won't campaign! She'll backstab! She'll destroy rather than let someone else have it!) have all been exposed for the empty lies they are. Instead, we have been privileged to witness a very rare political phenomenon.
She has offered up herself, her time and her integrity, for the sake of others as they needed her help and even when they did little or nothing to deserve it. Her tireless campaigning on behalf of the party and ideology she believes in is unprecedented in the modern history of the party. Compare her hundreds of campaign appearances since the convention and the hundreds of thousands of dollars in PAC money for other candidates to Bill Bradley, Paul Tsongas, Gary Hart, or Teddy Kennedy in their defeats. Hillary is exactly what she appears to be: a left of center moderate who is completely dedicated to improving the lives of her constituents and people throughout the nation on immediate pocketbook matters - living wages, health care, secure housing and personal dignity.
The distinction between Hillary and the other political actors of this season is that she treats everyone with diginity, even her opponents. Her criticisms are based in policy and practical politics, no matter how The Village mendaciously misconstrued her words. You do not hear her talking down to anyone. She never disparaged any voter who chose another candidate, never told anyone they were not needed, never mocked or ridiculed someone who wasn't part of her tribe.
I would say that her demeanor is true bipartisanship, by the way. She does not talk about Bunkers and Bubbas, demonizing classes of people, but speaks directly to political policies that do not serve us well. It becomes possible, and less daunting, to change political allegiance because it is not you who is under attack or even your beliefs, but support for a particular policy that has failed you. She didn't judge the voters, she judged the politics. This is why voters who were at the margins and who feel endangered were drawn to this leader. She talks in the language of interests and needs, not motivations and morality.
The authoritarians of the left do not like this. As with their conservative counterparts, they are intensely moralistic and judgemental (clinging to God and guns, the white party, bitter knitters, etc.), wanting to divide the political world into the saved and the damned. The need to punish enemies is part of the definition of success. They seek to discipline the souls that make up the body politic, demanding that we love Big Brother and not simply pick a government. You don't want to treat people with dignity in such a case, you want them to look upon you with awe.
I fully expect that Hillary will do things and support measures I do not like, which only goes to show that she is not me and that I should not confuse my will with the good of the nation. I trust her to be consistent and steadfast in her defense of human dignity, which is the human face of human rights. If you cannot see an opponent as a being to be treated with dignity (even as you vote them out of office), then what is to say you will be able to see anyone in such a light? This may not be Joan Didion's unexpressable uneasiness, but it is a great deal of my own.
So, a year on, this is why my respect for the lady in the pantsuit has increased. I expect the trend to continue.