So, I open the paper this morning over my bowl of cereal and decaf Earl Grey tea, and what do i see? The New York Times has chosen to endorse Hillary Clinton. I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Indeed, the board’s decision is partly based on their satisfaction with her job as their state’s senator. The piece, well-written and thoughtful, left me unsettled.
I have long been an Obama supporter. I have volunteered at his campaign headquarters. I have donated money to support his candidacy. But I am resistant to cults of personality, and as much as I have found him utterly inspiring and truly uniting, I remain cautious of yes-manship and quixotic political larks. And the Times basically draws the line, saying “sure, Obama’s great, but let’s get realâ€¦.” In the end, they’re saying, Hillary’s the one who can actually get things done.
But here’s the thing: I support Obama because I view him as the pragmatic choice. In this week’s New Yorker, George Packer poses this very question of whether it’s more important for the commander-in-chief to win over the American people or know how to schmooze the Washington insiders. Both the Times and Packer position Clinton as the workhorse candidate who can actually broker legislation that, in the long run, will amount to “change”. And I don’t doubt Hillary’s shrewdness in negotiating across the aisle, even with her past enemies (a profile of her in The Atlantic last year left an eerie and indelible image of her communing with old stalwarts of the right in intimate, closed-door prayer groups).
The only reason I even latched on to Obama so many years ago (after reading a profile in, um, the NYer) was because I saw in him both a person authentic and open enough to inspire and unify a divided citizenry, and a politician smart enough, ambitious enough and savvy enough to sit in the smoky parlors with the politicos and get deals done. I think the answer to Packer’s question is that you need both; and I think Obama has the whole package.
Karen often rightly points out that on the nuances of many key issues we both tend to side with Senator Clinton’s policies. But I harbor no fantasies of a utopian progressive era. I just want to start to fix the things that are broken. Health care. Budget spending. Foreign policy. Education (well, maybe someday that will get back on the agendaâ€¦). It will be slow. It will be painful. It will take so much compromise it will often feel like we’re not moving forward. But I believe it will take a leader like Obama to get even that far.