Sunday, June 8, 2008

Notes from Senator Clinton's Farewell

The National Building Museum in Washington D.C. was crowded yesterday as throngs of Hillary Clinton supporters listened to her concession speech. The audience - 3/4 women, a few African-Americans, all ages - waited patiently for nearly three hours before Clinton arrived.

Talking to fellow Hillary supporters in the meantime, revealed that there was still some frustration and concern amongst her constituency. A group of women close to Senator Clinton's age expressed their anger that the entire election reflects America's tolerance of subtle misogyny. A few college students told me that they were worried that many Hillary supporters may now defect to McCain.

Despite the finality of the occasion, the members of the campaign appeared to be in as good of spirits as could be expected. Terry McAuliffe worked the crowd, standing for pictures, while other staffers rocked to "Who says you can't go home?" three times.

The place went crazy when Clinton finally arrived. Her speech - as predicted - asked her supporters to throw their weight behind Barack Obama, emphasizing the similarities of his goals with hers. Despite her urging "we must elect Barack Obama for our president" several times, when she said"I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me," some audience members yelled an emphatic "No!"

Equally expected was Clinton's "first" theme. She applauded her supporters for making it possible for women to be considered presidential candidates. "I want to build an America that respects and embraces the potential of every last one of us," she said. She finally closed by encouraging all of us to look forward, not back.

While the tenor of Clinton's speech was mostly positive and inspiring, the entire tragedy of her candidacy was summed up towards the end of her speech:
"You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the President of the United States. And that is truly remarkable."
Indeed, Clinton's candidacy is still seen as the candidacy of a woman; the most bitter Clinton supporters are those who feel that she was victimized. Until the day comes when "woman" is not the first thing that comes to mind when a female runs for office, there can always be more done to advance gender equality in this country. However, it's too soon to tell if Clinton's campaign took us a step closer towards this goal or a step back.