After Barack Obama convincingly won the South Carolina primary, he made a bold statement about the nature of his quest for the Democratic nomination for president.
Speaking before a crowd of enthusiastic supporters, the freshman senator told America that this race was one of historic proportions. In his words, he declared that “[this race] is one of the past versus the future.”
After his bold declaration, the crowd fervently erupted. His words had motivated the crowd to support him in his quest to become nominee. Unknown to the folks before him, however, his allusion to the future described the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
At first glance, the prospect of a second Clinton administration represents little change from the perceived Washington establishment. Obviously, each of the two remaining Democratic candidates represents a change of historic proportions due to his race and her gender, but only one of the candidates represents a change in the type of leadership which governs our country. Again, that candidate is Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton represents change because her campaign is fundamentally different from the successful campaigns of recent history.
Jimmy Carter spoke of 1976 as Sen. Obama speaks of 2008. At his acceptance speech in New York, Carter said, “1976 will not be a year of politics as usual. It can be a year of inspiration and hope.”
Bill Clinton spoke of 1992 as Senator Obama speaks of 2008. At his acceptance speech in New York, he spoke of “[Creating] a country that is coming together, not coming apart, a country of boundless hopes and endless dreams.”
Even George W. Bush spoke of 2000 as Senator Obama speaks of 2008. At his acceptance speech in Philadelphia, Bush said, “I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect.”
All three of these former presidents campaigned as Washington outsiders who could buck the Washington establishment. All three of these former presidents spoke primarily of hope, change and uniting a divided country. None of them truly achieved the goals they outlined in these statements.
By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s refusal to be bound by one rhetorical message has been her greatest weakness thus far; yet as president, this weakness may well serve as her greatest strength. In a 2006 interview with the Washington Post, Clinton spoke on her approach to governing, saying, “I approach each issue and problem from a perspective of combining my beliefs and ideals with a search for practical solutions. It doesn’t perhaps fit in a preexisting box, but many of the problems we face as a nation don’t either.”
Hillary, it seems, understands the practical challenges that face Washington today, and she has the practical solutions to fix our country. She understands legislating; and legislating, not rhetoric, is what truly gives Americans hope.
Throughout the history of our great experiment in democracy, hope has been the cornerstone of our national identity. Rarely, however, has this hope been incited through rhetoric. Hope that truly inspires the American people is hope born out of legislative accomplishment.
So before you write off Hillary Clinton as a candidate unable to deliver hope to America, think about, for example, the time she reached across the aisle and worked with Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), a man who tried to impeach her husband, to give unemployment insurance to 2.8 million Americans. She gave those families hope.
Think about the 6.6 million American children who now have health care because she created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. She gave those families hope.
Think about the time she went to Beijing and worked with the United Nations on human rights. Hillary stood in front of Chinese leaders and declared “human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” She gave those women hope.
Today, Hillary should give us all hope. Through her efforts to serve us, we find ourselves on the brink of a presidency established on issues and not on rhetoric. For that reason, when I find myself in the voting booth this morning, I’ll cast my vote for the candidate of hope and the candidate for change.
I’ll cast my vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Michael Jones is a freshman in Saybrook College.