Editors’ Note: Come next January, we will be seeing a new face in the White House. This political shift is one of the most anticipated in recent years and carries with it the future of our troubled nation. For the past several months, the political fervor has been high: candidate signs are stuck firmly in lawns, people are glued to CNN/YouTube debates and Bush countdown clocks adorn key chains and office desks.
To say the least, this election year is an important one, and TBG will be taking an in-depth look at one hopeful each month in an effort to get a conversation started on campus about who we want to run our country. By November, you should be well prepared to cast your ballot.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has a lot working against her. She and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have been neck and neck for most of the 2008 presidential campaign, and following a string of losses – including 12 straight caucus defeats – most political analysts considered her campaign dead. While Obama has been favored for his young, vibrant persona, Clinton has been known for her grave determination and ceaselessly fighting for her beliefs, despite the latest opinions from media analysts and political pundits. [hil11]
The most recent example was her fight to win the state of Mississippi primary on March 11. According to The Washington Post, polls showed Obama led Clinton by a fairly wide margin, but she decided to compete in the primary anyway. Even as she arrived in the town of Canton for the state’s annual Jefferson-Jackson-Hamer Dinner, it was evident she was in Obama territory. Fans and supporters of the Illinois senator greeted Clinton with large signs and fliers, and outnumbered her own supporters 3-1. “I’m well aware that Senator Obama has an enormous amount of support here, as well he should,” she stated. “I wanted to come to Mississippi and say that I’m in favor of Mississippi. I’m in favor of you.”
Political theory senior Katherine Deptula commended Clinton’s perseverance. “The wins in Texas and Ohio were really big for her,” she said. “These victories are propelling her forward.” Deptula, who used to hold a position with MSU’s chapter of Students for Hillary Clinton, continues to be a supporter of the candidate. “I chose Hillary because she has experience in advocating, and understands what issues are important to the U.S.” She also argues Clinton is the best candidate to move the U.S. forward in foreign affairs. “I know a lot of candidates say that they have knowledge in foreign affairs, but I think Hillary is the only one who can back her claims.” [hill]
Clinton cites much of her knowledge of foreign affairs and her strengths as a candidate stem from her political background. After completing her undergraduate degree at Wellesley College, Clinton attended Yale Law School. There, she served on the Board of Editors of Yale Law Review and Social Action, and interned with children’s advocate Marian Wright Edelman.
Clinton also gained experience during her term as First Lady, spanning from 1992 to 2000. One of her major projects was chairing the Task Force on National Health Care Reform, where she was an advocate for health insurance coverage and children’s health. She updated the American public on her work in the White House with a weekly newspaper column titled “Talking It Over,” explaining her observations on women, children and families she met around the world. Clinton has carried these projects and ideas into her 2008 campaign for president, making universal health care one of her top priorities.
In 2000, Clinton became the first First Lady to be elected into the Senate, taking her post in New York. Architecture junior Alex Herman of Hamburg, N. Y. is impressed with the work she’s done for the state. “I definitely think Hillary has done a good job as a senator. I agreed with her energy policy for foreign oil, and she has represented her constituency well,” Herman said. However, while Herman feels Clinton’s liberal policies in the Senate worked for New York, he thinks they may be a little too much for the entire U.S. “I know that she has a social service program she’s trying to get passed where it’s basically people coming into your homes and teaching you how to be a parent. I don’t think the people of the United States are going to agree with that.”
One of Clinton’s strengths is her ability to bring out the female voters. According to The Washington Post, the nation’s largest political action committee, known as “EMILY’s List,” began targeting female voters in both Ohio and Texas. The committee supports Democratic women candidates for federal office who are pro-choice, and Clinton is their ideal candidate. Mailings and radio commercials carrying the simple message “Vote for Hillary Clinton” encouraged female voters to head to the polls. When Clinton won both states in the primary, women comprised 59 percent of voters in Ohio, and 57 percent in Texas, beating out Obama among women by 16 points in Ohio and 11 points in Texas.
In March 2007, the National Organization for Women (NOW), a highly influential women’s advocacy group, gave Clinton their endorsement. Press secretary Mai Shiozaki has been working with the press to get Clinton’s ideas and policies out to the voters. “I make sure that our volunteers are out there talking to the people, and that the media understands where Hillary is coming from,” Shiozaki said.
NOW’s Political Action Committee has been working with the Clinton campaign for more than a year. Through events such as “House Party for Hillary,” the Political Action Committee has been gaining volunteers in the Midwest to advocate Clinton’s causes. President Kim Gandy has been speaking on NPR International, breaking down the steps of Clinton’s campaign to the media.
Shiozaki said the organization’s greatest assets are their volunteers. “One of our strengths is grassroots organization and activities. Through unpaid volunteers, we are going to states like Ohio and knocking on doors promoting Hillary’s campaign. We have older feminists driving vans in snowstorms to get elderly men and women out to the polls to show their support.”
Social relations and policy junior Emily Castle has taken matters into her own hands. Castle singlehandedly founded MSU’s chapter of Students for Hillary Clinton, and is the organization’s president. “About a year ago, I noticed an overwhelming support for Barack Obama,” Castle said. “I had researched him and other candidates, but Hillary always stood out to me.” While Castle noted Clinton being a woman was certainly an appeal, it is not the only reason she supports her. “First and foremost, she is the smartest candidate for the job. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s a woman. I think she’s proven that she can succeed in a ‘good old boys’ club.'”
Packaging junior John Pulcipher doesn’t allow the idea of Clinton being a woman completely influence his vote. “I do think Hillary has the most experience, but her being a woman doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I am voting for the candidate that would do the best job for our country.” He said the face of politics is changing and becoming less of a “man’s game.”
“Our governor is a woman. Government officials are no longer just men, and I don’t think it’s a big deal that Hillary, a woman, is running for president,” Pulcipher said.
[hil3] Despite her appeal to Castle and various women’s organizations, many MSU students do not consider her to be the best fit for president. Hospitality business junior Tess Grohoski doesn’t like Clinton’s policy on the war. “I don’t like that she thinks she can just ‘end the war in Iraq.’ It has been years of sending men over there, and she thinks she can fix it like it hasn’t been going on for ages.” Grohoski believes Clinton doesn’t have the right strategy to end the war. “She thinks she can just take the troops out and then offer the Iraq government advice. How about you just fix what we did, then take them out and leave the country alone?”
Other students have less specific reasons for disliking Clinton. Business and pre-law junior Elle Subar already has her mind made up. “I don’t like either Democratic candidate. I don’t know too much about them, but Hillary makes my stomach cringe. There’s too much hype in the media about her being a woman. I’d rather have a candidate who focuses on the issues,” Subar said. Subar said she is supporting Republican candidate John McCain in the election.
Everyone seems to have an opinion as Clinton and Obama prepare for the Pennsylvania primary on April 22, which has 158 delegates at stake. On April 16, ABC News will host a debate, the 21st televised match-up between the two contenders, to give Pennsylvanian voters one last chance to compare the candidates.
Deptula understands the pressure on Clinton to earn the Democratic nomination, but remains optimistic. “I think as she continues to gain supporters, she needs to do a lot of campaigning in Pennsylvania. That is one way to surpass Obama.” Deptula said one of the ways Clinton can gain more voters is to come to a deal over the Michigan primary. Because Michigan scheduled such an early primary, the candidates were stripped of all their delegates. Although Clinton won the Michigan primary, many don’t think it was a fair win because Obama and John Edwards, still in contention at that point, were not on the ballot.
Currently, a plan is being considered that would allow the state to hold a new primary in early June, allowing delegates to attend the party’s national convention in Denver this summer. Clinton was recently in Detroit campaigning and promoting a Democratic do-over. She said ignoring Michigan voters would hurt the Democratic Party in November.
[pres2] While Clinton still has a long way to go, Castle remains enthusiastic. “Sure, Obama is very good speaker and talks about bringing change to Washington, but Hillary has proven otherwise. She has shown me that she can not only talk about change, but make it happen.”
While Clinton’s leadership and determination in her campaign has sparked the interest in a lot of voters, her battle to win can sometimes come off as too domineering. “I think she comes off as a bitch,” Herman said. “Sure, I liked her as a senator, but right now I support Obama. I’m inspired when he talks, whereas Hillary just seems power-hungry.”
Love her or hate her, Hillary Clinton is hot on the trail of the campaign for the Democratic bid. She has the resources and experience to get the job done, but without the support of the American people, she cannot make it into the White House.