Her orange pantsuit might be a Glamour magazine “don’t”, but like every word Hillary spoke last night during her moment at the Democratic National Convention, it was so right, so Hillary.
Her once-ridiculed pantsuit is part of the Hillary brand now, like Barry Goldwater’s thick-rimmed black glasses, Winston Churchill’s smelly cigars, Joe Biden’s train tickets.
Standing sharp against the cobalt blue DNC backdrop in the organgest pantsuit I ever saw, Clinton paid tribute to her “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits”. It was a moment of feminist humor and a nod to the fact that she was today truly, completely, and finally ceding the Democratic nomination to her former chief rival, Barack Obama.
All the Hillary’s Spoke
That she threw her unequivocal support to Barack Obama on the 88th anniversary of women’s suffrage, urging her supporters to do the same in terms that could not have been clearer, is a painful bit of symbolism for some of us women’s rights activists. Marie Cocco in the Washington Post called it “Hillary’s Thankless Job”. But in her always practical way, Hillary made the point that her own mother was born before women could vote while her daughter Chelsea got to vote for her mother for president to illustrate the enormity of her victory even in defeat.
The passionate Hillary spoke about the “people left out and left behind” whose plight has touched her. The policy wonk Hillary threw in references to the issues that have driven her public service work:
I haven’t spent the past 35 years in the trenches, advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women’s rights here at home and around the world…to see another Republican in the White House squander our promise of a country that really fulfills the hopes of our people. And you haven’t worked so hard over the last 18 months or endured the last eight years to suffer through more failed leadership. No way, no how, no McCain!
The indomitable Hillary quotes African American abolitionist Harriet Tubman, “If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going…”.
What you didn’t see was a bitter Hillary, because that’s just not her style.
The Designated Adult
In every family, there is a designated adult. Within the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton showed herself to be it last night. Her remarks balanced well the necessary laudatory comments about Obama with self-references sufficient to tell her supporters that supporting Obama means supporting the things they care about most in this country.
And Hillary’s role modeling how to be a losing candidate might be as important to women contemplating political office as her role modeling as the first woman who really had a chance of winning the presidential race. As more women seek power positions of all kinds, we have to lose the passive aggressive responses to losing that we ingested with our mother’s milk. We must learn to appreciate what we learn from the fight. Losing a hard fought race may hurt, but is also strengthens, teaches, and opens doors to new and often unanticipated opportunities.
That’s why Hillary pulled up her orange pantsuit and stepped onto that state last night with the confidence to pledge her full support to Barack Obama.
Now the ball’s in his court to reach out to Clinton’s supporters in the same passionate and full-throated way. Will he step up to the plate and become the designated adult for the next, all-important, final stretch?