Hey young people! Hey women! Thanks for coming!!
Xposted at The Huffington Post
Don't call it a comeback. Hillary was always going to win, polls (especially polls of African American candidates) and media (always itching for any reason to throw dirt on a Clinton coffin) be damned.
But New Hampshire marks the moment that generational change is becoming major factor in the Democratic primary race.
The Clintons have history here. After young people—the supposedly politically dodgy "Generation X"—turned out in huge numbers to sweep Clinton to the presidency in 1992, the Dems consistently ignored them and their issues for the next 3 elections, calling them "apathetic" and "cynical".
It's true that we proved them right for the next few elections. But there were more than a few good reasons to stay home on election day: Bill's strategic demonizing of young African Americans, the welfare deform that tossed hundreds of thousands of poor young people out on the street, the rapid deterioration of college access, and the tough-on-crime "centrist" politics that put more young people of color behind bars than any previous American generation.
(I was stunned this morning to see a new level of unseemly Boomer crowing, as if a Clinton victory is a much-needed beatdown of post-Boomers and the MSM who allegedly love them. It's a demonstration of how closely many Boomer Dems identify with the Clintons. It bears noting, though, that the drop in the youth vote after 1992 played no small role in the rise of Newt Gingrich and the politics of the impeachment.)
So thus it has been since 1992. Every election season, there are a few lines about increasing student loans—Just what we need! More debt!—and some token lines about the wonder of idealism (thank you, Bill Bradley), but other than that it's usually been, "Boy, get me some coffee." Then came 2004, the hip-hop generation's all-but-ignored breakthrough moment, and Iowa 2008, with Obama's armies of the quad.
Even as the media was writing off the Clintons as tired, confused and done, they were rapidly assimilating new knowledge. They knew that young voters would make up a much smaller proportion of Dem voters in New Hampshire than in Iowa. Hillary's grassroots operation was in place, her people were motivated by a life-and-death kind of adrenalin, and she learned some key lessons from Iowa.
1) Take back the women's vote. A lot of attention last night--in an explicitly sexist way--focused on "The Tears Of The Ice Queen" story. (How uncomfortable were CNN's Donna Brazile and Campbell Brown with line of rhetoric? Very. How many male commentators would ask Rudy Giuliani to cry? None.)
But no one in the MSM picked up on Gloria Steinem's call to action in the Times yesterday, part of an all-out effort to tell the white women of New Hampshire: this race ain't about race, it's about gender.
(For more stuff on the Steinem piece, check Julianne's blog here and here, and a guest post by Jennifer Fang on Carmen's blog.)
2) Split the kids. On Sunday, Bill Clinton told MTV News, "I think historically young people have not voted in the Iowa caucus because they are from other states...This time we had a lot of students who did come back and I think, frankly, thousands and and thousands of them were from Illinois and wanted to support Senator Obama, and they had a very aggressive outreach. And ... we haven't made that mistake here; we've reached out to young people here just as much as he has, and I think we just have to keep trying." Aside from the carpet-bagger diss—get used to it, Bubba, because it is what it is—it was a telling shift. The campaign retooled itself to attract young white women.
The most notable image last night was Hillary's imitation of Obama's perfect Iowa victory speech: the candidate bathed in morning light, surrounded by bright hopeful diverse (well, as diverse as you can get in Iowa) crowds in rapt attention, ready to explode in joy. Last night, Hillary's handlers perfectly duplicated Obama's set--right down to placing all the under-24 white women they could find (plus an Asian Indian woman for a little color and a Chinese dude for a little diversity) behind her. "Ready to Lead" became the inspirational "Ready for Change". She even inserted a couple of applause lines about predatory student lenders.
All this was in sharp contrast to her Iowa speech in which she gave a boiler-plate stump that even she didn't seem invested in, looked uncomfortable standing next to Bill, and was surrounded in poor lighting by Madeline Albright and shady-looking union operatives.
So the old dogs can learn new tricks. Hillary moves on to South Carolina ready to sound more liberal and more concerned with racial justice than she ever may again this election season. And you can bet that a lot of dedicated young activists in the Clinton and Obama campaigns are about to be tapped by their higher-ups for the ride of their lives.
Because of the hard work of what might now be seen as a vanguard group of activists at the University of Iowa, Iowa State, and other college campuses in the Hawkeye, Democrats are more interested than they've ever been in what young people are going to be doing on the day their little election comes to your state. So if you're a left-leaning college student, know that for the next several weeks, you will be the most courted youth in the history of American politics.
The ball is now in your court. What do you really want?
Labels: 2008 elections, barack obama, bill clinton, Hillary, hip-hop activism