Tonight was a turning point in the Clinton campaign. Not a moment too soon, viewers who tuned into the CNN Democratic town hall saw far more Hillary and far less Clinton.
At least partly because the name Clinton is synonymous with the word politician, it’s no secret that the former secretary of state has struggled to connect with voters in a meaningful way and has been unable to quash the perception of her wanting the presidency for nothing but her own ambition. Though she recently started to rebrand herself as more than a single-issue candidate and echoed Barack Obama by declaring, “This is your campaign” to the people of Nevada after winning the caucuses there this past weekend, many Americans perceive her as self-interested and untrustworthy.
|Hillary Clinton answers a question about student debt posed by a Sanders supporter.|
Tonight, Hillary connected with the voters of South Carolina—and the rest of the country—like she has not before. It’s no secret that I’ve been a strong supporter of hers since 2008, but even I sometimes get frustrated with her ability to dance around a question without completely answering it. (Of course this is something that all politicians, including Bernie Sanders, do.) Tonight, though, I watched a Hillary who was excited but thoughtful, gave specific answers to specific questions, and finally communicated her desire to be a champion for the American people in a genuine and sincere way. It’s as if she told the political, Clinton side of her personality to go away for the night so that the human Hillary side could open a frank and direct dialogue with the country.
She was even brutally honest when, at the very end of her strongest hour, she admitted that she does not know how to return congressional Democrats and Republicans to cordiality and building genuine relationships with one another. A typical Clinton answer might have been to do what all politicians and people on a job interview do and spin this weakness into an untrue strength, but Hillary acknowledged this limitation with no equivocations.
To anyone who points to this admission as a potential failure in her leadership, I say this: Bernie Sanders has not even rallied support from his own party for his agenda. When asked how he would unite the country, he reverts to his talking points about the political revolution. On the other side of the aisle, the Republican candidates can’t even stop themselves from attacking each other, and the GOP members of congress have gone out of their way to obstruct President Obama’s agenda at every turn. It’s clear that no one has a solution for uniting the parties, but at least Clinton owned up to it.
If, like she did tonight, Hillary keeps leaving her Clinton self at home and continues this human, genuine rapport with people, she could finally make America understand what it is she stands for and what she hopes to accomplish as president: the betterment of people from every state and all walks of life.