Senator Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign this morning. Although I did not support her candidacy, I recognize the historic importance of her speech. Watch and listen to it: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Full transcripts available here.
Alexis did not get to watch or listen to the speech live, as I did, so I got to sit in the background while she took it in on-line. Alexis thought the speech was pitch perfect. I think it was brilliant. Sadly, I remain profoundly disappointed with the Democrats for their failure to serve as a true opposition party. I find myself appalled at the power of corporations and frightened by the disintegration of Constitutional law in this country. It seems to me that the Ralph Nader and Ron Paul campaigns have far more intellectual and moral substance than do those of Obama, Clinton and McCain.
At the same time, I recognize the importance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and I respect the enthusiasm that it has generated among several generations of American women. I have no doubt that this speech will be quoted for many years to come. For those whose work on Senator Clinton’s campaign has been their first taste of political activism, this address by their candidate will serve as a continuing inspiration.
Although I handed out bumper stickers for the Bobby Kennedy campaign when I was nine years old, I didn’t put any real time and effort into a political campaign until the McGovern candidacy of 1972. Sometime between now and election day, I’ll publish the campaign literature that still sits in my files, including the piece put out within weeks of Watergate, entitled “Bug Nixon Before Nixon Bugs You.”
I remember election night,1972. Everybody knew that Nixon was going to win a gigantic landslide victory. I spent that night alone in my room, with a cheap black and white television set and a cassette tape recorder. Even today, I still remember the hot tears on my face as I watched and listened to George McGovern’s concession speech, just days before my 14th birthday. I dreaded the future under a second Nixon administration. Little did I suspect at the time that Richard Nixon would leave a more progressive legacy than would any of his successors.
Have a listen to Senator McGovern’s fine speech from that miserable November evening more than 35 years ago, and imagine the sort of world we would live in if fine people like McGovern had been leading the executive branch of government instead of the ones we ended up with. As I listen to this speech again today, I recognize that McGovern was hardly the perfect candidate – yet his words and and the substance of his career continue to inspire me today.
No doubt Hillary Clinton’s speech will do the same for untold numbers of young women who for the first time have tasted politics, and political disappointment, with Clinton’s campaign of 2008.