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Wednesday, January 16 , 2019, 7:41 pm | Fog/Mist 60º

 
 
 
 

Jamie Stiehm: Hillary Clinton Should Emphasize Her ‘First’ As a Step Forward

The first snow fell here as Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump for president. Thinking over Hillary Clinton’s chances in Iowa and New Hampshire, I found the winter landscape gave me a clearer picture.

Palin’s sass makes a useful foil for Clinton’s class. The wild-eyed woman has not aged well since shaking up the 2008 race on the losing side, but don’t count out her “peasant cunning.”

A strategy responding to Palin might go like this: The river between Clinton and Palin is wide as the mighty Mississippi, showing starkly what the parties actually think of women.

That’s a jumping off point for the Republican war on constitutional choice, waged in Congress and in many of the 50 states, Ted Cruz’s Texas worst of all.

Looming over the Clinton camp are dark musings, fears of the historic “first” woman contender finishing second in the presidential primary. Again. The Iowa caucuses were unkind to Clinton in 2008.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is now making Iowa a horse race. Can’t you just hear Trump crow if she loses?

The magnitude of the moment, running to be the first woman president, deserves more spin, oxygen and energy than it’s getting from the Clinton campaign.

It’s something to be excited about — for mothers and daughters, wives, friends, sisters and brothers, even for the old Founding Fathers in July in Philadelphia, where the Democratic convention will be held.

Yes, the stars are all there for Clinton to take the bright shining mantle of history. She notably failed to do so in 2008, when she lost narrowly to young Barack Obama. He became the “first,” the African-American president who thrilled much of the body politic.

Clinton spoke of the “18 million cracks in the glass ceiling” once the battle was lost, in a spirited concession. Changing the social paradigm is not yet part of the larger cultural conversation; it’s an undercurrent at best.

It’s a shame to make the same mistake twice. The national polls give her a soft lead, but people won’t be excited unless Clinton engages lukewarm voters and plays that point home to fire them up.

Trump and Sanders’ supporters are raring to go, and we know galvanized voters will decide this election.

Clinton must message a sense of destiny for “first,” that her unique experience has molded her for the Madam President page of our shared national life. She is ready and we are ready.

Countless people — of all colors and ages — were euphoric at Obama’s inauguration eight years ago. Tens of thousands braved the frigid space to witness the first black president’s swearing-in. Wonder warmed the air.

That’s the message I’m talking about.

Free advice on how to tell her riveting life story: Simply put, everything Clinton has done, she has done well. Voters need a line that connects that past to future excellence.

From a daring commencement speech at her Seven Sisters college in 1969, to entering the gates of mostly male Yale Law School, to working for the House Watergate committee, Clinton was born to the “first” generation to reap the gains of the women’s movement.

Early on, Hillary Rodham was singled out as a front-runner of the baby boomers — and young Bill Clinton knew it. He worried about missing her manifest destiny down in Arkansas. Yet in later life, his wife has real roots all over: She grew up in the Midwest, and has lived in the South and the East. That matters.

Skipping to the White House, Clinton became a revolutionary first lady, breaking the domestic mode (while attending to flowers and dinners) and taking on policy.

She impressed Sen. Ted Kennedy with her command of health-care reform, but it failed. She went through a devastating personal betrayal and impressed even enemies with how she weathered the storm.

Whereupon she ran for the Senate herself and won. As secretary of state, she visited 100 nations, mending fences in the wake of the disastrous President George W. Bush’s wars.

For heaven’s sake, don’t forget to let the rays of light and fun in. Have you seen the 2012 tape of Clinton dancing in South Africa? The top diplomat represents the United States beautifully in the moment, with a winning smile that lights her face and an enchanting spontaneity seldom seen.

People like to like their presidents. Let’s meet the woman who will rock our world.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. The opinions expressed are her own.

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