NPR logo DNC Day 3: Hillary Offered 'An Eloquent Dance'

Conventional Wisdom

DNC Day 3: Hillary Offered 'An Eloquent Dance'

Conventional Wisdom

For another perspective on Hillary Clinton's DNC speech, we turn to author and Columbia University professor Farah Jasmine Griffin. "Did [Clinton's] supporters leave that hall ready to support Obama? I am sure some of them did, with varying degrees of commitment," writes Griffin. Tell us what you think.

Farah Griffin

She wore a burnt orange pantsuit that popped in contrast to the blue backdrop of the stage. Looking fit and ready to lead, Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a rousing address to an audience that seemed enraptured with her. In a speech peppered with specific critiques of McCain and clear suggestions for policy, Mrs. Clinton linked herself to the history of women's suffrage in this country by invoking the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention — the first women's rights convention — and the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, which granted the women the right to vote.

In one of her most soaring passages she quoted the freedom fighter, Harriet Tubman who when faced with slave catchers, bullets and blood hounds commanded "keep running!" In that one gesture, Clinton accomplished a number of important things: She brought together the struggles for women's and black rights in the United States, and subtly called attention to her own run for the presidency, in which she kept going long after others thought she should have quit. In fact, the whole speech was an eloquent dance between these two positions:

1. We must come together to defeat the Right. Our movements must converge and unify behind Barack Obama.

2. I ran a hell of a campaign, I bring a lot power and influence, I am steadfast, sturdy and persistent AND I am in it for the long haul.

So, the question remains: Did her supporters leave that hall ready to support Obama? I am sure some of them did, with varying degrees of commitment. Even among those who did emerge ready to elect Senator Obama there remains a sense that Hillary Clinton would have been the better candidate and should have been the party's nominee or, at the least, Obama's VP.

Hillary's supporters are a diverse group. Those with whom I have been most impressed are older, professional, politically astute women, [including some pretty fierce black women.] They are not marching in the street, they are not spewing racist invectives, they are not swearing to stay home or vote for McCain. But they are loyal to their candidate, believe her to have been deeply wronged by the media and by the young, smart but inexperienced and ungracious people who run the Obama campaign.

They are angry, they are hurt. But they are not the types to go into the corner and lick their wounds. Nor or they willing to give this election to McCain. Yesterday's Women's Caucus meeting reminded women voters that a McCain presidency will greatly undermine many hard won advances. (Sheila Johnson Rice delivered an extraordinary address in support of Obama at the Women's Caucus. She deserves a national hearing.)

The most significant assignment Hillary Clinton gave to her follower's last night: "I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage?" These are questions well worth pondering. (Last night provided some pretty compelling answers to these questions, particularly in the speeches of ordinary American's who spoke about their own struggles with pay equity and healthcare.)

However, it isn't just disgruntled Hillary supporters who need to meditate on these queries because they are not the only ones who are dissatisfied with the campaign. The reasons are diverse. Some are concerned about the so-called 'post-racial' nature of the campaign. Others cite the dearth of black faces in its leadership. Still others feel left out because their advice has not been sought or if sought, not heeded. There are some that are bothered by what feels like the campaign's tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Then there are those who are apprehensive by the euphoria that seems to have overtaken so many of Obama's supporters. All of us, including staunch Obama supporters, need to ask ourselves, why were/are we in this. What are the larger issues that drew us to the energy, vibrancy and possibility of this election season?