Lost In Admiration

Globe and Mail Comment, 29 April 2008

'That's my girl!" I slapped the kitchen counter as the numbers rolled in from Pennsylvania. Jamie and his mother looked at me as if I'd finally sprouted those horns they fear lie beneath my exquisitely coloured, artfully dishevelled hair. But Fox News was in full-throated cry, and I was dancing with delight as Hillary thrashed the prissy crybaby fielded by the champagne socialists of the Democratic left.

Nor was I alone. That night, and over the next 24 hours, Hillary Clinton raised $10-million on the Internet, mostly from women like me, who have finally succumbed to the weird compelling charm of the Hillary Franken-monster. We're so lost in admiration for this woman who takes punch after punch after punch, and soldiers on nonetheless, we'd gladly pay for more of this enormously satisfying spectacle, just to watch her up on that podium, resplendent with energy and confidence, smiling until her cheeks hurt, finding her ground, claiming it, and standing firm. This is the big payoff after 40 years of calculation, humiliation and brutally hard work. No wonder she looks so happy and serene. She knows she can do it, even if we don't.

And wasn't Bill looking a little red-faced, freaked and faded? As if she'd eaten his energy, added it to her own, and was chomping through obstacles more like drywall than concrete? She's got him hogtied to the point that he's so scared he puts his foot in his mouth every time he leaves the house - while she soars.

In fact, after 30 years of rote recitation of the blandest platitudes of lefty politics, I think the lady may have discovered her voice. And not before time, because of all of them, she's got the presidential stamp.

She's got the power. She's an American Thatcher, an Iron Lady, an entirely new brand of woman - as flawed as Catherine the Great, as hungry for power as Vladimir Putin, as masterfully agile as Tony Blair.

It just might be that Bill was not the best politician of the age, it was her, all the time.

For the former feminists of her generation, this has to be thrilling.

And with a few caveats, I think she'd make an awesome Leader of the Free World.

Why? Well, for one thing the folks at Real Clear Politics have her ahead of Barack Obama in the popular vote by 12,000. That's counting Florida - where both she and Obama were on the ballot and did not campaign (or in her case, not much) - and an estimate for the four "caucus" states, where the number of caucus attendees was not counted by the party, and you can't just throw out Michigan, where Obama was not on the ballot.

For another, most of the big feet in the Democratic Party abandoned her. She's not likely to forget that. The only people she'll owe will be the ones giving her the edge: "Jacksonians" and Latinos. Jacksonian Democrats are, according to U.S. News & World Report's Michael Barone, "the descendants of colonial era immigrants from northern England, Scotland and northern Ireland who thronged down the Appalachian chain, and then, like their heroes, Jackson and Sam Houston, kept going south-west." These are the people suffering most from the blowback of globalization, social conservatives without evangelical zeal, sparsely educated family people, small-town people, the heart of the heartland. (By the way, the same people who put Stephen Harper into power, and will keep him there, despite Torontonians' contempt.)

It is those not invited to the past 15 years of full-on shopping who can give Hillary's candidacy the moral heft it needs. The steel in her soul will direct her calculation - their electing her will set her free to chart her own course.

And since the other half of the country thinks she rides a broom, by 2010 she'll have a Republican Congress and be prevented from too egregious tax hikes and overregulation. Then, we'll see who she really is: With any luck, like the women of her generation, not an ideologue but a superb pragmatist, who holds the interests of those less fortunate close. A fighter capable of taking on the snarl in the greater Middle East while easing the lives of those without health care, a decent job or a future. The realest, therefore, of real women.