Hillary Clinton is not typecast for the role. Her figure doesn’t suggest power. Her voice belongs in the overlit, underairconditioned rooms of county party headquarters, not rising across a stadium of the devout, rinsing away their hopelessness. You can see her leading a shaggy, too-old group of volunteers in the Pledge. It is harder to imagine her establishing doctrines that radiate out across the globe from 1600 Pennsylvania, a commander of fleets and astronauts.

She’s got all her husband’s political baggage and none of his political skill, remarked a poster to an internet forum.

The Senate conservative’s favorite Democrat, said Senate conservatives, according to an article in Harper’s 

Neither a progressive, nor a liberal, until Bernie decided to run, wrote John MacArthur, that magazine’s publisher.

So what’s a gun-allergic, bible-abjuring, tax-amiable lefty like myself thinking? Why am I not feeling the Bern?

OK, one reason is because, the nearer we come to the end of his historic presidency, the more I like Barry, and she’s the most like him of anyone running.

He’s by no means been the black Messiah progressives hoped for, but let’s be honest: the root of that disappointment should rightly be assigned to progressives them(our)selves, who in 2008 succumbed en masse to a fever dream, googly-eyed with romance, heedless to the clues (they weren’t concealed) that Obama fancied himself an intellectually honest pragmatist first, a liberal partisan not at all. (This should have been obvious even from his national coming-out party: the “audacity of hope” speech at Kerry’s convention.)

(It’s a sad shitty tragic thing that his administration had to exist in the same swamp with Mitch McConnell and his yahoo caucus; think of what could’ve been accomplished over the last eight years for our country [and our world] had the Republican Party not been…itself. Anyway, the new insanity is upon us, and it’s worse and different than it’s been in our lifetime. The inevitable eruption of the GOP is making Mister President look better every day.)

“I miss Barack Obama,” wrote conservative columnist David Brooks a little while ago, suffering a bit of nostalgia-for-the-present (saudade [sow-DAH-chey], is how I just learned the Portugese refer to this condition).

He has such a knack for taking the heat out of things, a SXSW attendee said of the President, who’d addressed a group there about justice and iPhones.

The only grown-up in the room–that’s how they’ll write it up in history.

I’m not sure it’s possible that he could’ve done more to bridge the gulf between his administration and its opposition, but it does seem that he exhausted his tool bag fairly quickly. In the theatre, actors playing characters who are trying to get something from someone else are exhorted to change their tactics: if reason isn’t working, try flattery. If flattery doesn’t do the trick, try sweet. Try hot. Whatever it takes. But the dynamic between the Prez and his opponents (Obama: Be reasonable. Congressional Republicans: Won’t!) has been remarkably consistent from the beginning. Say that’s his greatest political shortcoming: a lack of creativity in terms of combating the cynical intransigence of his self-proclaimed enemies. This is not I think a problem he shares with Hillary.

I’d rather be caught trying, the Secretary of State told her staff.

That was in the lead-up to the Libyan intervention, which, OK, not the best example, but the point remains: she’s an inveterate tryer. She believes in it. She is, in this way, nearly the photo-negative of the fraying Republican monolith that works (well…) in the Capitol Building. Where our current president is a thoughtful and finicky cat, repelled by squalor, Hillary is (oh dear) a hound at peace with muddy scrums if muddy scrums are called for.

I like that she isn’t an ideologue. I like most everything Bernie has to say and I think, unfortunately, that he’s right: the only way he can deliver on his promises is if he surfs in on a tremendous and revolutionary wave. Very recent history shows us that waves of such a scale are not unheard of (Obama ’08), it’s their tendency to dissipate upon impact that’s terminal.

(He tried to tell us that, too–Obama did–first in his acceptance speech when he originally won the party’s nomination [It’s about you, he said] and again in his second inaugural [when he answered the right’s ceaseless anti-government bromides with a long overdue paean to citizenship].)

No. The campaign to move the dial left needs to be wider and deeper than what Bernie can offer. It needs to happen in every state at the grassroots level, gradually (imagine the America that went frothing mad over the Affordable Care Act reacting to President Sanders’s first hundred days to-do list); it needs to be organized around quantifiable goals (overturning right-to-work laws, for instance; reversing the [very recent] legal notion that the 2nd amendment grants an individual’s absolute right to own firearms); and it needs to be financed beyond the lifespan of one charismatic curmudgeon’s Quixotic run for office. Bernie is a great conversation starter (he’s certainly preferable to the one the Republican underbelly belched up), but he’s not the guy to bring it home. No one person is.

HRC may not be up to the task of putting out the fire in Washington, but she might over time do quite a bit to curtail its spread. A president who doesn’t come into office saddled with grandiose hopes, who is more concerned with substance than with optics, who’d rather be caught trying, might be the best thing we can expect right now. A president who began her political career with a listening tour, for crying out loud, sounds awfully refreshing.

I keep thinking about Elder Bush: a pragmatic technocrat intolerant of partisan silliness who looks better and better all the time. He didn’t have “the vision thing” in a moment when “the vision thing” was ascendant. (He also didn’t have much of the personality thing.) But that crap can be misleading. To use a metaphor he would appreciate, lots of baseball players get promoted on the basis of an individual tool (usually power) even while, on the daily, they vastly underperform their less glamorous colleagues. When Elder Bush assumed the Oval, its previous occupant had been an undisputed master of vision–someone capable, when he wasn’t napping, of hitting immense rhetorical home runs. He got drummed out by a personality equally as large. And that’s pretty much where we’ve been stuck for a long time. (Although it might be worth noting that the current president described his foreign policy as a singles hitter.)

This is weak tea so far as political endorsements go, I know, but we would do well to temper our enthusiasm when it comes to our leaders. The yen for a single fixer who can come in and solve all our problems is childish, and it opens the door to the Trumps of the world. Plus, it’s undemocratic.

Of course, that yen is encouraged by those who would lead us. Which is another reason I like Hillary. She isn’t selling herself like that. She’s selling herself as a team player…someone who will lay down a sacrifice bunt, steal a bag, go the other way to advance the runner. (It’s Spring, so I’m kind of basebally right now.) Perhaps what the country could benefit from the most at present is someone who takes the job more seriously than she takes herself. Looking at the field of available candidates, there’s no question to me who that is.

She fights, she loses sometimes, she comes back, she wins. She tries, she adapts, she tries again, she keeps her eye on the ball. She knows she won’t please everyone, she knows she’s not a natural politico, she knows it isn’t going to be easy.

Could we maybe give that a try?

 

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