The historic Hillary plunge and Obama surge we are witnessing has several sources, but perhaps none as prominent as the simple fact that Barack Obama inspires people in a way that Hillary Clinton cannot. He is blessed by that incalculable political intangible that a politician either has or has not. And a central component of that intangible is a compelling personal story that people find uplifting—the underdog who rises victorious. Here, by comparison, Hillary is cursed.
Of course, this is not unique to Obama. On the Republican side, no one can deny John McCain’s heroic perseverance at the hands of his captors at the Hanoi Hilton. McCain has a great line: When asked why he could not join the likes of the Clintons and their comrades at Woodstock, he explained he was “tied up at the time.” Indeed, he was—a fact that impresses voters.
Many successful politicians have stories like these. George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole had extraordinary World War II experiences. Even Hillary Clinton’s husband, like Obama, has a rags-to-riches tale of a boy and his mom surviving together, with the youngster ultimately ascending to unthinkable political heights. Consider Bill’s story:
One summer night in 1946, a 27-year-old traveling salesman named Billie Blythe was driving his Buick along Highway 60 outside of Sikeston, Missouri, heading back to Hope, Arkansas from Chicago. As his pregnant wife awaited him, Billie lost control and crashed headfirst into a drainage ditch, where he was knocked unconscious. Other drivers saw the accident and searched for the body but could not find it in the dark of night. He drowned in a few inches of water. The child Billie left behind would become a president, but not before little Bill survived not only the death of the father he never met but his unstable mother’s soap-opera series of nutty marriages, including to an alcoholic who beat her, Bill, and his brother. No matter how much you disliked Bill Clinton, you could not help but be moved by that story.
Yet, what applies to Bill does not apply to Hillary. In Hillary’s case, the inspiring story is found in her parents: Her father Hugh Rodham was a rock-ribbed Republican born and bred in the mines of Scranton, Pennsylvania. He played tough enough football and earned just enough money to get a degree from Penn State during the Great Depression, after which he hopped box cars all the way to Chicago, started his own business, and built himself and his bride a home that he paid for in cash. Hugh Rodham was a self-made man, whose family would never be in want. His young wife, Dorothy, had an even more difficult path, raised by a selfish, basket-case of a woman who was unfit to be a mother. Dorothy, too, endured. The two parents taught their kids to look to God, not to government for a handout; Uncle Sam should never be a nanny.
Hugh and Dorothy Rodham had experiences most Americans admire. To the contrary, what much of America perceives from Hillary’s youth was a nice little girl, a Goldwater Republican and self-described “straight-laced Methodist”—truly Hugh Rodham’s daughter—who headed off to Wellesley with Hugh’s hard-earned savings and became a radical, a rich liberal who in four years had figured out how to redistribute wealth to the masses and usher in La Revolucion. It was fitting that Ms. Rodham’s final moment at Wellesley was an outrageous public reprimand of Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-MA) from the class of ’69 commencement platform. Brooke was the first African-American elected to the Senate since Reconstruction—later awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But the young feminist did not approve of his remarks, and proceeded to candidly explain why, to the horror of parents and delight of her stomping sisters.
From there, a fist-in-the-air Hillary went on to defend the Black Panthers in the Yale Law class of Professor Thomas “Tommie the Commie” Emerson; became an acolyte of veteran radical Saul Alinsky; worked for the infamous Marxists Robert Treuhaft and Decca Mitford in Oakland, California; embraced Roe v. Wade as a kind of political sacrament; and ended up the angriest member of the staff committee looking to impeach Richard Nixon.
Not only is there nothing there to inspire Middle America, but many of those knowledgeable of Hillary’s background are resentful of how she spurned the values of her parents. There are a lot of traditionally minded Americans who harbor bitterness at the secular universities that gobbled up their savings and indoctrinated their children. They feel for Hugh, not Hillary.
Hillary’s inability to inspire has crept to the surface and widened with the emergence of Barack Obama. Each time Obama recalls his struggles he pounds the wedge further into the crack. As he does, Hillary’s campaign crumbles before our eyes.
Alas, this is not to deny Hillary Clinton’s achievements. No American woman has gone this far in politics. She has blazed the trail. But she is being overtaken by a challenger whose decisive advantage is that crucial ability to inspire.