I Went To A Hillary Clinton Rally, And Everyone Was Really Old
I still get chills thinking about the moment Barack Obama was elected to presidency in 2008.
I was still a year shy of the voting age then, but his campaign was the first I was old enough to follow and understand. And I understood he was changing what it looked like to run for president in America. It felt like progress.
So you’d think that now, while a female candidate actually might clinch the Democratic nomination, there’d be a similar youthful sizzle in the air at one of her campaign functions — especially the day after she swept Super Tuesday.
But as I learned last night, that’s not the case. I went to a Hillary Clinton rally and everyone was old.
I walked into New York City’s Javits Center yesterday, ready to rally, and got really confused. I thought I was in the wrong place. I was surrounded by middle-aged men and women, by construction workers, by blue-collar union types. Where were all the Vassar and Columbia-educated mini-Hillarys that I thought would turn up at a New York City Hillary rally? Where were all the self-righteous white feminists? Where were the “millennials”?
Freezing my ass off, waiting in line to get my belongings scanned through metal detectors, I harassed a few people in line, asking them to share their stories. I quickly realized the rally was populated almost solely by members of labor unions: teachers, construction workers, and carpenters.
“I love Bernie,” one elementary school teacher told me. “But I need a president with experience, someone who can actually put their ideas into motion in office. And Bernie’s ideas feel untenable at times.”
I approached two clean-cut blonde men in matching scarves. They were visiting from London, and had taken a break from tourist activities to hear Hillary speak.
“I’ve always liked her,” the cuter one, Edwin, said. “I hope she talks about how she’ll improve gun control regulations.”
When I finally entered the event space, there were still no fireworks.
But Hillary was excited, clearly reveling in the success of the previous day, when she’d won 508 of the 865 delegates at stake in 11 states. Bernie Sanders came in with 342, putting their respective totals at 597 and 406.
She came out wearing blue. She said nothing of the other candidates, mostly focusing on raising minimum wage up to $15, universal healthcare, and immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But she finished her speech mentioning that the Republican campaign was employing “a lot of finger pointing and insults.”
“Maybe some people find it entertaining,’’ she allowed, “but it matters, when you’re running for president, what you say — and when you are president.’’
The next thing she said was a surprise coming from someone with a reputation for being kind of a hard-ass.
“We need more love and kindness in this country,” she said. “It’s always easier to tear people down instead of build people up. But we do better when others do better.”
This felt like the emotional peak of the speech, and Clinton’s mention of “love and kindness” stuck out to me — it was the one point during the rally when she displayed her femininity, or any emotion at all.
And this is what’s missing from her campaign: emotion. And can you blame her for appearing as serious as possible? If she showed any emotion, her opponents would rip her apart. Hillary has a reputation as being stiff and unlikable. But if she were too likable, that would hurt her, too.
She doesn’t have the luxury Obama had of presenting his youth and inexperience as a relatable breath of fresh air. Hillary is one of the most qualified people ever to run for president. She doesn’t fuck around, because as a woman in politics, she’s had to come across even tougher than the men — and that’s why her campaign is devoid of the entertainment factor that both Trump and Obama have been accused of exploiting at different times in their careers.
The fact that Hillary Clinton has gotten to this point as a woman in politics is extraordinary. You’d think the mood at her campaign event would be electric, for exactly that reason. But instead, the rally felt like a conference on office supplies. Isn’t that its own kind of progress, though? Hillary’s base seems to barely even care about her gender. Her supporters aren’t idealistic young people who are clamoring for a female president just for progress’ sake. They’re regular voters who just happen to think she’s the best president.
George Washington warned that differences between political parties could distract both the government and public from their duties. He feared these disagreements could distract the government from its required duty to the people and even lead to the eradication of the freedoms established by the constitution.
And we are nothing, if not distracted, by Donald Trump memes, by the amount of Facebook fans Bernie Sanders has (more than Hillary and Jeb Bush had combined, by the way), by Hillary trying and hideously failing to “dab” dance on The Ellen Degeneres Show. It’s not a reality show; it’s not a competition for Instagram likes.
I was happy to leave the rally. It was too cold in that ugly building. It was boring, and pragmatic, and practical. But that’s what politics are. And the fact that the first woman who has a shot at the presidency comes across as a boring candidate with old supporters is actually progress.