Hillary Clinton’s campaign may end today. It may end tomorrow. But it will end soon enough. It has been an improbable journey for her, from inevitable to impossible. But the journey for many Republicans observing the Democratic primary has been just as strange.
She began the campaign, from the Republicans’ perspective, as the villainess, like movie character brought back from a prior film with a slightly different look but every bit as maddening and as scary. The cackle! The smarmy sidekick Bill! And that cloying campaign announcement! It all seemed painfully familiar. But slowly things changed. It is no secret that she got a much friendlier reception and fairer treatment from the conservative than the liberal media. Both in public and private Republicans shook their heads, admitting that she had, well, grown on them. What happened?
Yes, there was an element of mischief-making in some Republicans rooting her on, the most widely known aspect being Rush Limbaugh’s “Operation Chaos.” And sure, it was fun for Republicans to see the Democratic race drag on and on and on, as the Democrats attacked and villified one another. But there was something more.
Hillary became the sane one in the race, at least from Republicans’ perspective. She was the one who looked at George Stephanopoulos with a look of incredulity when he questioned why she would threaten to blow Iran to smithereens if Iran nuked Israel. When Obama defamed religious and gun-owning Americans she objected, reminding the Democratic party for a brief interval that people loved their faith because . . . they loved their faith. And when Obama offered that raising the payroll tax cap on those making $102K would affect only the “rich,” it was Hillary who said, “That’s not rich!” Most strikingly, it was she and her campaign who did object, and object strenuously, to Obama’s plan for direct, unconditonal talks with rogue state leaders. And she even withstood her fellow Democrats’ barbs for voting to classify the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist organization.
Some might question her authenticity on some of these issues, but whether or not she truly believed it all, her articulated views were often the least crazy thing coming out of the Democratic race on any given day. What’s more she was getting clobbered, unfairly and personally nearly every day in the race by Obama’s media cheerleaders who disclaimed much if any interest in reporting the race objectively. Republicans could relate to that.
And let’s face it: Republicans are not always the hippest folks in the crowd. They tend to frown on the excesses of popular culture and Hollywood fads in particular. So when he became the darling of the fashionable and she, the awkward middle-aged gal, rolled her eyes at Obama girls–again, Republicans could relate.
So it is a good thing, perhaps, for John McCain that she lost: what started out as an idle threat or joke (“I’ll vote for Hillary over McCain!”) among the conservative base became a distinct possibility for some Republicans, and certainly many conservative Independents.
Looking back, few would have thought eighteen months ago that Hillary would lose. And fewer still would have thought some Republicans would be sorry to see it.