On Saturday, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech to her supporters in Washington, D.C. The speech, billed as a concession speech, was anything but. Instead, the New York Senator pledged support for Barack Obama, called on her own supporters to ensure Mr. Obama's election, and added several messages that undermined her stated aim.
At the fore of her speech, Ms. Clinton did a nice job stating what she should have stated some time ago. Namely, she used the opening of her speech to congratulate Mr. Obama on his campaign, to pledge support for Mr. Obama, and to call on her supporters to unify to ensure that a Democrat is elected to the White House in 2008.
After this opening, however, Ms. Clinton's speech devolved into less of a rallying cry for Mr. Obama and more of a pitch for her supporters to keep her in mind--possibly even in this election cycle.
By suggesting that Mr. Obama has benefited from privilege ("Mr. Obama has lived the American Dream") while she has struggled in ways with which Mr. Obama cannot relate ("we have yet to shatter the hardest of glass ceilings") and noting her commitment to her "18,000,000 supporters," Ms. Clinton used her speech to continue lobbying for support for the Party's nomination for President.
Ms. Clinton's supporters undoubtedly will brush aside such a suggestion, noting the opening to Ms. Clinton's speech, but such a denial would ignore the overal impact of the speech. Ms. Clinton clearly tells her supporters never to back down, never to quit, and never to admit defeat. That certainly comes off as a not-so-veiled overture to her supporters to make their own decision on whether to continue to support her or to switch to Mr. Obama.
Ms. Clinton also devoted a substantial amount of her speech to what can only be viewed as an on-going campaign. Unfortunately, as she has done so often during the current campaign when the going got tough, Ms. Clinton reverted to the politics of division, rallying around gender rather than focusing on substantive issues.
To be certain, Ms. Clinton noted the various topics on which Democrats and Republicans most commonly differ, but the gist of her speech became the sentiment that it was about time to have a woman in the White House. Sadly, too many of Ms. Clinton's supporters actually find that the overriding issue.
For those still convinced that Ms. Clinton intends to do all that she can to unite the Democratic Party--something that she had called upon those in the Party to do at the outset of the primaries and caucuses--there is the matter of Ms. Clinton's decision not to concede at this point. Instead, Ms. Clinton has opted merely to suspend her campaign without releasing her delegates to Mr. Obama.
The consequences of Ms. Clinton's decision could be profoundly negative for Mr. Obama as it will make fund-raising more difficult for him and force him to campaign in states and cities that would be less tenuous were Ms. Clinton to make a public showing of transferring her delegates--particularly delegates from major cities--to Mr. Obama. By going to the Convention with delegates in hand, Ms. Clinton signals that those delegates and the people whom they represent ought still be wary of Mr. Obama--and that they ought still to consider whether she might actually be the best candidate for the office of President.
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