I speak of this as someone who heard, read, and saw first hand the mistreatment and the blatant attempts by the media to portray Hillary Clinton in negative contrast to Barack Obama. Now, we have to connect the dots and harken back to historical context for a minute here. Before the 2008 election President Obama, then candidate Obama’s chief competitor for the Democratic nomination was then Senator Hillary Clinton. The media instantly took advantage of every opportunity to smear and paint Mrs. Clinton in a negative light because to them she stood in the way of the first African American to have a legitimate shot at not only winning the nomination of a major political party but actually becoming president.
All throughout the primary season we heard how polarizing, divisive, and hard nose Hillary Clinton was in comparison to the reasonable, unifying new kid on the block Barack Obama. At every chance the media in an almost celebratory fashion trumpeted Hillary Clinton’s high unfavorable rating as oppose to Barack Obama’s high favorability rating among primary voters. This media assassination attempt was lead in large part by NBC and MSNBC. After all it was a comment made off the record by NBC reporter Lee Cowan that kicked raised eyebrows when he said quote, “When NBC assigned me to cover Barack Obama I must confess my knees quaked a bit. It’s hard to stay objective when the infectious energy surrounds the Illinois Senator”
There were however less kind words used to describe Hillary Clinton. As Chris Matthews so eloquently put it: “She’s like your ex wife, every time you see her you want to cross your legs” From scorched earth being used to describe her refusal to end her presidential campaign to the constant declarations of her political demise, Hillary Clinton was the target of the most unwarranted, undeserved, and sexist treatment from the mainstream media that I’ve ever seen in my young life. But we know their goal was to pull her into the mud while lifting Obama above the clouds.
Then al the sudden Hillary’s political fortunes started to turn and she started gaining support and respect from unlikely political figures and from unlikely voters. For months we heard about Hillary’s problem with independent voters and how she has such a hard time connecting with them because of her so called polarizing nature (sound familiar?) But all the sudden she started winning over this voting block in states that had large number of blue collar workers and non college graduates. To the befuddlement of the media Hillary’s Lazarus like comeback put her within striking distance of closing the gap with Barack Obama days before and after Super Tuesday, in that time Hillary found herself the unlikely voice of the little guy in rural Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and West Virginia, states she won handily over Barack Obama.
Even when the media tried to explain away her comeback in those key states as a mere hesitation among white rednecks for voting for a black man, they could no longer dismiss her strong comeback, and thus the blueprint for Sarah Palin lies in the hard fought primary of 2007. Hillary Clinton started that battle as the most polarizing, divisive, front runner in American history. No way she could survive the wave of Obamamania because a new age of political force was on the horizon and well, Hillary was old news. Despite constant claims of her whistling past the political graveyard and the late Tim Russert asserting that she will never win another significant primary state beyond Super Tuesday, despite all the odds and the mistreatment Hillary Clinton managed to turn herself into the most popular and well respected Democrat since her husband. Perhaps Sarah Palin can’t replicate the Clinton model, maybe its just a Clinton thing, but I see a light at the end of this dark tunnel for the former governor.
She doesn’t have to remain a divisive, polarizing figure whose political fortunes as Joe Scarborough put are over, she can do herself a lot of good politically and personally by studying the Hillary Clinton model. Hillary didn’t play the victim per say, what she did was use the criticism and the mistreatment by her own party and the media to rally people outside her base support to her cause. In a sort of selfless manner she made herself the cause, she told her supporters that by shutting her up and by trying to force her out of the race at the time they were in effect doing the same to her loyal supporters. Soon people felt bad for Clinton and recognized as her supporters did early on the obvious and blatant attempt by the media to discourage her from continuing her campaign. She even gained respect from Republicans who hated her husband but appreciated her toughness and refusal to “tap”
I believe Palin’s “Hillary” moment is happening right now and I think if the media keeps hammering her and smearing her without just cause the American people will start to rally behind her as they did with Hillary in 2007.