The final days of the Clinton campaign: ‘exciting,’ rainy and blaring with ‘Roar’
At the start of the final weekend stretch of this long political season, Hillary Clinton bounced onto a stage in South Florida and proclaimed, Every day in this campaign is exciting! Easy for her to say, perhaps. It certainly has been exciting for anyone who sells antidepressants or anxiety medications to a public whose mood seems to range between apoplectic and apocalyptic, at least among those not apathetic.
The Democratic candidate and her traveling show had arrived in Miami sometime on the far side of one in the morning the night before. The crowd she was addressing had been waiting on the unsheltered grounds and bleachers at a Pembroke Pines park, persisting soggily through three shower bursts. What doesnt kill you makes you stronger the money-line lyrics of Kelly Clarksons familiar pop anthem, looped on the sound system between Latin numbers. What doesnt kill you gives you pneumonia, came the dry retort from the media tent.
Seven minutes in and the rains returned, harder, Hillarys light blue pantsuit started taking on water, and she wisely cut short her vibrant stump speech, shouted her gratitude, and skipped out joyously, just singing in the rain.
It was a long way to fly for just seven minutes of action, coming down from Cleveland the night before and up to Philadelphia immediately after. But that is part of the deal during presidential campaigns. It is all about being there, whatever that means and wherever there is. Being in battleground states. Being on television. Being in perpetual motion. Being up on the latest. And a whole lot of being up in the air. Being there with the goal of actually getting there.
Being there to try to get there is nothing new for Hillary. It was 24 years ago that she joined her husband on a 32-hour, 4,000-plus-mile zigzag that took them around and about to nine states from New Hampshire to the Rio Grande Valley before ending up in Little Rock, where on a chilled November night they realized they were on their way to being in the White House. By the time of that closing trip, an entrepreneurial camera crew from NBC had printed T-shirts to hawk to the bedraggled traveling media with the logo Camp Pain.
This time, even though Hillarys last scheduled campaign stop before the election is to be a Monday midnight madness rally in Raleigh, the traveling is both more precise and more relaxed. With Bill as the candidate, Clinton Time generally meant two hours later than scheduled. It meant watching the Big Dog work what Adam Nagourney, then covering the trip for USA Today, generously called rope lines from hell. Hillary time is at most an hour late, sometimes on time and even occasionally early. And no stops in places such as Kentucky or Texas or Arkansas, only states that might still make a difference. Bill by then knew that he was going to win, the last dog was not going to die, and his grand tour amounted to a victory lap. Hillary is not there yet, so her travels are much more targeted. And a maximum of four stops a day, with some mornings as leisurely as a lazy Sunday. Media baggage calls about 10:30. It may be material for Trump to harrumph again about sta-mi-na, except for the fact that she seems not fatigued but energized despite a raspy voice.
There is also a strong component of being with in these closing days celebrity on celebrity, famous people being with her, this famous woman, and the rest of us watching. If the nation at some point became hooked on reality TV, and Donald Trump somehow emerged from that subculture, Hillary has her own version of The Voice going. The reason she proclaimed her excitement on that rain-slicked stage in Florida was because she had been up the night before on a stage in Cleveland with Jay-Z and Beyonc and her pant-suited dancers who hip-hopped their expressions of support.
On Saturday night, it was Katy Perry roaring her Roar for her in Philly, opening her show in a flowing blue coat that said I Am with Madame President on the back as 10,000 political concertgoers stood and raised their fists, roaring along. Then back to Cleveland again Ohio looks that close and important, if not vital for a joint appearance with King James himself LeBron, that is. And then rounding north to Manchester, ground zero of the first-in-the-nation primary, where another James, the one named Taylor, would try to help her get her New Hampshire ducks all in a row, as one of his songs goes. And with Bruce Springsteen still to come back in Philly again Monday night.
The rush of fame all around, but all practiced, and none with the depth of meaning of a simple stop for Sunday services at the Mt. Airy Church of God in Philadelphia. We are firm believers in the separation of church and state, intoned the Rev. J. Louis Felton,setting the mood for the politics to come. We are separated, but not divorced. The music, with a choir rising in song behind first the angelic voice of a little girl, and then the resounding gospel intonations of BeBe Winans, provided an uplift that the million-twitter celebs could not match. And Hillary, with a scratch in her voice, but softer and slower and more powerful than usual, seemed for once utterly at home.
If she has struggled to close the deal with black voters, there was little evidence of that here. Like few other places in American life, the black church offers an embracing sensibility of forgiveness and hope. Hillary spoke about the lessons she used to teach at her Methodist Sunday school back in the Little Rock days: that love was a commandment; about the flaws and mistakes of every human life and the call of redemption and keeping on; about the long struggle for equality that connected women and African Americans, both rendered second-class citizens in the American democracy for so long; and about how President Obama had said he wanted to pass the baton to her, and she was just hoping he will bend down low enough so I can reach it.
She departed not long before news arrived that there would be no further actions in the FBI email investigation a separate blessing and with an echo of the words she had uttered right after listening to Winans. Every day in this campaign might be exciting, as she exclaimed in South Florida a day earlier, but this offered something more. I need that, she said. I needed that.