The other day I had the idea to write a piece called “What Hillary Could Do.” Full of the ardor of good citizenship, my idea was to respond sincerely to that lady’s not-very-subtle signals (“I’ve always been a prayin’ woman,” etc.) that she wants the votes of the religious, family-values voters who are now the largest force in the Republican coalition.
My idea was not to throw down challenges she could never meet, simply as a political tactic to “expose” her insincerity. I really wanted to craft a list of things Hillary could do to materially advance religious values and family interests without betraying her own core beliefs or her position as the leader of the left wing of the Democratic party.
I even decided to call on some friends to help craft the list. Alas, I never got beyond the first call, to a smart veteran political strategist.
“Richard,” she said rather impatiently, “as usual you have missed the point entirely. Hillary doesn’t have to do anything. All she has to do is talk, make some warm fuzzies toward the family agenda and she’s got a good shot at breaking off the two percent she needs to win.”
“People aren’t that stupid,” I declaimed, in my most stirringly populist tones. “You can’t play against type just by talking.”
“Really?” she asked. “Her husband deflated his pro-life opposition just by going around the country mouthing ’safe, legal, and rare.’ Then he gave us partial-birth abortion.”
“Well that might be a good start,” I shot back. “How much does she really care about keeping a tiny percentage of particularly grotesque abortions legal? Why shouldn’t a White House-hungry Hillary move on that?”
“Perfect!” she exclaimed. “You are some kind of political genius, you are! Too bad Reagan didn’t have you around during the Cold War, we could be having this conversation in Russian!”
“Look,” she explained, adopting a tone appropriate to the instruction of the very young, “we passed the partial-birth ban. The courts overturned it. Without better judges we can’t win. It’s now a no-lose issue for Hillary. She’d be right to take your suggestion. I can just see her on stage publicly agonizing about how she might have been wrong, all the while knowing she’ll never have to vote on it again. Her base won’t care. Meanwhile our folks will eat it up and just be ready to give her a big sloppy hug.
“Don’t forget, our people really are Christians. They really do believe there should be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who had no need. Look at all the capital Joe Lieberman picked up with family-values folk over the years by talking our talk. Of course he’s never actually done anything, but we swoon over him out of sheer desperate gratitude for a Democrat we can connect with on any level.
“Still, you are right about one thing. Hillary is going to be very useful. She is about to teach our coalition partners a very painful lesson, which is that she can talk the talk they’ve been talking for years and just as well. Gore couldn’t, Kerry wouldn’t. But she can and she will.”
Hmmm. Maybe that’s right. Maybe this time the only way out for our guys will be to actually do something on family issues, including some things many Republicans find hard, like maybe a marriage amendment. Up to now, conventional Republicans and supply-siders have never had to stretch for the family agenda. Now, thanks to Hillary, they’re going to have to–or they’ll lose.
–Richard Vigilante writes about money for a living and about sex for fun.