If Hillary Clinton is wavering over what the correct thing to do tonight is, I hope she will consider a few points:
This is Barack Obama’s party now. By dint of Democratic party rules, rather than real majorities in key states, he has won the nomination. Therefore, it is his obligation to unite the party, should there be serious rifts, and to win the election in November. Hillary Rodham Clinton, you have spent too much of your life cleaning up after Bill Clinton, making his messes go away. For the first time in your life you have come near realizing your potential alone. Do not bend now, and do Obama’s work for him. Don’t help. Just sit there. You get nothing for helping. Am I clear?
Release your voters — but leave it at that. Stop raising money. Sit out the election. Free yourself of the addiction to crowds and adulation over the next 12 weeks. If he wants those female and/or white working class voters, let him figure out how to convince them. If he can’t do it, he shouldn’t be president.
Be correct. As Emily Post would have advised, be icily proper. Say nothing wrong. Express verbal support for the Obamas, but convey no positive emotion or energy on behalf of the ticket. Be a tiny, tiny bit condescending about his experience. Dismiss claims that you are not being supportive with a brusque, “that’s ridiculous. I have always been a Democrat and I am not changing that now,” non-denial. If asked whether you have changed your mind about his qualifications for the presidency, raise an eyebrow, assume a mocking look for a nano-second, and say, “We share the same values.”
Issue perfunctory denials of support when John McCain quotes you in sly ads. You have clearly mastered this already.
Establish your power base and define an agenda of items you absolutely wish to accomplish. Discuss these publicly. If Obama wins, he will have to support your policies. If McCain wins, he may feel that he has to support (some of) your issues. (I am certain that I will disapprove of these policies — but that isn’t the point.) Send the McCain campaign any good oppo research you didn’t use in return for a promise about some program for kids.
Do not wear a pantsuit in a color that could be confused with an elevated threat level tonight. I am not suggesting anything as radical as a dress. But keep the color cool. Grey, lapis blue — those are good. For the future, think about a new sartorial style. Just to shake things up.
See if you can learn to speak with something like a smile around your eyes. It will make you seem good natured and wise, and will help with seeming above it — the last of which is necessary for the next few months.
Regroup. You have many options. Your party has a weak bench (Joe Biden?) and 2012 is possible. It is also possible that you can actually acquire serious power, and accomplish much of your (evil) agenda in the U.S. Senate, which your party will control.
Why should you do all this? Because the most important thing you demonstrated to women in America is that when you got hit, you got back up to fight another day. You learned from your mistakes and went on. Showing up in politics was a big deal for your generation. But all women expect to work now. Mostly they expect to succeed — until they (we) hit roadblocks. You showed women, girls, and men that when you got hit you would come back swinging, and that you would get back up if you stumbled. That is an invaluable lesson, because everyone gets hit sometimes, and women are not taught to return to the arena the way men are. (These days young girls are taught that…but we can’t wait for all of them to grow up.)
Channel Richard Nixon. You and he go way back. You share certain traits, including persistence and a willingness to do what it takes to win. He never gave up — and disgrace was a bigger deal back then. You learned too late this spring, as he knew, that Americans love a guy who gets back up and keeps trying. Be that guy. Without the self pity.