Hillary won her delegate count today. The New York Times and the Washington Post are headlining the news above the fold. She made it, scarred, exposed, faulted by many for her hawkish ways. She limped over the finish line to the snarls of the Bernie faithful, the unenthusiastic flanks of progressives who have been dragging her to the left all through the primaries. She was jubilant, but she was hit hard and several times looked dazed by Sanders' attacks on her tenure as Secretary of State, as a senator, as a First Lady -- she erred often and always on the side of the generals, it would seem. He made her reel from his blows, and when he saw that full frontal attacks got his numbers up, he laid in like a skillful boxer, not a champion but a man who could stun his opponent and nearly win.
Others took note of the power of Bernie's message, from David Axelrod, who managed Obama's two successful campaigns, to the hacks on the far right who knew a good punch when they saw it. Hillary was as often in trouble on the trail as she was diligent about collecting super delegates for the upcoming convention, and didn't scare at the seeming unpredictability of her chances. If Sanders could hurt her, Trump threatened to eat away at her Blue State reserves. The press hinted that Trump's populist message might draw unhappy Democrats over to his side in the general election.
She ate the State Fair franks, kissed the babies, shook all those callused farmers' hands in Iowa and Nebraska, took selfies with hordes of admirers or just the curious who stood behind the rope lines. She kept her rigid smile pasted on her face to meet any and all contingencies while the cameras fired away, looking for the slightest chink in her political armor. No one threw a custard pie at her, or ripped her clothes; but she seemed ready for such an incident, with that Kabuki mask she wore in public. God knows what she did back in the limo or on the plane after a slog through the corn and wheat belts, but it must have required a stiff drink and some quiet time away from her staff.
Campaigns are cruel ordeals, meant to find every weakness in a candidate. If one should allow any lapse in self-control, the press was eager for it. It was better than scooping a shoot out in Chicago, a college campus rape, another terrorist threat. When a presidential candidate drops his or her guard, the wolves expose their fangs. We saw it all these past eight or ten months, with Ted Cruz flailing under the blows of Trump, and of Marco Rubio suddenly imploding after losing the Florida primary to his nemesis.
So Hillary slogged through, and her home-server emails were vetted by one Republican-led panel of the House after another, squandering millions hiring assistants, aides, professional analysts and finding little or nothing on which to indict her. But the massive industry of investigators and prosecutors was as busy as the press in trying to bore through her thick skin. The more she withdrew into her privacy on stage and in interviews, the more the House goons sharpened their knives and tried to find the snark hiding in her words. Close associates and underlings were subpoenaed and dragged through a gauntlet of hostile questioners, and somehow made it to the exit door without divulging damaging information.
I suspect her self-protection in this campaign was perfected as far back as the White House years when she was made to play the suffering wife of a serial womanizer; the press shined its blinding lights on her as often as on the perpetrator himself. She had the smile even then, the glassy-eyed stoicism, the terse, uninformative answers to loaded questions. She had on her imaginary bullet-proof vest and could take everything but a machine gun aimed at her. And during the impeachment proceedings, she saw the same hard faces and steely stares of Republicans eager to find her husband guilty of crimes and misdemeanors enough to oust him from the Oval Office.
If you can stay on your feet without dissolving into tears of frustration, you were living on reserves of pure iron. You could take the abuse, and even dish it back if needed. It wasn't expected of a woman, indeed, the very abstraction of woman reserved for the role of First Lady, but Hillary could stand under the unforgiving laser beams of the press and Congress and keep the smile. It was her political university to learn to do so -- to know the enemy for what it was and to figure out some kind of alabaster persona in order to survive and hold her husband together.
The ironies of the impeachment panel weren't lost on her. Henry Hyde pushed the hardest against Bill, and found his dalliance with Monica outrageous. It wasn't long after that Hyde's mistress and love child were discovered and that he had been supporting them for many years. When a reporter confronted him about his affair, Hyde said it was an indiscretion of his youth, but he was in his forties when the affair began.
Everyone in the television audience was spellbound by the formality, the somberness, the supposed authority of the men and women empaneled to try a president. Hillary stayed home waiting for the next knock on the door, the ouster, the life-long shame. But she toughed it out. And from it bore a certificate of indestructibility conferred upon her by a legion of political assailants. She could handle a campaign and did, twice, losing once to Obama, the more skillful and flexible competitor, and now this campaign, against a sometimes monotonous johnny-one-note on social inequality with whom she could contend with a more nuanced if less charismatic appeal to voters.
She had her battle plan, to harvest as many delegates as she could, while Bernie aroused the passions of the young and disillusioned. He forgot to woo the black vote, the important Latino segment of the population, while Hillary, with the shrewd advice of her husband, kept playing a more competitive game of Go and slowly surrounded Bernie and isolated him. It was neatly done, and she didn't give away any personal emotions about her strategy. She knew her enemies were gathered for the kill and wanted any chance to destroy her. She had Trump shouting at her the moment he sensed momentum in her campaign, and Bernie closing in with his own damaging strategies, and the press, eager as always to sense her vulnerability, poring over her emails and the testimony of the Benghazi consulate officers, those who thought they had the scoop on her. She lugged around a lot of mistakes, like her vote for the invasion of Iraq, her uncritical enthusiasm for Obama's free trade agreements. But others knew that Obama was crucial to winning over minorities, and no one else seemed to know that the minority vote would win you a presidential election.
What looked like a toneless campaign was slowly revealing itself to be a strategy to address a new America -- a democracy whose color was rapidly changing from white to brown. It was an America shifting perspectives on energy, on world trade, on grass-roots power bases that could eventually topple the Republican grip on Congress. It was an America whose very establishment leaders would have to accommodate the hated Otherness that had for two centuries suffered under an unacknowledged apartheid rooted in slavery and contempt for black and brown values and traditions. No one else thought to go around the country gathering up the sentiments of the dispossessed and offering to represent their views if she could win the White House. Not only was she running to be the first woman president, she was running to represent an America that whites feared and loathed, and would try with all their power and wealth to prevent.
The more Hillary laid bare her constituencies and her pivot to the plural nature of American democracy, the more Trump saw his own strategy as a voice for white anger and resentment, white fear of loss of privileges, white hatred. He carefully nurtured this side of America and perhaps went too far in attacking judges of Mexican descent, contemning Muslims of all stripes and conditions, demeaning women, the press, and heaping vitriol on Mexico and South Americans in general. Trump read his cards and decided that whites would ally with him in a general war against otherness fought at the voting polls. He wasn't counting on Hillary's carefully reasoned response to change and the rise of a new power base that would sweep the Republican "southern strategy" into the dust bin. Trump bet on it one more time, and Hillary saw the future and put down all her chips on it.