Been saving this article for the right time. Buzzfeed‘s Ruby Cramer, back at the end of January: “Hillary Clinton Wants to Talk With You… “
… “I am talking about love and kindness,” she says.
As Clinton sees it, she’s really talking about a “shorthand” for her personal and political beliefs, for all the impulses that shape what she does and how she does it. She is talking about the core of “what I believe and who I am.” Even if no one views her that way. Even if she’s never been quite able to explain it. Even if she still isn’t known for the vision she’s been trying to share for decades, going back to the beginning. Even if her earnest efforts to connect with people are hampered not just by her image, but by the actual barriers of public life. After so many years, how do you convince a nation full of people who think they know everything about you that they don’t?
“I can only just be the person I am and continue to stand for what I feel like I have always stood for, in terms of values and in terms of my core beliefs,” Clinton says. “And of course, policies come and go, policies change. I mean, good grief, of course that’s the case. But who I am is pretty much who I’ve always been.”…
This was 1993. She is first lady — a few months into the job, head of her husband’s health care effort, split between the White House and the hospital room in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her father lies brain-dead, 18 days after a stroke. There is a speech she can’t get out of — 14,000 people at the University of Texas — and on the plane ride to Austin, in longhand, she sketches out a second appeal for the same “mutuality of respect.”
“We need a new politics of meaning,” she tells the crowd. “We need a new ethos of individual responsibility and caring… a society that fills us up again and makes us feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.”…
What she wants to talk about hinges on a simple question of how we can, as humans, better treat one another. To Hillary Clinton, this is politics. She’s talking, literally, about “going back and actually living by the Golden Rule.” She’s talking about a “great renaissance of caring in this country.” Part of the challenge is the vocabulary. “A lot of this is hard to talk about,” Clinton admits. “I’m not real articulate about it.”
The speech and subsequent interviews — earnest, unembarrassed, and decidedly open — are laughed at in Washington. Columnists call her a New Age “aspiring philosopher queen.” One compares her remarks to “a cross between Jimmy Carter’s malaise speech and a term paper on Siddhartha,” with all the “distinctive marks of adolescent self-discovery.” The New Republic asks: “It is good to hear the First Lady is also pro-meaning, but before we sign on, one question: What on earth are these people talking about?”
Another two decades pass, and Hillary Clinton doesn’t sound like she did then.
This was 2015, back at that small table in New Hampshire, a couple weeks before Christmas. She is not a college kid or first lady anymore. She is nine months into her second presidential campaign, and running with discipline. She spares fewer words now and confides fewer thoughts. She doesn’t quote poetry or “just want to talk about it” with the press. And for all the headlines back then, she’s no longer cast as the New Age theorist behind a “politics of meaning” push.
The language is simpler now. There’s no “mutuality of respect” or “politics of meaning.” There has been no big speech, and the press hasn’t come calling. It’s nothing abstract or long-winded. It’s just a simple aside on the trail — a few words about love and kindness…