The answer to that question is yes, according to Joshua Green’s in-depth article on Hillary Clinton in the current issue of the Atlantic entitled Take Two. Well, Hillary’s upstate strategy is at least a small example of the kind of problems that might hinder her from winning the Presidency in 2008.
The kind of attributes that make for a strong Senator often are negatives for an effective Presidential candidate. According to Green, the more that Hillary ingratiates herself with inferior (but more senior) politicians, the more she runs away from big-picture crusades in favor of small-picture legislative victories and the more she puts the parochial concerns of New Yorkers in the forefront of her efforts, the harder it will be for her to be the sort of bold and visionary candidate that wins national elections.
There are two pungent examples of the article’s disdain for Hillary’s attempts to champion upstate. The first is the author’s dismissal of any substantive benefits from Hillary’s upstate efforts:
“. . .the psychological benefits of her upstate attentions have been tremendous. It’s as if the prom queen had wandered unbidden during lunch to insist on sitting with the kids from shop class . . . Clinton never came close to adding 200,000 jobs upstate. Her popularity stems instead from sheer, bludgeoning persistance and an eager willingness to spread her glamour over an area with little of its own.”
The second is a telling quote by Hillary’s close friend and former chief of staff Maggie Williams:
“I remember listening to a conversation at some black-tie event where she was talking about what you should feed to pigs. If you fed them a certain kind of food they produced better meat. We were in an extremely social setting, but she seemed perfectly intent on talking about it because it had to do with some upstate issue. I kind of felt like, um, do we really have to talk about this here?”
I’ve always had problems with Hillary. I didn’t like her attempts at health care reform because she refused to consider a single-payer system. She voted for the war in Iraq. She always sounds like she’s triangulating her positions because of pollsters and campaign consultants. But I’ve never thought that she was patronizing us by spending time up here and listening to our concerns. In fact, Hillary (and Chuck Schumer who patented the upstate strategy) stand in great contrast to many state politicians who couldn’t find our towns on a map.
I voted for Tasini in the primary and I’ll probably vote for Hawkins in the general election, but this article made me feel sorry for Clinton. If she had come into the Senate and tried to use her power and celebrity to make big changes the article would be crucifying her for her haughtiness and hubris. Talk about a no-win situation.