In Monday night’s Democrat town hall event Hillary Clinton finally emerged as the approachable matriarch of the country. Perhaps she's not your abuelita (grandmother), as her misfired appeal to Latinos once claimed, but her performances in debates and exchanges with the voters have steadily improved and her comfort level with the public was clearly evident Monday night.
If you haven’t been watching these events over the last few months, you haven’t missed much with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. Sander’s message has been steady and energetic for young folks tired of the “business as usual” culture of Washington D.C., but Sanders has been in politics as long as Clinton and only Clinton has had to persevere as only a woman must if she is to succeed in Washington.
From personal scandals to official investigations of emails, she has thrived despite the abuse and has taken every imaginable shot one could throw at her over the last 40 years. I say this as a person who has never voted for a Clinton, lest one accuse me of favoritism. Indeed, there is a charm to Bernie Sanders I find difficult to resist, and O’Malley is perhaps the most genuine person running for president on both sides of the aisle.
The word “immigration” was uttered once on Monday, and it was by O’Malley, who again reminded the crowd that he supports a pathway to citizenship. Sanders continues to weave gender and race into the storyline of his answers, but he has had to make up the most distance with African American voters in this campaign, despite his history. In short, both Sanders and O’Malley represent the idealism of the party’s heart, but Clinton has demonstrated that Washington is good at breaking hearts, and her battle-tested persona has required adjustment over the last year with her audience.
Former President Bill Clinton was always a charmer, for good and bad, but Hillary has always been a bedrock of pragmatism and calculation when it came down to doing business. She is willing to send children from violent crime-ridden countries back. She will shuttle back and forth to the Middle East to negotiate with whomever it takes to resolve disagreements. She will sit in front of a hostile congressional committee for hours and literally laugh at their face as they pepper her with questions, which she slaps down one after another. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, the “Great Negotiator.” is whining about difficult questions from Megyn Kelly.
Latinos are understandably smitten by O’Malley’s charm and his honorable persistence to help immigrants. Young people are understandably taken by the candidness of Sanders, that he will raise taxes and fight to end the corruption in Washington. While understandable, Clinton is the only candidate on the Democrats' side to develop into the polished veteran she is, and last night was the first night she found comfort and confidence in who she is.
Clinton even got as much as an endorsement from a sitting president as one can expect, with President Barack Obama gushing about her intelligence, her experience, and her familiarity with policy.
When Clinton was asked about her priorities between foreign policy and domestic policy if she were to be elected, her answer was very presidential. “You don’t get to pick the issues you work on when you’re president, a lot of them come at you,” she said. While that probably isn’t the answer voters with favorite personal issues wanted to hear, it was borne from experience and from her pragmatism.
She continued her answer reminding the audience why Sanders would be a poor choice compared to her. She said, “You can't say, oh, OK, don't bother me now, I'll deal with that later. You have got to immediately be able to switch gears. You've got to do all aspects of the job.” Sanders supporters imagine a presidency where he can work on the issues of equality and fairness while all other issues wait on the sidelines, but that isn’t the world we live in. Clinton made it clear that nobody has the experience to switch gears and manage a crisis, while also simultaneously managing scandals, negotiations, and policy matters on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues like she can. If Hillary were your abuela, you should be feeling pretty confident right about now.