It’s about Hillary – not Michelle


I was in the room normally used for phone banking when I heard the speech drifting in from the TV screen next door.

This was the Virginia Democrats office and I was listening to Michelle Obama.

The First Lady was laying out a clear argument for putting her friend Hillary in the White House.

To some extent I knew arguments already. I had watched the TV debates, listened to the commentators, heard Hillary surrogates tear apart Trump’s ‘locker room banter’ nonsense and soaked up every detail of the policies a Clinton Presidency would pursue.

But this was different.

Something in Michelle Obama’s message reminded me of why I got involved in politics in the first place.

Every word spoke to my convictions, my hopes, the dreams I fear my generation will fail to deliver for our children.

And I was not alone. I found myself drifting through to join my new American friends as they watched, wrapped in every syllable, every convocation, every image the First Lady evoked of the America she – and they – cherish, but feel may be ripped from their grasp by a Trump triumph.

This was a speech all politicians dream of making.

Soaring, inspirational rhetoric.

But while the political commentators took it as a prompt to speculate whether we might be seeing the birth of a new Obama career the activists had a different view.

Yes they love Michelle. Yes if they have the chance one day they’ll vote for her.

But this, they told me, was only about Hillary. “We need Hillary. America needs Hillary.”

Leslie Arriaza, a Latino activist knocking doors in Manassas, Virginia told me the prospect of a Trump presidency was not one she relished.

As a woman she feared her rights would be undermined and that her community would suffer.

“Trump supporters looking at you and me on their doorstep, would think you’re the American, not me,” she said. “And I was born here.”

For Chuck, a political lobbyist down for the hill, the question “Why?” was greeted with surprise.

“I’m from Arkansas” he regarded as explanation enough but then proudly added: “The Clintons have been there all my life. I know what they did for Arkansas and Bill did as President. I couldn’t not work for Hillary.”

The operation on the ground, with organisers, connect, walk maps, sign in sheets was exactly what I would expect in any Lib Dem campaign here.

And the same liberal convictions permeated everything I heard from those phone-banking, from the canvass teams and in a good natured discussion with a lady in a coffee shop who tried to argue against equal marriage.

But there was one aspect of this campaign we have, thankfully, been spared here. So far.

Michelle Obama had deserted the text of her planned campaign speech to address the latest sexist sleaze in a campaign which, at times, can only aspire to the gutter.

And Hillary is not immune. The shadow of those emails and that private server refuses to go away.

Except with those who are part of the vast Democrat GOTV.

“Oh we don’t listen to that,” Melissa a young black student told me. “We just get on with campaigning. We need Hillary to win.”

* Christine Jardine is MP for Edinburgh West and spokesperson for Women & Equalities, Scotland and the Cabinet Office, which includes political and constitutional reform.

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  • Matt (Bristol) 4th Nov '16 - 11:53am

    Thanks for this vivid picture, Christine — can anyone comment on whether the Democrat GOTV effort is more efficient and organised than the Republican / Trump organisation? I had heard that (when the worst – so far – of the Trump revelations broke earlier in the campaign) that in some states Trump’s organisation was effectively a new set-up not related to ‘official’ Republican campaigning and in some cases run by novices.

  • Tony Dawson 4th Nov '16 - 3:15pm

    They need the Democrat Candidate to win. WE need the Democrat Candidate to min (and hopefully some Senators too!) The sad thing is that this candidate is Hilary Clinton. Not so bad as Bill Clinton but not a lot better. 🙁

  • The Professor 4th Nov '16 - 5:16pm

    I have it on good authority that if Mr Trump wins he will change the name of the capital as he considers Washington to be an old and out-of-touch name.

    I understand the new name to be…..Trumpton.

    I’ll get my coat.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Nov '16 - 5:24pm

    Now it gets close to the day of the election , and the the polls closer , we need all the goodwill we can muster for the future of geo politics , Hillary !!

  • What is geo politics?

  • SNL (in this case a shortened version of events rather than hyperbole) had Hilary say that America has the choice between the Republican….and Donald Trump. Considering how the political centre in the US is far more right than it is over here then this is perhaps a fairer statement than most on here would give it credit for initially. We all need Trump to lose and for a democratic president to be elected but we don’t necessarily need to like or want Hilary.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Nov '16 - 10:48pm


    A way of putting , into the balance or mix ,in one word ,or expression, in the way I am utilising it here, the whole balance of foreign policy , the economy , the environment , climate change , based on geography or location, in this example , the position of one superpower , the US ! It better be Hillary !

  • #imwithhillary. She is flawed, but compared to Trump, she is a saint !

  • Clinton is a foreign policy hawk who is keen on drone assassination and using the US military to intervene overseas. Trump is an isolationist.

    There may be other downsides to a Trump presidency, but it probably result in fewer innocent civilians being killed.

  • Jayne Mansfield 5th Nov '16 - 7:39am

    Much as it pains me to say so, I agree that Hilary Clinton with her history of Hawkish behaviour and promise of no fly zones in Syria will probably be the cause of more innocent deaths than Trump. I have listened to too many high flying or retired military men who state the danger of shooting down a Russian aeroplane if a no fly zone is imposed in Syria, and their opinion that greatest threat to the West comes , not from Russia , but from ‘Non State’ players.

    The hypocrisy and double standards when America’s ‘friends’ break international law and international humanitarian law is stunning. It does not surprise me that many people who intend to vote for Hilary Clinton as the least worst option, are having to hold their noses to do so.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Nov '16 - 9:05am

    @Nick Baird:

    “Clinton is a foreign policy hawk who is keen on drone assassination and using the US military to intervene overseas. Trump is an isolationist.

    There may be other downsides to a Trump presidency, but it probably result in fewer innocent civilians being killed”

    Not too convinced on this one. Your problem arises when someone puts out there a ‘non-interventionist policy’ which the opponents take in and act upon and decide to push the boat out considerably further than they otherwise would have and then push past the new US ‘sticking point’ for non-intervention of which they have misjudged the position by some margin. The results of such a miscalculation situation could be catastrophic. The world is always kept safer when the big powers know (or nearly know) the likely response of their opponents in most major projected scenarios. Trump brings in massive uncertainty, even if he would probably leave a lot of it to Generals (he has a very lazy mind).

  • Tony Dawson 5th Nov '16 - 9:11am

    @ The Professor:

    “I understand the new name to be…..Trumpton.”

    Trumpty Dumpty said “build a wall”

    Will Trumpty Dumpty ‘bomb’ in the Fall?

    If all the electors ignore all the facts

    Then President Trumpty won’t pay any tax ? 🙁

  • Lorenzo Cherin 5th Nov '16 - 2:18pm

    To colleagues who think Trump a safer option than Clinton, he has said he plans to destroy ISIS, he said he would “bomb the sh** out of the m “! How do those who think he is less likely to incur civilian casualties and be an old fashioned isolationist believe he is going to do that or be that , one or the other , to put it mildly !

    As for Hillary Clinton being so hawkish , it is better when confronted with evil, than being mawkish , as an onlooker. That does not by any or every means say she should be a war monger , quite the reverse . The only presdent in modern times who did nt send troops in , or involve himself in any wars , far from being the useless one of mistaken history and opinion , was a very tough and steadfast , and exceptional one , Jimmy Carter . Not hawkish , well depending how you look at it , he boycotted the moscow olympics after the invasion of Afghanistan with words stronger than Clinton’s !

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Nov '16 - 8:58am

    @ Lorenzo Cherin,
    I would argue that when confronted with an evil, it is best to work out whether that evil will be replaced by an even greater one before intervening and adding to it.

    At the moment we have Western Powers providing encouragement and just enough weapons and expertise to prolong the suffering and starvation of populations. What exactly will be the outcome, and will it be any better for the majority of those people?

    Will a potential military confrontation with Russia lead to de-escalation or escalation, less or more violence? After the past and ongoing experience of Iraq, Libya and what is happening in Syria and Yemen, do you trust American ( and European) hawks like Hilary Clinton, to forge a better world with less rather than more avoidable suffering, suffering that we do not see or experience ourselves? I am unconvinced.

  • It may be unpalatable to some, but when a civil war breaks out somewhere, the path that will lead to the least suffering and fewest civilian deaths is the one where one side wins quickly and decisively.

    Unfortunately, sometimes it looks like the “wrong” side is going to win, so other outside powers get involved. This just prolongs and fuels the conflict.

  • Joseph Bourke 6th Nov '16 - 3:29pm

    Good article, Christine.

    I have just returned from Florida where the polls have been neck and neck in this key battleground state.

    Florida’s 29 electoral college votes are the fourth most in the country. With a diverse population of Latino’s, African-Americans retirees, younger service workers to the theme park and tourist economy, unlike many of the other southern states, the state is a microcosm of the country as a whole.

    The balance between democrat and republican voters was exemplified by the closeness of the 2000 election, where it took a month of legal wrangling to decide the winner. In 2012, Florida was the only state decided by less than 1%, with Barack Obama besting Mitt Romney 50.0% to 49.1%.

    My feeling is that the state will be decisive again. Whichever of the candidates takes Florida, has a very good shot of gaining the 270 electoral votes needed across the country to take the presidency.

    The Obama’s have been a class act and for all the pressure on Hilary Clinton, I think her record of public service has been pretty good. She is a liberal interventionist and supports the doctrine behind the right to protect. That’s not a problem for me, as I also support the basic principle of intervening to stop genocide when we have the ability to do so.

    A friend of mine working in retail in Florida had to give up her job due to severe hip pain that had been worsening over a period of 15 years. She could not get adequate treatment for the condition (beyond painkiller tablets) under her restrictive HMO plan. It was only when the Obama affordable health care act passed that she was ultimately able to get the hip replacement she needed. This is the kind of difference a Clinton v Trump presidency will make to the lives of ordinary Americans.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Nov '16 - 10:16am

    Did Michelle Obama mention the sharp distinction between her husband’s view of America’s role in the world and his administration’s foreign policy, and that argued for , and likely to be pursued by Hilary Clinton?

    Those who support Hilary Clinton need to explain why the polls are so close when her opponent is the grotesque Trump.

  • Malcolm Todd 7th Nov '16 - 11:01am

    Jayne Mansfield 7th Nov ’16 – 10:16am
    “Those who support Hilary Clinton need to explain why the polls are so close when her opponent is the grotesque Trump.”

    Actually, the last people who are likely to have a strong explanation for that are the people actively supporting either candidate.
    As a non-combatant (though with a strong bias in favour of the non-grotesque, as you’d expect), I actually think the answer to your question is the very simple and obvious one: It’s because she’s a woman. Yes, there are huge flaws in HRC as a candidate and reasons to doubt that she’ll be a force for good in the world — but when was there last a candidate of whom that wasn’t true? Or rather, when was there ever?
    The question isn’t “Why doesn’t everyone enthusiastically support Hillary Clinton?” It’s “Why is the race between her and Trump so close?” (After all, the main problem isn’t nice progressive people sitting on their hands — support for minor candidates isn’t massively higher than normal, or predictions of turnout much lower: mostly, people are going to turn out in normal numbers and vote for Clinton and Trump, and near enough half of those are going to vote for Trump.)
    It’s unprovable, of course, by its nature — even if polls asked in-depth questions about voters’ motivations, even if people were honest in reporting their reasons, they simply wouldn’t be reliable witnesses to their own internal processes; and of course counter-factuals simply can’t be tested. But the disparity between the two candidates is so gross that I find this the only believable explanation for the closeness of the race. If Bill Clinton – yes, the serial adulterer, liar, alleged predator on women from a position of power – were running today against Trump, I think it would be a walkover. And if it were Bernie Sanders against Carly Fiorina we’d be watching a close race between a serious businesswoman and a self-described socialist for president of the business-loving, red-hating USA.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Nov '16 - 7:39am

    @ Malcolm Todd,
    Yes, you are right, it was a daft question to pose. It presumes a self- awareness or mindfulness which many of us lack.

    However, I can’t agree, even in a country that allows someone like Donald Trump to be in contention for President, that the sole or even main reason for Hilary Clintons battle is because of her sex, although there may be a backlash against her because she is former President Bill Clinton’s partner.

    I am mourning the end of the Presidency of President Barack Obama, a man who despite the spiteful obstructions he has faced when trying to make America a better more decent society, did demonstrate that in America , all things are possible . Despite a large redneck constituency he showed every young black child that with hard work, decent values and good grace they can hold the highest office in the land and maintain one’s dignity and principles.

    There are those who believe that Hilary Clinton as a woman will be the same positive role model for young girls and that in itself is a reason to elect her. Sadly, and I hope that I am wrong, I do not think that a Clinton Presidency will provide the positive role model for women that President Obama has provided for black people.

    Mrs Clinton says she now regrets Iraq, but her hawkish tendencies remain to the fore as she fails to learn that the present is the consequence of what has been unleashed in the past. Her needless lie about coming under fire in Bosnia during the 2008 Presidential campaign makes me question her honesty, ( we all tell lies, but to ‘mis-speak as she did shows a particular ease and facility for it), it was so unnecessary.

    I dread the end of President Obama’s presidency. If he had been allowed to battle on, he might have been able to achieve so much more.

  • Malcolm Todd 8th Nov '16 - 9:22am

    Jayne Mansfield

    I don’t think I could ever call a question posed by you “daft”! I look forward to your contributions more than almost any other on this site; on the rare occasions I disagree with you I can always respect your reasoning.

    On Clinton, I agree that there is nothing great to be hoped for from her as president — though I do think the simple fact of having a woman in the role for the first time will be a truly significant symbol. But I think that any woman would have struggled to be accepted as a candidate by a huge proportion of the electorate; and that if it weren’t for that, Trump would have been buried long ago.

    Oh well, we’ll know soon for sure.

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Nov '16 - 9:55am

    @ Malcolm Todd,
    Your first paragraph has made my day. Could you have a word with my husband?

  • @ Jayne Mansfield… As they say in Yorkshire……, “tha’s not so daft, lass”.

    I too grieve for Obama – a man of grace and intelligence despite the odd mistake. I grieve for Bernie, too. As for Clinton, yes it’s good to have a woman at long last, but I’m afraid the best reason I could give for voting for her is that she’s not that Incredible Hulk Trump.

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