Hillary Rising

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In the latest issue of New York magazine, John Heilemann has an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at the closing days of the Clinton campaign, and makes this argument about what she accomplished with her presidential bid:

The rapidly congealing conventional wisdom is that the answer is worse than nothing: Her legacy has been tarnished, her status degraded, and her reputation diminished by the brass-knuckle brawl she waged against Obama. But arguments can be made that, by historical standards, Clinton’s treatment of Obama wasn’t all that rough; that, far from weakening him for his tussle with John McCain, she made him appreciably stronger; that by fighting until the end, she helped gin up a fever-pitch level of engagement among Democrats that will redound to the party’s benefit this fall, rather than undermining it.

What strikes me as inarguable is that Hillary is today a more resonant, consequential, and potent figure than she has ever been before. No longer merely a political persona, she has been elevated to a rarefied plane in our cultural consciousness. With her back against the wall, she both found her groove and let loose her raging id, turning herself into a character at once awful and wonderful, confounding and inspiring—thus enlarging herself to the point where she became iconic. She is bigger now than any woman in the country. Certainly, she is bigger than her husband. And although in the end she may wind up being dwarfed by Obama, for the moment she is something he is not: fully, poignantly human.

He also offers this nugget:

It would be hard to overstate the private pessimism that Hillary and Bill Clinton feel about Obama’s general-election prospects. Or the irritation they feel about the dismissive attitudes of some of his advisers toward her coalition, as evinced by the words of Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, after the Pennsylvania primary: “The white working class has gone to the Republican nominee for many elections … This is not new that Democratic candidates don’t rely solely on those votes.”