Like millions of other Americans, I watched Hillary Clinton’s “meltdown,” as the media called it, as an Internet video on Monday January 7, the day before the New Hampshire primary. I am on record as opposing Hillary, for a number of reasons, including dislike of many of her stands such as her belligerent votes on Iraq and Iran, never apologizing for the Iraq vote, dismay at her connection to the Democratic Leadership Council, and revulsion at the whole notion of perpetuating political “dynasties” (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton). Edwards, not Clinton, has been the candidate I most supported and still support, long shot though he now is. Yet I found myself emotionally touched by seeing Clinton “well up” and by hearing the quaver in her voice.
Even as I felt that, I also was thinking that what she was emotional about was not so much her long commitment to serving the country — millions of people have made that commitment, after all — but rather that her campaign might be faltering, her ambitions of being President might come to naught.
The point is that in paying attention to her, I viscerally felt the emotion she was projecting—regardless of whether she was sincere in projecting it, and regardless of my own reservations about her and what she stands for. I was, in the terms in which I have explained the act of attention paying, deeply aligned with her. As such I wanted what I took it that she wanted, which was for her to emerge victorious in the NH vote. When she did the next day, I was very pleased. My impression is that many other people reacted much as I did. When you align with someone, you want what they want, even if there may be other reasons you don’t want to go along with what have become your own emotions.
With videos on the Internet enabling more of us to to view particularly emotional moments related to political candidates and others, we must expect that the emotional connections that result will play an even larger role than they have in the past, when it comes to deciding whom to vote for. This is not necessarily going to make us eager to support candidates we disagree with too much on other terms, but it will influence us to put relatively small differences aside. We will put less emphasis on the candidate’s “record, “ and more on what they say and how they say it. In 2004 Kerry overemphasized his record in Vietnam, leaving himself open to being “Swift-boated.” With past records less important, outside groups’ abilities ot vilify a candidate n the basis of the pst should play less of a role. That is to the good. What is less attractive is the chance that pure acting skill will allow a candidate to distort who he is and what he is for. George Bush , in my view successfully did this in 2000, with his “compassionate conservative” and “I’m a uniter, not a divider’ lines. These went right along with his “just plain folks” demeanor.
Fortunately, perhaps, in a long campaign, a candidate will have a hard hiding more unpleasant sides, if these exist. They will be circulated on YouTube and be seen by many. Is it conceivable that eventually highly genuine people with real emotions will turn out to be the new star candidates? If so, will that be good?