I have watched the Democratic National Convention every single night so far. I usually find political conventions boring but this one has kept me entertained. Watching has made me 95% proud to be a Democrat even though I’ve usually shunned party identification. If speeches are any gauge, this is the party of community, compassion, intelligence, humor, hope, and love. I confess I watched very little of the RNC because none of those characteristics were evident and it made me extremely uncomfortable. And angry, a feeling I don’t much enjoy.
This is a judgment based on feelings. It sets aside all the Democratic Party positions on the “issues,” with which I more or less agree—some more, some less. I know you’re not supposed to vote on the basis of feelings but we do. And after living more than 71 years I have come to trust my feelings as reliable signals of what I need to pay attention to.
This is why I have been reluctant to support Hillary Clinton. My feelings have said I don’t much like her (see previous post) even though I know she is, as President Obama said last night, the most qualified presidential candidate in recent history. My lack of enthusiasm about Hillary has been pretty consistent over the last 25 years.
I have recently concluded that my skepticism about her has to do with her personality. Like “feelings,” “personality” seems a superficial way to judge a political figure. But we need to understand our potential leaders as human beings.
At the end of the last post I linked to an article that has begun to change my feelings about Hillary because it points up a key aspect of her personality, a strength that is also a weakness, as most of our personal strengths are.
Apparently Hillary Clinton is a great listener. People who have met her say this. People who have worked with her say this, including her political opponents. She listens so intently that she actually learns from people. She figures out how to solve problems, build consensus, bridge differences by listening and then applying her prodigious intelligence. She gets people on her side by listening to them. This is how she gets things done. But sometimes she listens to too many people and seems inconsistent or that she is merely following the political winds.
Listening is a private skill. You can’t exercise it very well in public. You can take a listening tour but you can’t give a listening speech. In fact, her listening skills may detract from her public persona. As a public speaker she is too careful, too guarded, probably because of all the attacks against her. She tends to speak in laundry lists of issues. She has not put forth a broad and compelling vision of her own, perhaps because she gives less importance to her own views than to the needs and demands of others and of unfolding events and situations. She is a problem solver rather than a visionary.
Do we need a visionary president? Bernie Sanders is a visionary who began to lay out a clear agenda for the Democratic Party and unleashed a movement. A visionary movement and a problem-solving president who pays attention might be the perfect combination. There is evidence that Hillary is listening to the movement, and a few boos aren’t going to put her off. It might be good to have a president who is able not only to listen to those who shout in frustration but also to draw out those who seethe in silence. A Listener-in-Chief.
I’m writing this before her acceptance speech, which would be her chance to speak her vision if she has one. It will be hard for her to top all the eloquence that has preceded her, much of it in praise of her. Vision and eloquence may not be her strong suits, but I’ll be listening with a kind heart.