Hillary Clinton sat at the head of the big kidney-shaped table in a Newsday conference room and I could not help but think of my three daughters.
I’d always told them they could do anything they wanted as long as they worked hard and had passion for what they were doing. I fought the local Little League poobahs to make sure their softball teams were treated just like the boys’ baseball teams. I’ve watched with immense pride as they’ve successfully made their way into the adult world.
And there was Clinton, talking yesterday to the editorial board, a woman running for the White House in what would be some kind of ceiling-shattering step forward for girls and women everywhere.
And I was listening knowing that my youngest daughter, still shy of 30 and the most politically active of the three, supports Sen. Bernie Sanders.
And you can tell it’s just killing Clinton.
My daughter was not mentioned yesterday, but her generation was. And Clinton knows she’s not reaching many of them.
“I’ve got to do more to better connect to younger women going into the general election, assuming I get the nomination,” she said.
But that’s not quite it. A lot of young women hear her message. They just like Sanders’ better.
In my daughter’s case, he extols a future she wants to see, one centered on addressing the economic inequality that affects so many other issues. She works for a women’s rights organization. She and her colleagues know Clinton’s resume and her work on behalf of gun control, children, families and reproductive health. They admire it. And they generally feel more comfortable with her in charge of the nation’s foreign affairs. And many of them feel almost ashamed to say that they’re not voting for Clinton in New York’s primary on April 19.
Clinton chalked that up yesterday to a generational thing, saying that older women who’ve encountered job discrimination and who’ve struggled with the family-work balance are more supportive of her. She said young women are “excited by something new and something that is a little different and a little revolutionary and promises free college” — chiding them, almost, for not doing their homework on Sanders. And she cited research that she said shows “they like me. They actually are quite admiring of me.”
And again, that’s not quite it, either. My daughter and her Sanders-supporting friends don’t dislike Clinton, and they say they will line up behind her in the general election as a matter of common sense and because the alternative — Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz — is unthinkable. Which isn’t exactly Hillary love, but it’s better than the opposite.
They acknowledge that a primary vote for Sanders might ultimately prove impractical, but it’s meant to send a message. They want change, not merely the shatter-the-glass-ceiling kind of change, but change that directly affects their lives.
Clinton told the board that shattering the ceiling is exactly that kind of change. She called it “an important statement, a historical occurrence that will have ripple effects that will affect how girls and women feel about themselves.”
To Clinton, that’s not only about her sitting in the Oval Office. It’s all the faces girls and women would see. Asked about the possibility of having gender parity in her cabinet, she replied, “Absolutely, because I sure would love to reach that.”
She said she knows “a lot of really qualified women” to put in positions that long have been dominated by men, even in Barack Obama’s White House. That’s its own kind of revolution.
Clinton might not be the woman they wanted to assume this position. But she might be the one they get. And they’re going to have to be OK with that. Sometimes you get the change you get, not the change you want.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.