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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

Hillary Clinton faces love, hate and indifference

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addresses supporters at

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton addresses supporters at her Super Tuesday election night rally in Miami on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Credit: AP / Gerald Herbert

Being Hillary Clinton means never having to say . . . another blessed thing.

Really, what difference would it make?

She’s been on the national scene and in our living rooms nonstop for nearly 25 years. She’s been dissected and examined more than anyone else running for president now and perhaps ever. By this point, you either like her or you don’t.

Either you think she’s the most qualified to be president and the target of unending and unfair criticism from the right, or you don’t.

Either you think she’s untrustworthy and a liar, or you don’t.

Either you hold her responsible for everything Benghazi, or you don’t.

What can she say now to change anyone’s mind?

She’s like the old song you hear on the radio that instantly transports you somewhere else. You might find yourself awash in the warm nostalgia of a summer day at the beach. You might turn blue and sulky with the memories of a painful breakup. But you remember. Clinton evokes something in each of us, too. That’s her curse, and her blessing.

Truthfully, the more accurate parsing about how she is viewed might be: You’re either OK with her, or you hate her. Because the passion runs stronger one way.

She has legions of supporters but has a knack for making them squirm — at the squishiness of her explanations about the damn emails, at the constant retooling of her message, at the contributions to her family’s foundation while she was secretary of state, at the tortured responses to questions about the $225,000 Goldman Sachs speeches, at the way she resorts to carefully legalistic language that technically is not incorrect but is in no way transparent.

And then they look at her competition from both political parties and are reminded that, quite apart from the chance she has to make gender history, she’s the most experienced person in the field and probably the smartest and most competent at running a government. And they understand that being a Hillary Clinton supporter means you buy the whole darn package.

But that’s not what the young see. And that’s where this gets fascinating.

Young people don’t have the same long set of experiences with Clinton. And they listen to different songs. Right now they’re thrilling to the revolutionary tune being sung by Bernie Sanders, who occupies the other end of the inspiration scale. But when he goes away, where do they go?

Young people tend to be absolutists, they’re purists. They’re not so big on compromise. That’s Sanders.

The older you get, the more you realize life is full of grays and you have to negotiate to get anywhere. That’s Clinton.

She and the young are not a natural fit. And she’s been down this road before, with Barack Obama in 2008 in her first run for the Democratic nomination for president.

She wasn’t dynamic then and she’s not dynamic now. She’s a policy wonk, Sanders is a thundering bellower. She triangulates and calculates. Sanders says, “You might disagree with me but here’s what I believe.”

Sanders promises to unleash the power of millions of revolutionaries. Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee, promises to unleash the power of himself. Clinton promises to unleash a raft of policy proposals — very sound, quite earnest, probably effective. Policy proposals.

Meh.

She’s going to need those young people in the general election. In Sanders’ absence, will they tune her in? For them, becoming a Hillary Clinton supporter means hearing the song in the first place.

Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.

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