Michael Needham’s column on the Rick Lazio/Hillary Clinton New York Senate race, like Mr. Lazio’s campaign itself, is uninformed, irrelevant and ultimately self-defeating.
I am from New York. Unlike Mr. Needham, who is from the city, I am from that mythical area known as “upstate,” where snow days happen in early October, there’s a Dairy Princess in every county, and we’re suffering through an economic crisis and a labor exodus. First Lady and Senate candidate Hillary Clinton visited my area two weeks ago. She didn’t mention her supposed “victim status.” She didn’t ostentatiously parade her feminism. Instead, she addressed the upstate economy, recognized the ever-present divide between the needs of the city and the needs of the rest of the state, and displayed an impressive grasp of the problems facing New York State.
The campaign of Congressman Lazio, however, has focused on the irrefutable but tedious fact that he is not Hillary Clinton. His choice of emphasis is understandable, for his record in the House is not a strong foundation for a Senate campaign. Lazio has been a sort of Republican windsock, an empty shell blissfully buffeted about by the current conservative breezes. Point in case: his recent decision to ride the coattails of John McCain by targeting the issue of soft money. Representative Lazio’s campaign finance reform kick, although it does bring much-needed attention to the sorry state of the current laws in New York State, is in the end just a vote-gathering trick that will have no lasting effect on the state.
Mr. Needham claims that Hillary Clinton is attempting to portray herself as a victim, and that “her spin is harmful to, and inconsistent with, the feminist movement, which she’ll claim to be a part of so that she can maintain her large lead among women.” This argument is more than illogical; it is insulting the women of New York by implying that they are knee-jerk “feminist” voters who will vote based on sex rather than on issues.
Besides which, there is no logical reason for Clinton to assume the role of victim — the platform of “look at how pathetic I am” is not generally successful in the piranha-infested waters of American politics.
I was initially suspicious of Hillary Clinton’s campaign—seventh grade social studies instilled in me a grave distrust for carpetbaggers. But her obvious dedication to the issues at hand and her refusal to play “I know you are but what am I?” has convinced me that she deserves the New York Senate seat. Mr. Lazio’s attempt to keep the campaign on the levels of grand but empty gestures and petty attacks is disrespectful to the people of New York. We’re a big, unwieldy state brimming with contradictions, problems, and immense promise.
And we deserve a senator, no matter what his or her hometown, who is willing to address our nature—not that of the opposition candidate.
Emily Thorson ’02
(en route to Oxford for the year)