Never Underestimate the Power of Tears

Posted: Jan 09, 2008 12:24 PM
Never Underestimate the Power of Tears

Conventional wisdom says that a woman should never cry in the workplace, but I have seen incompetent staffers run to the boss in tears ... and get another chance. Professional women are told that they should get tough enough to never break down in the office under any circumstance. This week, though, the whole nation saw presidential candidate Hillary Clinton get all teary-eyed as she talked about why she is running for president and how much she fears that America might go backward.

There was talk that Hillary was losing it, that she didn’t have Margaret Thatcher’s steely composure. Analysts said that if she couldn’t handle the tough schedule of a campaign, she would not be able to handle the pressure of the presidency. When the polls continued to show her campaign in a free fall, pundits openly discussed the possibility that she would drop out of the campaign. She spent several hours floundering and lashing out. Her campaign began bragging (in liberal New Hampshire) that her abortion record was better than Obama’s. She sent Bill out to do the heavy lifting. He attacked Obama’s account of his record, calling it a “fairy tale.” Then, she executed a stunning “about face” with her heart-to-heart with the girlfriends.

Hillary’s near tears worked.

A woman who was in that meeting broke down in tears as she described for a television interviewer her emotional response to Hillary’s moment of humanity. On voting day, women in New Hampshire turned out to support their sister in distress; she got 46 percent of their vote (which was nearly 60 percent of the turnout). But aside from the vote tally, she obviously learned that cold logic will only take you so far. She realized that to go the distance takes “heart.”

Of course, there were other factors behind her success in the nation’s first primary. New Hampshire prides itself on not being like Iowa and not following Iowa’s example. The people in the focus groups went out of their way to point out their state’s individuality and to declare that they make up their own minds. It was obvious that few voters in New Hampshire wanted to replicate the results in Iowa. The field of candidates is remarkably balanced in both parties; there are no frontrunners. Many of those in the crowds at events waiting for a glimpse of a candidate were undecided. In fact, many voters did not make up their minds about who to vote for until the day of the election. There is a large body of independent voters in New Hampshire; there was no way to predict which way they would turn.

Further, New Hampshire leans left with over half of the electorate registered Democrat. Hillary won handily in the urban pockets of hard-core Democratic voters. The weather cooperated, so the older people came out. Nearly half of them voted for Hillary. She won the non-college vote, the low-income vote, the urban vote, the Catholic vote, the single vote and the powerful union vote. She has the organization, the high-powered advisors, seasoned surrogates and spinmeisters and plenty of campaign funds.

Hillary, in her victory speech, told how she had listened to the voters in New Hampshire and in the process found her own voice. Perhaps, as a result, the scene at her victory speech was completely different from her previous crowd scenes. Instead of old friends and aging feminists, young people crowded the space behind her. Bill and Chelsea made brief appearances on stage, then quickly left. Hillary’s remarks and her demeanor were more casual and personal than ever before. Gone were the harsh expressions and stern language. Gone were the dark pants suits; instead, she wore simple pants and a feminine jacket. The new Hillary had escaped her cocoon of control and emerged as woman determined to forge her own destiny.

Say what you will, the Clintons are the consummate political couple. The results in New Hampshire proved just how foolish it is to think that anything will drive them out of the public arena. A few tears and the voters swarmed out to the polls to comfort Hillary and give her what she wanted.