Viewpoints

Kathleen Parker: Has Hillary’s moment passed?

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes notes during a roundtable Tuesday at a community college in Monticello, Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes notes during a roundtable Tuesday at a community college in Monticello, Iowa. The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Americans, perhaps more than anyone, worship the future and resent the past.

This is never truer than during a political season. All of which is problematic for Hillary Clinton as she begins another presidential run. Among other things, she must persuade voters to ignore her association with a time gone by. A few questions naturally arise: How do you run on change when you were aboard the hope-and-change train? How do you distinguish yourself from your predecessor when you worked for his administration?

The juxtaposition of yesterday and tomorrow was vividly on display as both Clinton and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced their candidacies this week.

One is a 67-year-old grandmother, who, though her résumé exceeds most others in the race so far, is loaded down with several pieces of excess baggage. The other is a 43-year-old, bilingual retail politician, married with four young children, and – if elected – a first in his own category: a president born to Cuban immigrants. Rubio’s relative youth underscores Hillary’s yesterdayness.

The contrast hasn’t escaped Rubio, who said during his announcement, “Yesterday is over, and we are never going back.”

Contrast, too, the way each announced his and her candidacies – Rubio from Miami’s Freedom Tower, where Cuban refugees in the 1960s moored themselves for processing upon arrival to the U.S. Hillary made hers from the remote perch of a YouTube video, consisting of a series of vignettes that felt like a commercial interruption of regularly scheduled programming. It features diverse people in various poses of human interaction. Diversity and inclusiveness. Got it.

At the end of this ennui-inducing marshmallow roast of good feelings and American awesomeness, Hillary materializes as an apparition of The Good Mom. Otherwise, there was no there there. No passion, no policy, no pie. At least, couldn’t there be pie?

The series concludes with a retired woman driving along (her path, get it?) and talking about reinvention. Whereupon Hillary, air-brushed and luminous, surfaces to say that she, too, is reinventing herself.

Her platform? To help people get ahead, not just get by, because when American families are strong, guess who else is strong? America!

Between Hillary and anyone else but Jeb Bush (or perhaps Lindsey Graham), the choice represents a generational crossroads. Hillary’s first-woman aspiration is powerful, but, like our light bulbs, doesn’t have the wattage it once did.

A younger generation likely considers shattering the glass ceiling less urgently compelling than do Hillary’s peers. Millennials helped put the first African American in the White House the last time Hillary ran and they fully expect to see a woman there during their lifetime. Many might also wonder why a first woman is more important than, say, a first Hispanic?

Finally, haven’t most recognized that electing someone partly to check a box – or to feel virtuous – is a lousy way to choose a commander in chief?

At the end of her video, Hillary says she’s touring the country “because it’s your time.” What she really means, you can safely reckon, is that it’s her time. She may have stood in line too long.

Parker’s email is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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