The Obama team is suddenly making a huge effort to gain women's votes, but many die-hard Hillary supporters -- dozens of my acquaintances -- remain bruised and confused. The fact that Palin is on the ticket when HRC wasn't even vetted may turn out to have been the major gaffe of Axelrod and Company, and the tipping point of this tight election.
If you've been an outspoken Obama supporter from the beginning, it's time to make amends with Hillary supporters you know. Arguing with, or browbeating them to get on board is counterproductive, but showing you've come around to respecting Hillary may ease their hurt enough to do the trick. (Even if you don't mean it. This is politics.)
Here's what you can do:
Eat crow. To get started, memorize this phrase, take a deep breath and say: "Now that I see how unqualified Sarah Palin is, I realize how I misjudged Hillary Clinton. Even Biden said she would have made a great vice president." Saying you wish she were the presidential nominee may go too far, and you may not be able to get it out. But if the Hillaryite brings it up, don't argue, and see below.
Let the HRC voter vent. You may have to draw on every bit of patience you have. You may have to hear once again how unfair it is that the Repubs chose Palin, and the Dems ignored Hillary, and that the party would assuredly be ahead if she were anywhere on the ticket. You may have to hear old-news complaints about sexism and Jack Cafferty's curmudgeonly comments, David Shuster's pimping Chelsea insult, the Monica mentions, the tougher debate questions for Hillary.
Do not look like you want to run and soak your head in vodka, even if you do. Do not talk unless asked. Listening without argument is the major way to keep this potential voter attainable.
Act empathic. Nod your head in agreement when the subject of Palin or Chris Matthews or Keith Olbermann's Hillary-bashing commentary is mentioned. Learn these phrases and use them every so often: "I imagine it must be hard." "It must seem unfair." "I know, you wanted to see an accomplished woman as president in your lifetime." "I can understand your being hurt (sad, mad, furious, despondent, livid, resentful, apoplectic, intransigent, inconsolable, red-faced, nauseous, wretched, shit-faced"). Again, do not argue. Just listen.
Do not praise Obama. I know, this seems ridiculous, but now is not the time in this chain of events. Also, do not praise Michelle or their daughters. If the HRC supporter praises, agree and move on. This is not so much about Obama as it is the closure about Hillary's run, which remains a wound to some. Take a breath, and move to the next step, which may be the hardest.
Praise HRC. Never mention her flaws. Be gracious and do not bring up her vote for the war, or her "dirty campaign." Do not allude to Bill. Instead, try to find something you can praise with some conviction -- some version of "By the end of the campaign I could understand why people were so enthusiastic about Senator Clinton (not "Hillary"). I saw her toughness, her brains, her heart." "She is gracious and helpful in defeat." And especially, "Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton." You may have to go back to steps one and two. Nobody said this would be easy.
Know your anti-female McCain political facts. Here comes the logic. Make a cheat-sheet if necessary. If Palin can get past her ignorance about The Bush Doctrine and the Constitution in prime time, you can learn these few talking points. Remind HRC supporters that several Supreme Court nominees (and Roe v Wade) are in the balance. Discuss McCain/Palin's ultra-conservative record, and stands on right- to- life, guns, creationism, you name it. You'll need to do some homework here. Wikipedia and Google are there for you at all times.
Know your anti-female McCain emotional facts. If the above doesn't do it, remain low-key, with a pleasant visage. Remind HRC supporters that McCain left his disfigured first wife who waited loyally for him and raised their children alone, to have an affair with Cindy, the current, rich, much younger wife. But aha, continuing this behavior, he probably cheated on this trophy with blonde lobbyist, Vicky Isenman. (Where is this woman? In a rendition prison in Syria till after the election? Hello, National Enquirer.)
Remind the Hillary fan that McCain called his $300k-suited trophy wife the C- word in public, and has a notoriously terrible temper. And worst of all, and leave this for the climax of this entire exercise: McCain publicly laughed at the allusion to HRC as a "bitch" and -- lowest of the low -- made that public Chelsea Clinton ugly joke when she was just a teen. See here.
Know your Palin political and emotional facts. Emphasize that Palin is against almost everything that Hillary stands for. List these things. Be sure to mention that she called Hillary "a whiner." Then ask, "Do you really want this undeserving woman to break the glass ceiling before someone as deserving and qualified as Hillary Clinton?"
If you did your best but it didn't work, leave the door open. Don't lose it and attack the HRC supporter for being stupid, intransigent, short-sighted, emotional, unpatriotic, and thinking with her nether regions, even if those feelings are coursing inside you. Do not use the term "bitch," even though McCain did.
Hillary supporters may not want to tell you that you've reached them. Assume it will take a few tries. And even if these voters don't admit they've changed their minds, at a minimum, your attempt at taking one for the team may influence them enough to keep them from voting for McCain, or bad-mouthing Obama's so-far wobbly candidacy.
If each die-hard Obama supporter could convince even one disgruntled HRC supporter that he or she respects Hillary Clinton, it just might help secure this election. Even if you still don't like HRC, consider yourselves citizen-patriots, suck it up, and do your part to save our country. And fast, please.