THE BLOG
05/13/2008 04:27 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Why Hillary Lost My Daughter and Me

This morning I asked my 15-year-old daughter what she didn't like about Hillary Clinton.

"I mean at the beginning, before she started going negative and attacking Barack Obama," I said, trying to rewind history.

My daughter was sitting at the kitchen table, where thousands of impassioned conversations in America have taken place last year about the historic possibility of the first female president. She didn't have much trouble answering. Not simply because she's a thoughtful young woman, an unabashed feminist, who relishes a good political argument as much as her mother.

Compared with that other historic candidate, for her there was no contest. "I didn't find her inspirational at all," she said flatly of Clinton.

As for Barack Obama, she heard in his soothing voice, his brilliant speeches, his very demeanor, the language of her generation. The language of inclusion and hope. "He talks about change, and I believe him," my daughter said, her face lighting up.

We've heard a lot about the power of inspiration during this long heated race. From the beginning Hillary was roundly dismissive of such talk. Oh, those naïve young people! she condescended. Those starry-eyed kids drinking the Obama punch! Maybe if she had been less tone-deaf, less a political weathervane changing her message and her campaign staff (remember Clinton loyalist Patti Solis Doyle?) almost as often as her suits, Hillary might not have caused such angst and handwringing among feminists. Even as older women and feminists icons like Gloria Steinem rallied to her, many young women found her stuffy, rigid, imperious -- a throwback to establishment politics.

As Obama supporter Courtney Martin wrote on Glamour magazine's blog last month about part of her discomfort with Hillary: "She reminds me of being scolded by my mother."

Obama's ability to inspire young people is precisely what has energized my daughter, whose enduring memory of the presidency has been the nightmarish Bush years. She doesn't feel conflicted in the least. And it's hard for me to blame her. This is why the daughters of Caroline Kennedy and Claire McCaskill -- hardly feminist "traitors" as Hillary defectors have been so absurdly called -- were able to persuade their politically savvy mothers to come out for Obama. His promise of change.

Unlike my daughter, part of me feels sad for Clinton as her campaign sputters to an end. Part of me wanted her to succeed. Not because I believed her to be "ready on Day One" to use her embarrassingly hackneyed claim. Or because of her tireless efforts to reform health care, another tragic failure of the Bush years. Or because she embodied for me all the times I had seen women earn less for doing the same job as men. A reality that continues to afflict working women in this country with little progress in sight. My reasons are purely emotional. I have friends who believed in Hillary. I understand their disappointment.

If only she had been the right woman at the right time. And this is what it comes down to, not only for my daughter but for millions of young, middle-aged and older women in America. They placed their faith in Clinton's candidacy, only to find her wanting. Perhaps it was partly our fault. We saw in her defeat in Iowa, in her victories in New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and now tonight surely in West Virginia, a symbol of what women had fought for - -the right to not just sit at the table but to actually lead.

But mostly I feel sad for her female supporters, the ones I saw last night standing behind her at a rally in West Virginia. The elderly women gamely waving their Hillary signs before the TV cameras cut away. Trying to put on a good front. Knowing that their dream is about to die.