Some commentators think Hillary Clinton’s problem in wooing the progressive young is her lack of authenticity. I disagree. In the way she talks about political change, Clinton is entirely authentic. She believes in working inside the system for incremental change. She always has. Were Hillary Clinton a college student today, she’d probably vote for Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately for her, she has run up against a generation of liberals who have lost the faith she has had her entire life.
Hillary’s reputation as a one-time radical who feigned moderation in order to gain power dates from the 1990s, when people like David Brock (then a Clinton hater, now a Clinton employee) uncovered her supposedly militant 1960s past. But Clinton’s serious biographers paint an utterly different picture. They depict a woman who, although politically progressive, had little patience for revolutionaries. As an undergraduate at Wellesley, Clinton preferred Martin Luther King to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. After King was murdered, Wellesley’s most radical students vowed to boycott classes until the college pledged to recruit more African American students and faculty and improve the living conditions of African Americans living nearby. Instead of joining that effort, Hillary worked with school administrators to broker a compromise. In one classmate’s words, “She co-opted the real protest.” As Carl Bernstein writes in his biography, A Woman in Charge, “Hillary’s methodology and goals in terms of politics were reform, not radical change.”