Kinsley on Clinton’s Victory

Now that Obama has scored a very convincing win in the big election, I am reminded of a column written by Michael Kinsley in 1992, celebrating the victory of Bill Clinton. It’s eerie how much of it is still relevant today. Couldn’t find it online, so here are a few excerpts. Alas, just as with Clinton, no doubt Kinsley’s first sentence must give everyone pause.

No doubt it will all end in tears. But for the moment, I FEEL GREAT! It’s like the lifting of a terrible headache, or like coming up for air after swimming underwater.

Yes, the euphoria is not entirely rational. I think I speak for all Clinton supporters in saying that we realize the election of our man as president will not magically solve all the nation’s problems. Nor will it clear up our skin condition, improve our love life, pick up our dry cleaning, or stop that strange noise in the back of our car. Life goes on. Nevertheless, this victory is very, very sweet.

Meanwhile, after what seems like a century of stern sermonettes to Democrats about how we must “rethink,” must purge ourselves of excesses and extremism, must listen to the people, must abase ourselves with public mea culpas, etc. etc, it is now the Republicans’ turn for mandatory rethinking and op-ed self-flagellation. They are in worse shape than the Democrats ever were; they don’t even control the other elected branch of government (though they do, by now, have the courts). Supply-side economics and the whole range of social issues from abortion to school prayer are just two suitable subjects for orgies of conservative self-abuse. I intend to enjoy the show.

But schadenfreude (joy at others’ misery) is not the only reason to feel euphoric. Defeat of the Repulican presidential machine offer some hope that American politics can become more honest again.

This election has restored my faith in my fellow citizens. Not just because they voted my way, but because they rejected ugly appeals to various forms of chauvanism and intolerance. Watching the GOP Festival of Hate in Houston, I felt sick. I thought, Here we go again. And I confess: I thought it would work. Why not? It worked the last time. To be sure, last time the economy wasn’t so pressing. This year voters had more important things to be scared of than Republican-confected bogies.

This leads to the deepest reason I feel so euphoric at the election result: I feel connected with my country again. The single mot repellent remark of this election year was Republican National Chairman Rich Bond’s comment during the Houston convention, “We are America. Those other people are not.” The words are hateful and un-American on their face…

Nevertheless, a part of me feared it was true. For twelve years Democrats and liberals have suffered a rising crescendo of schoolyard taunts: You are outsiders, out of the mainstream, out of touch, out of touch with ordinary swaths of your own country. Each election, however fraudlently won from our point of view, made the case harder to refute.

Well, apparently it ain’t true. Those other people are the ones who are out of touch, who are outside the mainstream, whose values aren’t widely shared.

It would take only small and obvious revisions to make the whole column appropriate for today.


  1. #1 Joe Shelby
    November 5, 2008

    I too have noticed how this generational change feels much like it did 16 years ago when Clinton beat Bush Sr. (not that we even knew of a jr at the time).

    I was in a fellow JMU student’s place in Squire Hill (you should know where that is) at the time, reflecting on the generational change from the WW2 supporter to the 60s activist.

    Memories of that night have been flooding. This is a generational change just as significant. then, from ww2 to ‘nam (or ‘nam dodger, the era is the same). today it is from ‘nam hero to 70s and 80s activist.

    I wonder how i’ll react when it really is someone from *my* generation (growing up in the 80s, established adult by 2000) running and winning…

  2. #2 Joe Shelby
    November 5, 2008

    (or worse still, i wonder how i’ll react knowing the candidate is who my child might be rooting for…)

  3. #3 llewelly
    November 5, 2008

    And remember folks – the Republicans won congress in 1994. Clinton’s best ideas, alas, were not to be.

  4. #4 Pastor Bentonit, FCD
    November 5, 2008

    You’re surely right Jason (and Kinsley!); that the onslaught of stupidity may be halted for 4, if not 8, years is not enough. Not everything, or even most of what should be done, will be accomplished in that time. We abroad hope that the stupid and impossible-to-win war on the invisible enemy “terror” will come to an end (it p*sses EVERYONE off, not only Al-Qaeda), but over here in Elitist World (read: Europe) the national governments at large, as well as the European Parliament, are only too keen to adopt draconic surveillance laws and regulations for the sake of, for example, “protecting our soldiers in Afghanistan” (Swedish UN soldiers, in this case). What in the H*ll kind of an argument is that?! Why are we in Vietn…sorry, Afghanistan, anyway? But I digress (I’ll keep doing that, not to worry).

    On the whole, I’m happy today. The prospect of actual thinking adults in the White House is good, if in a very minimal way. Wingers over there, and here, will have a hard time, for once (HAH-hah!). There will hopefully be a *little* less room for satire, not that that is a bad thing in itself. And now for something completely different. When do you think MC will become WC? 😉

    Good night, and good luck.

  5. #5 BaldApe
    November 5, 2008

    While some of Kinsley’s comments, especially about excesses and possible “over-reaching” are appropriate, there is one huge difference. Clinton did not win a majority of votes in 1992. If Ross Perot had not siphoned off some of Bush’s support, things would have been very different.

    Obama has a mandate like no other. I am very hopeful that he can broaden that mandate by prudently adjusting the nation’s course, as opposed to an abrupt about-face.

    That said, I still want Bush and Cheney to hang for war crimes.

  6. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    November 5, 2008

    Pastor Bentonit –

    As the saying goes, “Against stupidity the Gods themselves toil in vain.”

  7. #7 lidagazeteler
    May 12, 2009

    And remember folks – the Republicans won congress in 1994. Clinton’s best ideas, alas, were not to be.

  8. #8 lidagazeteler
    May 12, 2009


  9. #9 ekolhoca
    June 10, 2009

    Thanks. Good article

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