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OPINION | GREG HARTON: Hillary Clinton, back in Northwest Arkansas, offers thoughts for office seekers

by Greg Harton | December 4, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Crowd members listen to former U.S. Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speak Wednesday at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Tracy Neal)

The most surprising fact to come out of former U.S. senator Hillary Clinton's appearance in Bentonville last week is that she had never been to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

I'll give her a bit of leeway. Clinton been a little busy over the last 11 years since the magnificent Walton-funded art museum opened. She served as Barack Obama's secretary of state in the museum's first couple of years, then she ran for the presidency and came close to winning it, besting Donald Trump in the popular vote but falling short where it most counted, the Electoral College. She was the last loser of a U.S. presidential contest to concede with some grace, having done so the morning after 2016's Election Day.

Clinton, who was the state's first lady for 12 years when her husband, Bill, was governor, spoke as part of the museum's "We the People: The Radical Notion of Democracy" exhibit, which continues for just another month, through Jan. 2. I wasn't among the 600 or so ticketed folks who affectionately welcomed her back to the state, but I caught her talk via YouTube.

Arkansas is solidly Republican. Undoubtedly some reading this will discount anything Clinton said on a single basis: Hillary Clinton said it. It's an unfortunate response. Hillary Clinton had her shot and didn't win the presidency, so why respond to her as though she's a threat? She's got a lot more experience in public service than a lot of people today who believe they deserve to be elected.

Clinton declared misinformation a "dagger at the heart of democracy" and cited social media's capacity to efficiently spread lies as a major concern.

"If you live in a world of disinformation, and you have no idea who to believe or who to trust, by definition, a democracy can't work," she said. "Because a democracy requires at least a minimum of discussion, debate, listening to one another, and maybe trying to reach principled compromise to get something accomplished."

That such a comment might be taken as a radical notion is a sad commentary on where our deliberative processes are in this country.

Angie Maxwell, associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas and Clinton's questioner for the evening, asked what Clinton would say to convince people to run as Democrats in Arkansas to create a more balanced, competitive political system. In the Legislature and the state's constitutional offices, the Democratic Party has been shellacked over the last decade.

Clinton said political defeats are not permanent unless people effectively give up. She urged those wanting to run in Arkansas to pay attention to what the people they'd like to represent are interested in.

"If you're going to be a Democrat in Arkansas, that's not the same as being a Democrat in Brooklyn, and so you've got to be honest about that, and you've got to understand what it is you're trying to accomplish. And basically you're trying to create an environment that maximizes everybody's potential, to start a business, to start a family, to make a difference in their community."

She continued: "I think a lot of our arguing in politics is so on the margins. It's on stuff that's not that significant to a majority of the people, so you've got to zero in to what's important to the people you want to represent."

But arguing will always be part of the American political experience.

"It's not for the fainthearted," she said. "It's a contact sport and it is difficult."

Still, if you believe in public service, you've got to start somewhere, she said.

Print Headline: Office seekers should listen, Clinton says


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