The 1999 listening tour began approximately sixteen months before the 2000 election that would take Hillary to the US Senate. As the Washington Post reported,
Hillary Rodham Clinton made it official yesterday: She is considering the race for Senate in New York.
"This morning we filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission to establish the Hillary Rodham Clinton for U.S. Senate Exploratory Committee," said Clinton's committee spokesman, Howard Wolfson.
The committee has been in operation for almost a week, but now she can officially start the exploring, which she will do today, when she begins a summerlong "listening tour" with a four-day jaunt through Upstate New York.
The tour opens at the farm of retiring Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), the intellectual heavyweight she hopes to replace, and continues with an education round table at the State University of New York at Oneonta. Thursday she will start early with another "listening event" in Cooperstown -- this time about health care, a topic with which she has some familiarity.
Also on this week's itinerary for Clinton and her entourage of Secret Service agents, aides and more than 200 media people: Utica, Syracuse and Albany.
"Hillary Clinton is eager to begin this tour and looks forward to listening to New Yorkers across the state," Wolfson said.
Reacting to news of Clinton's filing, Giuliani called exploring "a good thing."
"Who could have anything against exploring? Or listening," he added.
Forming the committee allows Clinton to raise money for polling, travel and other exploratory activities.
As the New York Times reported in July 1999, after the first week of the Listening Tour,
Hillary Rodham Clinton began her first full-fledged campaign trip to New York at an upstate farm belonging to Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a fellow Democrat who is retiring from the Senate next year. He said he hoped she would succeed him.
In her first outing in a state in which she has never lived, she seemed to have nearly as many differences with her husband, the President, as with her likely opponent, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York City. She declared Jerusalem the ''eternal and indivisible capital of Israel,'' argued against proposed Medicare cuts for New York's teaching hospitals and embraced a proposal that would help dairy farmers but raise milk prices for downstate consumers.
Mostly she listened, though, and said more than once, ''Thank you for explaining this to me!''
Now, Darell West, a political scientist from Brown University, has written an analysis of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s 2008 Presidential chances, entitled “How Hillary Clinton can Become America’s First Female President”. Among his many specific recommendations, some based on Hillary’s successful 2000 campaign for the US Senate seat from New York West suggests “Readying the 2008 Hillary Clinton “Listening Tour”!”
Take a National Listening Tour--In 2000, when she first ran for the U.S. Senate from New York, Hillary Clinton was very successful at softening her image and boosting her vote totals from conservative and rural upstate New York by taking a “listening tour”. By showing
that she cared about a range of issues of concern to those voters, she turned what could have been a close election into one that she won comfortably. This suggests she has more potential in a
national race to win moderate votes than she typically is given credit for. http://22.214.171.124/...
West’s entire discussion is recommended reading, but I suggest that Hillary’s enemies ignore this strategy document, since there is nothing to be gained by helping them in their efforts to frustate the election of the first woman President of the United States.
Mrs. Clinton is finishing a three-day trip that followed her creation for an exploratory committee for a Senate bid in New York. The day's events focus on issues not normally associated with the first lady -- including the effects of taxes on businesses.
The day's events focus on issues not normally associated with the first lady -- including the effects of taxes on businesses.
The day's major event was a forum held at the Griffiss Business & Technology Park, at the site of the now-closed air force base where Woodstock '99 will be held later this month.
Mrs. Clinton told more than 50 central New York residents invited to the forum that "those are some of the things that I've already been told about, that I think ought to be addressed if the opportunities are going to be as plentiful as they should be."
Mrs. Clinton said she was particularly concerned that New York had the second highest power costs in the nation given its hydroelectric power facilities.
Instead of crisscrossing New York trying to convince conservative voters to support abortion rights and gay marriage, for example, Mrs. Clinton focused on the issues of importance to the voters themselves, which helped her to avoid the liberal stereotypes that might have doomed her campaign. As CNN reported at the time about one day in Mrs. Clinton Listening Tour that followed her creation for an exploratory committee for a Senate bid in New York, Hillary demonstrated the benefit of “listening” to the issues important to voters rather than perpetually “speaking out” based on one’s own priorities when she won the Senate race with 55% of the statewide vote, even though she was not from New York State and her opponent was. http://en.wikipedia.org/...
Inspirational writers have long understood the power of listening and endeavored to show us how to do it successfully, putting aside our own “issues” long enought to clearly hear what is important to others. M. Scott Peck has said,
An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one's own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker's world from the inside, step in inside his or her shoes. This unification of speaker and listener is actually and extension and enlargement of ourselves, and new knowledge is always gained from this. Moreover, since true listening involves bracketing, a setting aside of the self, it also temporarily involves a total acceptance of the other. http://www.heartquotes.net/...
That philosphy worked for Hillary. Although many Republicans and Democrats had doubted the potency of the Hillary’s “listening tour” modality, Mark Shields of NPR observed in an on-air discussion,
I mean, the very fact that we're calling it a listening tour is a testimony to the fact that she's prevailed. She's defined what it is; she's out there with the pad and pencil, and every time you see her she's in a listening mode. So, I'd have to give her good marks out of the gate. http://www.pbs.org/...
Similarly, the Washington Monthly acknowledged that:
Operation Smother the Voters worked in large part because the real Hillary Clinton is a far cry from the caricature of a manipulative, power-hungry, shrewish woman that has been propagated by the right. One of the unexpected benefits of being demonized and attacked by conservatives for more than a decade turns out to be that voters are surprised and relieved when she doesn't fly into town on a broomstick.
Tomasky relates the response of voters when they actually met the woman they'd heard so much about for eight years in Hillary's Turn, his excellent book about Clinton's 2000 campaign. “People had expected Hillary to instruct and talk, and, let's face it, to come across as pushy and judgmental,” he wrote. “So when she paid genuine attention to the things people were saying, she really threw them.”
Indeed, the first time I met the Clintons, the president distractedly shook some hands after a speech and then left fairly quickly while the first lady was the one who displayed the vaunted Clinton political skills—chatting easily about policy details, focusing intently on what my colleague and I had to say, and then throwing her arms around our shoulders for a photo that looks more like three college friends than two awed congressional staffers and a first lady.
The strategy also succeeded because many voters—weaned on a diet of conservative talking points during the 1990s—expected Clinton to be a liberal of the bluest sort, to the left of Ted Kennedy and unable to understand their concerns. What they found was that her positions on welfare, crime, and foreign policy, among other issues, were far more centrist than liberal. In addition, while most professional political observers dismissed her “Listening Tour” as a stunt, Clinton actually used it to query New Yorkers about their problems and obsessively study up on local issues. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/...
Listenening is non-confrontation, non-devisive and helps to develop pricipled consensus. Rather than trying to convince conservatives and independents to adopt liberal orthodoxies, Hillary goes where they are and listens to how they perceive their issues. Often, she finds common ground, which ought not surprise us since opposition to gay marriage and flag desecration really are not the burning issues in the little hamlets of upstate New York that Republicans Party spokespeople would have us believe.
Listening to voters as a starting point enables Hillary to return later and explain to voters her desire to represent them in terms of what she could do about the issues that were most important to them. As an electoral strategy in a diverse and polarized political environment, listening is seen as more imporant and successful then telling others what to think. Listening may not offer the "red-meat" adrenaline rush that pleases the base, but it faciliates the successful elections results that the base wants even more.
Comments are closed on this story.