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The New York Times gets ready for Hillary by using her dead mother as a prop:
Dorothy Howell was 8 years old when her parents sent her away. It was 1927. Her mother and father, who fought violently in the Chicago boardinghouse where the family lived, divorced. Neither was willing to take care of Dorothy or her little sister.
So they put the girls on a train to California to live with their grandparents. It did not go well. Her grandmother favored black Victorian dresses and punished the girls for inexplicable infractions, like playing in the yard. (Dorothy was not allowed to leave her room for a year, other than for school, after she went trick-or-treating one Halloween.)
Unable to bear it, Dorothy left her grandparents’ home at 14, and became a housekeeper for $3 a week, always hoping to return to Chicago and reconnect with her mother. But when she finally did, a few years later, her mother spurned her again.
Charles Dickens would have been stumped to come up with such a story. I’m not doubting it’s veracity, just pondering it’s timeliness. Politician’s backstories are often part of the smoke and mirrors of modern political spin. Like Bill Clinton’s “A Place Called Hope” or Barack Obama’s paternal dreaming at one level it’s suppose to humanize candidates for political office. At a less honourable level it’s a cynical bait and switch: feel sorry for me, now vote for me.
However terrible the early life of Dorothy Howell the life of her daughter has been very different. A multi-millionaire who has not driven a car in decades, Hillary Clinton is part of the quasi-permanent ruling class of modern America. These two women inhabited very different economic and social universes. The invoking of a dead relative’s travails is mawkish at best; in the hands of a dedicated progressive it becomes outright creepy:
At the rally on Saturday on Roosevelt Island in New York City, the biggest public event so far of her 2016 campaign, Mrs. Clinton will explain how her mother’s experience shaped her life and inspired her to be an advocate for children and families at the Children’s Defense Fund, and as a first lady, senator and secretary of state.
Well, of course it did. Pause to consider the saccharine nonsense being pushed on the American voter. Why should an individual candidate’s family history have anything to do with the wisdom or folly of a particular public policy? There is a leap of logic that we are asked to make. We need to accept that a painful anecdote is justification for vast government programs costing billions. Programs that, if history is any guide, will aid their unionized administrators far more than their nominal beneficiaries.
Since at least the 1960s, the left’s mantra as been that the personal is the political. It doesn’t matter where the evidence or the math takes you, it’s whether you feel in your heart that it’s the right thing to do. The irony is that the very stories being used to sell statism to the American people often suggest a better direction:
In her 2014 book, “Hard Choices,” Mrs. Clinton described how one teacher in elementary school, realizing that Dorothy was too poor to buy milk at lunchtime, would buy two cartons herself every day and then say, “Dorothy, I can’t drink this other carton of milk. Would you like it?’ ” The woman who hired her as a teenage housekeeper took an interest in her, urging her to finish high school and giving her clothes. Mrs. Clinton has said these seemingly small gestures showed her mother the presence of goodness in the world, and later made her a caring mother and grandmother.
In other words it was private individuals, not government, who helped the young Dorothy Howell the most. A nice touch was how the teacher would offer the second carton of milk, making it seem like an afterthought rather than charity. The story reflects a moment in history when accepting private charity was seen as humiliating, even among the most deserving. The teacher was trying not to hurt the young girl’s pride. It’s the sort of gesture one sees from kind people, not from from remote bureaucracies.
That’s the real lesson to be taken from the story of Dorothy Howell, not the cynical spin being placed on it by her daughter’s handlers.