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Clinton Exits, But Her Time Begins « The Washington Independent

Her own voice. That’s what we heard from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as she left her effort to run as the Democratic presidential nominee. Standing in the National Building Museum, surrounded by several thousand supporters and her family, Clinton didn’t much end a campaign but define her role in the future of national politics. In our story as a nation, never before had a second-place finisher garnered as much support as she had in the the primary campaign and perhaps, never before had someone bowed out with the kind of fervent spirit and eloquence that Clinton did this afternoon. It was less of a concession speech than it was a stake in the ground declaring her true arrival as a force in American politics.

She was no longer the former first lady. She was not the surrogate who would return Bill Clinton to the White House. She became a power broker in her own right. Elanor Roosevelt, in the years that followed her husband’s death, helped build the liberal base that would define Democratic politics in the 1960s. But Clinton went much further. In the 17 months since Clinton announced her candidacy on the Internet, she had shaped a new, formidable base of women, blue-collar workers, and Latinos who would follow her to the end of the world.

And now she’s gone. At least for now. And people, as the late Mike Royko once wrote upon the death of Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, are writing that the era of Hillary Clinton is over. Just like that. But she’s left behind one of the most unique coalitions ever built in American politics and the coming months we will learn whether it will stay together and throw its support behind Obama, following her endorsement of the Illinois Senator today.

But we will also learn who she will be going forward. Will she, should she be offered it, form the second-tier of the Democratic party’s dream ticket? Will she stomp relentlessly across the country for the Obama campaign? Will she stay in the her current position, becoming a Lyndon Johnson-like master of the Senate?

No matter what, this much is clear: The era of Bill Clinton and his Democratic Party has finally come to a close. Hillary’s time has just begun.

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