From the pages of


Hallelujahs for Hillary!
by Martin Lewis
(First published November 06, 2000)

In New York for the final days of the election, I decide to attend one of Hillary Clinton's get-out-the-vote rallies. I pick one at random from the official schedule for Sunday. I select the last of six church services she's attending in an 8-hour marathon. This one is being held at the Universal Temple Church of God In Christ - which despite its promising name is in the distinctly uncelestial Flatbush section of Brooklyn.

We get so accustomed to seeing televised images of the slickly stage-managed campaign rallies organized by both parties - that I am literally taken aback at the world I enter.

It's a rinky-dink wooden frame church, full of African-American families dressed in what used to be called their Sunday best. The ladies are wearing bright crinoline hats and are swaying joyously to a gospel band. It looks and feels like a Southern Baptist church in the early 50's. As a member of the "media" I am politely ushered to the back two rows of the church - roped off for the purpose. The thought occurs to me that I am actually in a parallel - and benignly reverse - universe. The members of the black congregation are quite righteously seated at the front - and we scribes (all of us white) are appropriately at the back of the proverbial bus.

The gospel music is powered by the swirling sound of a Hammond B3 organ and the entire congregation joins in a hymn called "Ain't Nobody Do You Like Jesus" which lasts fully 20 minutes. Suddenly Hillary and Chelsea shimmer in through a door marked exit - and the place explodes into a standing ovation.

The preacher delivers a short introduction - exalting how God has delivered the African-American population "from the outhouse to the White House." He explains the latter reference by saying how supportive the Clintons have been of the black community. And with that he brings on Hillary.

Like a revivalist preacher, Hillary sings the praises of the people who "sustained" her and Bill through the past eight years - and then talks of what she wants to achieve in the next six year as a senator. It's part stump speech - part extemporized psalm of salvation. All without Teleprompter or notes.

Then she hits her keypoints. She knows that these are the converted. She doesn't need to win their votes. She wants them to use their evangelical zeal to turn out their family, friends and neighbors. She talks movingly of the sacrifices so many people made in the past to win the vote for African-Americans and then of the tragedy of that victory being squandered by those who don't bother to vote.

She also delivers an impassioned celebration of the achievements of the Clinton-Gore administration and makes the cogent argument for the election of Gore-Lieberman to continue the work of the past 8 years. (A simple passage which has apparently eluded Al Gore and Joe Lieberman this past two months.)

She uses a simple car analogy. If you want a car to go forward - you have to select D for "Drive." If you want it to go backwards - you choose R for "Reverse." She makes the connection. D is for Democrats and R is for Republicans. "Amen!" yell the congregation. Then the place erupts and she's done. She's closed the sale in less than 20 minutes.

The gospel band and congregation strike up a rollicking hymn "Get Behind Me Satan" - and though no Republicans are cited in the lyrics - the message is clear.

If Hillary Clinton ever decides to run for President - she has the campaigning part down. Prior to her Senatorial campaign - Hillary embarked on a much noted listening tour of New York state. What is apparent from her campaigning style is that her marriage to Bill Clinton has been, among other things, an invaluable listening tour. She's learned the art of retail politics from an acknowledged master. Somebody say "Amen!"


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