Democrats Sigh, Begin to Yield to the Force of Hillary

By most descriptions, Cintra Wilson, the writer, cultural pundit, and all-around liberal lady, is not your typical, rock-ribbed Hillary Clinton supporter. From the beginning, she thought the Iraq war “was malignantly rotten and insane,” she said. In 2000, she voted for frequent presidential candidate and perennial un-Democrat, Ralph Nader. And for a brief moment this campaign season, she “got romantic” about the notion of Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

But in recent weeks, Ms. Wilson has begun to entertain an idea that would seem to run counter to many of the twists and coils of her political DNA: She may vote for Mrs. Clinton in New York’s Feb. 5 presidential primary.

“I genuinely think she’s the man for the job,” Ms. Wilson said.

“With Hillary,” she said, “you get a Dragon Lady who you know can slay dragons.”

This may not be the kind of frothy endorsement most presidential contenders covet. But within the world of liberal-leaning Hillary skeptics, where Mrs. Clinton is resented for everything from her Iraq vote to her perceived political pandering to her “maddening caution” (as one critic phrased it), Ms. Wilson’s decision represents a palpable shift.

Certainly, there are plenty of staunch liberals who still get queasy at the mere thought of pulling the lever for Mrs. Clinton. But as the bloom has faded from the Obama rose, and as Mrs. Clinton has solidified her image as the “inevitable” nominee, a segment of New York liberals are yielding.

This movement stems in part from a tentative warming among some Hillary critics. But it also comes from a sense of stolid resignation among others—a kind of self-vaccination against an unwelcome reality. Some Democrats experiencing this conversion describe a mix of symptoms that sounds uncannily like vertigo.

“It’s hard to describe the feeling that some liberals have towards Hillary’s nomination,” said Fred Gooltz, director of strategic messaging for Advomatic, a left-leaning Web development and strategy shop founded by members of the Dean For America Web team. “It’s not as cut-and-dry as, I used to hate her but now I love her. It’s a complicated mix of feelings.”

Jason Wojciechowski, 30, another online media activist and onetime Howard Dean supporter, put these feelings in sharper terms.

“My biggest moral dilemma is, can I put very much support behind someone about whom I think, ‘People are dead because she’s not doing her job’? Because she’s not being a leader on the issue?” asked Mr. Wojciechowski, referring to Senator Clinton’s ongoing opposition to a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

Nonetheless, he has found himself inching in her direction.

“It’s gone from pretty close, but probably Obama, Edwards, Hillary, to Edwards, Hillary, Obama,” Mr. Wojciechowski said, listing the order of his presidential preferences. “So she knocked Obama out of the top spot, but she still couldn’t take Edwards down.”

In a way, Mr. Wojciechowski’s evolution is indicative of something larger happening, in particular, with early, actively liberal supporters of Mr. Obama. The Illinois senator was, until recently, seen as perhaps the one Democratic candidate capable of launching a Howard Dean–style insurgency against the Clinton establishment. He was the one who was supposed to restore Camelot. He was the one who was supposed to be audacious. He was the one who was supposed to give voice to a whole new political generation.

But sometime during the summer months, self-described online activist types like Mr. Gooltz and Mr. Wojciechowski began cooling to him. As they described it, there was no single moment of epiphany, but rather a series of events that irked and disappointed—from the senator’s failure to vote against censuring Move On for its “General Betray Us?” advertisement (he sat out the vote) to his less-than-universal health care plan.

Democrats Sigh, Begin to Yield to the Force of Hillary