Last Saturday in Madison, Connecticut, history was made. 17 miles east of New Haven, on the northern shore of Long Island Sound, nestled on the Connecticut Shoreline, Madison is a pleasant little town with a population of 18,000 (95+% white), an average household income of $100,000+, and an average house price of $500,000. If the state of Connecticut is and almost always has been democratic—the Governor, Dannel Malloy, is a democrat; both Senators are democrats—the town of Madison is not. The town’s representative in the State Congress is a republican who received 60% of the vote at the last election; and the mayor, who goes under the title of First Selectman, is a republican from Texas.
Far from being a hotspot of revolutionary political activism, Madison is decidedly conservative and republican. Yet, last Saturday afternoon for the first time in living memory in the center of the town there were more democrats than republicans. All this thanks to Hillary Clinton, who had come to the town’s local independent bookstore–RJ Julia–to sign copies of her new book Hard Choices. From the early hours of the morning until 4.00 in the afternoon, when Mrs. Clinton arrived, dressed in a raspberry red jacket, accompanied by her security detail, entering the store though its back door, the 1000 ticket holders who had paid $35 for a copy of the book and the chance to have it signed by the ex Secretary of State, ex-Senator, ex-First Lady—but no personalized dedication; no photo; and certainly no selfies—stood in line along the entire stretch of the town’s Main Street. Was everyone in Madison madly happy about Hillary? The owner of the book store was certainly happy. It’s not every afternoon her store sells 1,000 books at $35 a pop; happy too were some shop owners who benefitted from the mostly out of town crowd Mrs. Clinton had attracted; less happy were the owners whose stores were inside the security cordon. Happy too were the hundreds of Hillary fans sporting “Ready for Hillary” stickers.
Least happy of all were the members of the small group of protestors, sworn enemies of Mrs. Clinton, stationed across the road from the bookstore in front of the Madison Arts Cinema, shouting anti-Hillary slogans: “Poor little rich girl,” a reference to how much Mrs. Clinton is paid to speak in public and the fact that she claimed she was broke when she and husband Bill left the White House; and “Hillary lied/Four died,” a reference to the killing in Benghazi, Libya of the US Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of the Embassy staff on September 11th, 2012, for which many Republicans deem Mrs. Clinton responsible. The protest, organized by Daria Novak, an aspiring Republican candidate for Congress, was supposed to draw 750 supporters from “all over the state,” according to Ms Novak’s announcement on the Madison Patch. That turned out to be an optimistic figure as only about twenty people showed up, and left as soon as Mrs. Clinton arrived.
One question, of course, had to be answered. Many of Mrs. Clinton’s fans, in their brief conversations with her, asked: “So, are you going to run for President?” As she did with John Stewart on the Daily Show, Mrs. Clinton avoided giving an answer and hid behind the phrase “Very sweet of you to ask.” Still, seen from a more symbolic standpoint, Mrs. Clinton’s visit to Madison can be deciphered as an indication that she is well and truly on the road to the White House. Clinton in Madison was the latest in a line of events that tie the one to the other. In fact, between the two—Clinton and Madison—there is a special relationship that is entirely political and points in one direction. Let’s see why: Madison is named after James Madison, fourth president of the United States; his vice president from 1809-1812 was George Clinton, which is the name of the town that borders Madison to the east, but which is named after another political Clinton, Dewitt Clinton, Governor of the state of New York in the early 19th century (and not after Bill). In his book, My Life, Bill—referring back to his days at Yale– speaks of Madison as “especially old and beautiful.”
Is this strong Madison/Clinton connection, this historical and political destiny leading Mrs. Clinton straight to1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500? (Whatever she may have said to John Stewart!)
* David War is Professor of Italian Studies at Wellesley College