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Guest Thinkers

A Clinton Wedding; Jane Austen Would Approve

They have always loved him. But now the media is more in love with President Clinton than ever, as they have something simple and straightforward to celebrate: the marriage of his daughter, tomorrow. Witness this. A Presidential marriage is the essence of bi-partisan bliss; everyone knows how to respond. Most Americans will want to see not only who “did” Chelsea’s dress but also which toasts will be released to the press. You may fault the Clintons for certain things, but you cannot fault their exceptional work as parents. There were no politics there, no parsing of intent. There was only love.

Although she wrote, “happiness in a marriage is entirely a matter of chance,” Jane Austen knew marriage was central to our conception of ourselves. Austen knew that while life’s complexities were not to be avoided, or denied, many of them could be cured—or, at least, softened—by love, and most especially by marriage. Austen’s heroines—often headstrong, often witty, still divined a sense of peace by making an “acceptable” connection with a lover, then sealing it ceremonially. Perhaps what the Clinton White House lacked in romance (as compared to their predecessors, most notably the Kennedys) will be made up for tomorrow. We will have the white dress. We will care less about the blue dress. There is a new iconography in place.

We want to see marriages, generally. We want to see our leaders celebrate hope—and not only on their campaign trails. “Hope” was a word closely associated with the Clintons, and then with Obama. Weddings are the essence of hope. Uniquely in politics (and in life), incentives are aligned at a wedding; we all want this thing to last.

Chelsea represents something in relation to her parents, but more broadly she represents something in relation to her generation: she is educated, she is discrete, she is ambitious despite her privilege, she is graceful. Whatever the Clintons did while raising her they did it without compromising her sanity. How We Did It: perhaps this will be the book the Clintons co-author one day; if so, it will be the one that nets the best advance. With her marriage, Chelsea just might make moot all prior images of the Clintons non-romance. She is our future; she is their future. We will watch her closely, with joy and with hope.


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