Friday, June 6, 2008

Alas, Poor Hillary

I am depressed over the end of the Democratic primary season. I, like many others, saw the writing on the wall weeks and weeks ago. And yet, I still held some perverse hope that Hillary Clinton could do it, that she could clinch the nomination. It isn't that I don't like Obama. I do. He will most emphatically be getting my vote for president in November. It is just that I am a devotee of Hillary. And not because she is a woman. I didn't want to elect "a" woman president. I wanted this specific woman to be president. I wouldn't have voted for Condoleezza Rice or Phyllis Schlafly even though they are also in possession of ovaries. No, I like Hillary. Scratch that, I admire Hillary; I would even say that I love Hillary. I like her politics, her policies, and I think she is a phenomenal woman. Smart, articulate, tough as nails, and someone who has struggled to overcome adversity -and more adversity than just Bill's philandering ways. My devotion to Hillary almost seems predestined. She came into my life when I was six, and she has remained a part of it ever since. My parents, hug political buffs who develop a fascination (obsession) with certain political families like the Roosevelts and Kennedys, quickly took to the Clintons. So much so that My mother bought Living History; so much so that my father's anniversary gift to my mother one year was Bill Clinton's autobiography My Life.

And so the Clintons entered my life; and we went through their ups and downs, their victories and defeats , their triumphs and humiliations. And through it all, Hillary seemed like a woman who would, in the words of Tina Fey, "get stuff done". She seemed to really care about the nation, to care about politics, and how politics and policy could better America and the lives of Americans. She and Bill appeared to be regular Sorkin characters in that mindset. She had more than a few blunders -the dismissal of cookie baking comes to mind. But that made her more real to me. More like a woman I could relate to, a woman who would not allow herself to be marginalized or penalized for not having been Susie Homemaker and who was instead doing pro bono work to further the cause of child advocacy. As I grew up and learned of the fears she harbored about losing her autonomy in marriage, she became more real. Keeping her own name after marriage was, to put it in a juvenile fashion, so cool. And it hurt -though it took place a couple of years before I was born and decades before I was cognizant of it- that she had to give up that statement of autonomy in order to help further her husband's political aspirations.

Over the years, Hillary became someone deeply ingrained in my life. She was someone I didn't always agree with, or even fully like. But she was there, present, reassuring, and powerful. I completely understood Dan Rydell's desire to meet her -and his anguished cry of "Hillary Clinton thinks I'm an idiot" (which also became a family catch phrase)- on the show Sports Night. And when she won her New York Senate race, I cheered. When it became apparent she was going to run for president in 2008, I was thrilled. And when she was the projected front runner, I was hopeful that this woman would be recognized at the uppermost level for being the public servant she is -and recognized separate from her husband as a talented and worthwhile politician and possible president. And then it all started to fall apart. Hillary made many mistakes in her compaign. She -we- assumed she had the nomination locked up far before she did. She then involved herself in the worst part of the political process as she saw the nomination slipping further and further away when she engaged in a campaign of fear.

But I also believe that the odds were stacked against her. I've heard complaints about a possible Clinton election because it would mean America has been in the hands of two political families for two decades -possibly more if she were elected to a second term. And political dynasties hold a strange dichotomy within American culture; we admire the families and at the same time fear power remaining in the same sets of hands for too long. And as much as we would love to believe that gender equality has been reached in this country and that a woman could run for president without the fact that she is in fact a "her" causing a big brouhaha, this is very much not the case. Obama being black gets a lot of play, gets a lot of concern; and there is a very real factor that people may not vote for him because of it. But Hillary is the one who is turned into a nutcracker. Marie Cocco examines this phenomenon better and in more detail than I can in her editorial Misogyny I Won't Miss, and that attitude of dismissal and diminishment of Hillary as a person definitely had some effect on Hillary's run. There were people who didn't like that she stayed in a "marriage of convenience" with Bill and figured that meant she was cold-hearted enough to do whatever it took to be elected, without having any actual idea of what their marriage entailed.

If Obama had lost the nomination, I would have felt badly for him. But I reacted viscerally as the presidency became a dream rather than a reality for Clinton. I have been physically and emotionally affected and mourn her loss. I wanted so badly for her to succeed, because she wanted so badly to do so. The bottom line for me is that Hillary Clinton would have been a good president. I only hope she one day gets the opportunity to prove it.

1 comment:

jjfs85 said...

I felt bad that she lost too. I'm sure it was the same way you'd have felt for Obama if he had lost. And of course there are the rumors and speculation of Obama choosing Hillary as his running mate. I don't really care one way or the other.

I know a few people who didn't want Clinton to be the Democratic candidate for the readson you pointed out in your post - they didn't want a Clinton or Bush in the White House again. I think this way of thinking is due to some Americans - even after 232 years - still being afraid of having a ruling family like the tyranical monarchy that the colonists revolted against so long ago. And of course, with the complete disaster of a president that we have now being a relative of a past president doesn't help things either. People could be looking at the decision they made 8 years ago to elect the son of an ex-president with regret and vow not make the same mistake again. I think that this way of thinking was completely unfair towards Hillary because as you stated, she's her own person and is certainly not her husband. Nor is she corrupt like G.W., so there was no reason to think that way.

But what's done is done and Obama is the democrat running for president. He will be getting my vote and I hope he gets yours too. I don't want to see McCain as our president for the next four years.