I don’t care how unpopular it is. I’m just going to say it: I like Hillary Clinton. I don’t think she’s merely the “lesser evil.” I’m not voting for her just because I can’t stomach Donald Trump (although I can’t). I think she is, despite her flaws and perhaps in some cases because of them, an admirable human being and a capable public servant. The fact that so few Americans agree with me says more about our national discourse than it does about her.
Clinton’s Endearing Awkwardness
Her biggest sin, according to many polls, is being unlikeable. First of all, I don’t understand why we need our politicians to be likeable, rather than, you know, being good at their jobs. Still, I honestly don’t understand this idea that Hillary Clinton is unlikeable. Is she sometimes awkward? Sure, but you know what? So am I. So are you probably. That makes her more endearingly human in my book. We can’t all have an 18 charisma, or, for non-D&D nerds, we can’t all be James Dean or Jay-Z.
Okay, but that’s the next complaint: Clinton is wooden or inhuman. Vulcans are my favorite Star Trek aliens so take this with a grain of salt if you wish, but this is merely part of Clinton’s occasional awkwardness. According to reports from people who have met her in personal settings, she is a warm, caring person. She sends birthday cards to her staff and asks about their families.
The Republican Genesis of the Clinton as Untrustworthy Narrative
Sure, but the real problem, many will say, is that she’s untrustworthy. To understand this charge, you need to understand the creation of the Clinton as untrustworthy narrative within the 25-year Republican slander machine (see Megan Carpentier's brief treatment of that history and this post that ties it to the 2016 election). The most painful details of her personal life and professional mishaps have been the subject of government committees, costing taxpayers millions of dollars. The result is that today almost every single thing about Clinton is evaluated against a background of presumed untrustworthiness.
She has admirably endured all of this year after year with a level of persistence and poise that I can scarcely comprehend. If I were Hillary Clinton, I would have long since retired to a secluded cabin to live out my days with no TV or internet in blissful ignorance of the mountains of misogynist, venemous bullshit spewing from my enemies. I admire her for not backing down and remaining active in politics; this shows how tough and persistent she is. Even Donald Trump thinks she's persistent.
Tin Foil Hats Go Mainstream
But what about all those investigations from Whitewater and Benghazi to the emails, not to mention the more outré conspiracy theories about her alleged murders and deals made in dark, smoke-filled rooms aimed at undermining US sovereignty? As John Scalzi points out, there are two main possibilities: either Hillary Clinton is a criminal mastermind who has endured decades of life under a microscope without a single criminal charge resulting or she has been the victim of a politically motivated attack machine for decades. You decide which is more likely.
As far as I can tell her only real crimes are 1. Being a woman in authority who doesn’t put up with misogynist bullshit, 2. Being a mainstream American politician with all the problems that that entails and who, like any human being with authority, has made mistakes, and 3. Being someone who wants more privacy than we’d like to give her. Given how awfully people handle a few out-of-context lines from those possibly politically motivated wikileaks emails, how quick people are to wedge them into the untrustworthiness narrative, I can’t say I blame her for not wanting to share everything. Imagine how bad you’d look if everything you said in private about your obnoxious coworkers were made public.
The Illuminati Want Children to Have Healthcare
Besides, most of these conspiracy theories make no sense. What part of her one-woman worldwide conspiracy as a Wall Street shill, to use the Clinton foundation for personal gain, to serve the Illumnati, etc. was aided by working for the Children’s Defense Fund, working to create the CHIP program that expanded healthcare coverage for millions of children, advocating for human rights for women around the world for decades in several capacities, supporting healthcare for 9/11 first responders, or engaging in diplomacy to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons?
I understand why Clinton doesn’t want to respond to every conspiracy (see this attempt to respond to many of them). She doesn’t want to dignify them with a response, but from a practical level she simply couldn’t respond the mountains of bullshit out there: Does she secretly want a war with Russia? Does she secretly oppose same sex marriage? Is she on the board of Monsanto? Did she grab a man's crotch? Is she a murderer? Is Bill not Chelsea’s father? Is Hillary the devil or the Antichrist? And so on, ad infinitum…
Until one of those can make it through Snopes and factcheck.org unfazed and is supported by multiple reputable journalists, I’ve decided to ignore every allegedly damning, salaciously headlined article out there that alleges that she’s engaged in some nefarious plot. I have better things to do. We all do.
And if you continue to believe these things despite any evidence in their favor and despite much professional debunking, that, my friend, is the very definition of a conspiracy theory, a theory immune from any possible counter-evidence. Here’s your tin foil hat.
Does this mean everything she says is true? No, but independent analysis by Politifact has shown that she utters fewer falsehoods than most other politicians: slightly fewer than Bernie Sanders and far, far fewer than Donald Trump.
Does this mean I like everything about Hillary Clinton? Of course not. Is she going to continue the basic American stance in foreign policy? Probably. But on the other hand, she has had some diplomatic successes. Should we leave countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to fend for themselves in messes we created, as many leftists and libertarians would like? I honestly don’t know. But whatever she does, I’m confident that Hillary Clinton will give it a lot of thought and might respond to criticism, which is diametrically opposed to everything her opponent stands for.
A Radical Idea: Look at Her Policies
It’s odd that many of my fellow leftists have fallen victim to the Republican smear machine tactics, especially many of those too young to remember a time when her every action wasn't evaluated within a framework of her status of the official epitome of untrustworthiness and all that is evil.
What's even odder is that many on the left seem to have never considered Clinton's policies. If you actually bother to look at her website or pay attention to what she says, she has a lot of really great policies from a progressive tax plan, criminal justice reform, making college debt-free, acknowledging and dealing with climate change, supporting LGBT rights, raising the minimum wage, support for reproductive rights and paid family leave, fixing and expanding the Affordable Care Act, and much more.
“But she doesn’t mean it! She’s just changing her mind to get votes!” If you can’t understand how a politician might change her mind on her own or in response to the people she’s supposed to represent, I don’t see how I can change your mind. If you steadfastly refuse to believe that she actually means any of this, then you’re probably trapped in the swirling waters of the Republican untrustworthiness narrative.
Of course, given our political realities, I don’t think Clinton will be able to accomplish all of her goals as President. I never believed Obama could accomplish everything he wanted, either; that’s simply not how politics works. But if anyone can accomplish even a fraction of these goals, someone with Hillary Clinton’s determination and experience dealing with Republican bullshit is the person for the job.
Why Do People Hate Clinton? It’s Obvious. And Sad for All of Us.
Larry Womack’s “Stop pretending you don’t understand why people hate Hillary Clinton” makes an obvious point: a lot of the vehement hatred directed at Clinton, including the framework in which she is evaluated, is the result of misogyny, plain and simple. This makes me sad, not for her (she’s a wealthy, well-connected person who will be fine), but for all of us.
To be clear, I am not saying anyone who disagrees with Clinton is a misogynist. Calm political disagreement, critique of the establishment, and spirited debate on policy are healthy for our society. Virulent misogyny and double standards masquerading as debate and critique are not.
My question for the Hillary-haters out there: What do you gain from hating this woman? What purpose does it serve? What salve for your embittered soul does it provide? Does she provide a bogeywoman, a face of all your fears of the establishment? But why her, when there are clearly others far more responsible for the evils of this world? Why now, when she is all that stands between us and the apocalypse of Donald Trump? Why a woman, when there are plenty of men whom you could easily hate with the unabashed glee you so obviously feel from hating her? Why do you hate Hillary Clinton?
I sincerely hope this election will encourage some serious soul-searching for all of us in the coming months, although I just as sincerely doubt it will.
In the meantime, I'm with her.