I’ve been watching as former Hillary supporters fall deeper and deeper in love with Bernie Sanders. Every day, there are new Bernie Sanders memes on Facebook, one friend after another sharing the latest capsule summary of his great ideas. Unlike other ‘five things you need to know to live your life better every day’ lists, the Bernie Sanders’ lists have all my favorite things with proper spelling and syntax. There is nothing that he is for that I am against. He is as progressive as they make ’em and I love that. I love him. I’d vote for him and put a sign in my yard, even mar my beautiful car’s bumper with an actual bumper sticker, send money, gush on Facebook, buy a t-shirt, although I stop short of wearing one. Those political t-shirts? They never seem to be cut for a woman.
So I’m not making the switch.
I’m not joining the hunt for everything Hillary Clinton has done wrong in the past fifty years. You won’t find me in the little ‘pick apart’ club that’s dusting for fingerprints at every policy and decision scene or standing in line to listen to missing minutes on a tape recording or her last album played backwards. I have no interest in the discovery or manufacture of Hillary’s flaws. I don’t care if no one likes her logo. Or her pantsuits. Or her hair. Or that she maneuvers and deals with incredibly rich people. Or that she has made deals to get things done. Or that she and her randy husband have figured out how to stay married, become and stay wealthy and do some good in the world.
I want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States. Here’s why.
She has lived where there is no protection. Nothing about her recent life – say past twenty years of life – has been cloistered or protected. She never had the comfort of being lost in a crowd. The crowd was following her. Nothing she did could be muted, nor blame for missteps shared with others. The edges of her words and decisions were sharp and defined and owned just by her. She had always to arrange her face as Thomas Cromwell would say, control her emotions, be larger then her internal self, whatever turmoil churned. No other person running for President has had this constant, harsh exposure. And has accomplished so much in front of a worldwide audience. When Barack Obama ran for President, he basically came out of nowhere. He hadn’t been undressed and redressed in the media for decades, he was free to be a phenom and he was. And, yes, he’s been an extraordinary president, I grant you that. He has acquired his mental toughness on the job, seven years in and we can see it. He always had the brains, now he has the steel spine to match.
Hillary has that mental toughness going in. I want that in a president.
She can make deals. That’s big for me. Yes, I really admire those philosophical purists who stand up all alone and cast the one dissenting vote. Years ago, my elected county supervisor was perpetually the one vote in 25 to 1 decisions on the County Board. She was standing on principle, she would tell me, standing up for the people, for what was right. So she would pack up her little rolling suitcase full of documents and arguments, stride into the County Board room and vote her conscience. Meanwhile, the rest of the County Board was running the government.
Hillary Clinton knows how to knock heads. She reminds me of Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon Johnson got the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the War on Poverty passed when no one on earth thought it was possible. He didn’t do this by standing on principle, he walked the halls, he cornered people, knew their names, their pets’ names and what bar they were drinking at the night before. He knew what they wanted and knew how to get it for them; Lyndon Johnson knew how to make policy sausage. So I don’t want to celebrate the wee moral victory of supporting the elected official who has the ‘courage’ to be the dissenting vote, the person who will never ‘compromise their principles’, because I want the nation’s business to get done. I want poverty and education and equal opportunity to be addressed in genuine and fair ways; I want the country to be beautiful again and smart – with energy and transportation. I want foreign policy that is strong and nuanced run by people with enormous intellectual heft and understanding. I want a president who can figure out what the prize is and keep her eyes on it and do what’s necessary to bring people together to make things happen.
Hillary Clinton has that capacity going in. I want that in a president.
Last, I want a president who looks like me. I am tired of being waved away, tired of people telling me that a male president of the right philosophy is just as good as a female president, tired of people telling me, yes, we need a woman president but she’s not the right one. I yearn for governance of this country to be different at its core because a woman is president.
It’s not about reproductive rights or family leave or equal pay or any of that. It’s about not having to spend such incredible energy and effort on translation. Even as smart as Barack Obama is, and as well-advised as he must be, I feel like he’s still a guy who knows just a little restaurant Spanish and thinks he’s got it covered. That’s not good enough. I don’t want a president that gets policy briefings on women’s issues. I want a woman president that approaches all issues from her life as a woman. There’s a big difference there and apparently not all of my progressive friends get it. That Hillary Clinton is a woman is not incidental, it’s central. I do not want another man to be president. They have had their turn.
Hillary Clinton knows that going in. I want that in a president.