Monday, October 17, 2016

The Obamas Fought White Identity Crisis. Now It's Hillary Clinton's Turn To Do It.



Everything awful that can possibly have been said about Hillary Clinton has been said. Every sinister interpretation about her actions has been made. Every conspiracy theory has been elaborated on and substantiated by exactly nothing factual. Millions of dollars from tax-payers and wealthy Republicans have been spent trying to dig up facts that don't exist, trying to turn lies into truth. Her whole life in public office has been characterized by this battle. Notably absent has been a public willingness to penetrate the myths and their origins. Hillary met with conservative resistance in 1979, when Bill Clinton was elected Governor of Arkansas. She was interviewed on In Focus and asked if she felt comfortable in her new position, if it could be called a position, to which her response was,

"Well I do think it's a position and I do feel comfortable, but there's still a lot to learn and a lot to be done that we're just becoming acquainted with" so she couldn't really comment too much yet. When the host asked if it worried her that she didn't exactly fit the profile expected of First Ladies, she said, "No. I assess everybody by who they are, not by how they look." She might as well have added "And not by the things that are said of them," but she had no way of knowing what was in store for her.

No way of knowing that a huge sector of America was still unprepared for a woman who had the audacity to be intelligent, courageous, and outspoken.

It's been a long journey for Hillary Clinton from then to now. She was very openhearted in those days, not afraid to speak her mind. She didn't change because she became somehow untrustworthy and corrupt, or gain a reputation for being unlikeable because it was the truth about her, but because she encountered a savagery she hadn't known existed. Because it didn't exist in her family or in her. She did change her appearance, she did give people what they wanted as far as that went. But she stood her ground on her principles, and a certain misogynist element of America has never been able to forgive her. Women are not supposed to be powerful.

Or likeable. Everybody who knows Hillary Clinton likes her and not in a milk-toast way. They're enthusiastic about her. She's warm, she's funny, she has a great laugh, her smile lights up the room, she's a brilliant listener, she cares. Her 'unlikeability' has nothing to do with who she is.

It's not just an American thing. Julia Gillard, Australia's first female prime minister, learned it the hard way too. When she was first elected, she said she expected the supportive and the negative rhetoric but believed it would dissipate after a while and that she would be treated as any normal prime minister. It didn't happen. The misogyny she encountered, such as the Leader of the Opposition's comment "If it's true that men have more power generally speaking than women, is that a bad thing?" and "what if men are by physiology or temperament, more adapted to exercise authority or to issue command?" The misogyny ramped up over time until Julia Gillard had had enough and said so.

Her 'misogyny speech' went viral. Recently on GPS she said it probably resonated with every woman who has ever met with misogyny and longed to speak out but missed the opportunity as it arose. Fareed Zakaria also asked her if she thought Hillary Clinton was being held to a different standard. Her answer was a categorical yes.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been exposed to the same bullying, spite, murderous persecution driven by white male identity crisis—although the role played by conservative women in supporting it shouldn't be underestimated. For the last eight years it's been like the Civil War take 2, except that the first was never really won. The Obamas have triumphed with tremendous dignity and in doing so have renewed, strengthened and invigorated all that's good about America.

Now it's Hillary Clinton's turn. She too has survived everything that's come at her and never let it thwart her and now that she's running for president she's looking the monster right in the eye. By standing her ground against the worst she's exposing it in all its glory for sane Americans and the world to revile.

The first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and the GOP candidate had the most viewers in US history. More than 80 million watched Clinton behave like an outstanding president. Close to 70% saw her as a winner.

They saw that she was ultra-prepared, which telegraphed that she respected them enough to do her homework well. They saw her confronted with bluster, lies, misogyny, rank stupidity, horrific racism, disrespect—bullying of every kind. She didn't once lose her composure but more than that, she knew how to deal very effectively with it without returning kind for kind. Hillary Clinton conducted herself with humor at times but never stooped to being snide. She was graceful throughout but there was never any doubting her steel, which Trump, for all his puerile and disgusting but considerable arsenal, couldn't get past. It showed what she'll do when she encounters that same behavior as president, which she will, in Congress and internationally. It also showed that she learns through challenges—referring to decades of facing the same kind of obstacles—without a hint of bitterness.

About 66 million watched the second debate and saw the same woman. When asked questions her answers were, as always deeply thoughtful and insightful. Her opponent's were incoherent, as always. 57% saw Hillary Clinton as the winner.

At least 50 million people for the 1st debate and 37 million for the 2nd got and believed the message that Hillary Clinton respects them, takes her task seriously, has the capacity to overcome barriers, and can be trusted with the job as president. I think the tide finally turned with this debate, not because her opponent had a meltdown—which he did—but because she rose to a very challenging occasion in a big way, which she has done her whole life.

It's no surprise that the NYT puts Hillary Clinton's chances of winning at 90%. Talk about triumph through adversity. Which is what America is really about.

The photo is from the video of Hillary Clinton's interview on In Focus in 1979.
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