Assuming this is the end, Hillary Clinton should be able to look back on a forty year career in public service with pride. She fought for children and the disabled, worked in the White House, served in the US Senate, travelled the world as Secretary of State. When she was in college, many people believed that she was destined for greatness. I don’t know how the rest of the Wellesley ’69 turned out, but Hillary Rodham did OK.
I am a liberal Democrat who voted for her. I was upset when she lost. I will be upset for some time. Would she have been a good president? I can’t be sure, but I wish we could find out.
But let’s not hide from the truth: she lost because she was not a good enough candidate. Not enough people liked her, and she did a poor job of convincing people to like her. That was basically her job, and she did not do it well enough.
The thing is, we all knew that people didn’t like her — every time some group took a poll, her “negatives” were as high as anyone had ever recorded. We Democrats answered this charge by saying either (a) people have been misled by decades of smearing, or (b) Donald Trump is worse.
There is truth in both of those claims, but that’s not really how you want to position a campaign. Yes, Hillary has been smeared for decades with many charges that have proved to be largely untrue. Unfortunately, a good number of the charges brought against her are not easily set aside. She did rake in millions by speaking to Wall Street executives. The family foundation did work with foreign governments while she was Secretary of State. Both she and her husband gave paid speeches to foreign nationals after she left the administration, but with a run for the presidency likely ahead.
None of this is illegal, but all of this should be strongly avoided by anyone considering running for office. In late June, when Bill Clinton “ran into” Attorney General Loretta Lynch at the Phoenix airport, I recall my exact thoughts. “OMFG. This is exactly what the 1990s were like — one wholly avoidable Clinton mistake after another. This is what we are in for, isn’t it?” A future of “But it wasn’t illegal!”
When I later learned that Donna Brazile had given Hillary the questions before the debates with Bernie Sanders, I wasn’t even surprised. How could Clinton have let this happen? How could she not recoil in horror, run screaming from the room, at such an offer? What else did she do that we don’t know about? The email scandal was overblown and apparently not illegal, but not wholly invented — she was sloppy with her emails at a time when she was Secretary of State. This seems … unwise.
Were Trump’s crimes worse? Without question — Trump is a cretin. But Hillary did enough to allow Trump to play the “Crooked Hillary” card and have people believe it. He didn’t have to make stuff up, he just had to remind people that there was enough smoke there, some of it must be real. “He’s worse than me!” What kind of campaign is that?
So how did Hillary Clinton become the nominee? Simply, because Democrats (party leaders, and enough people) believed that it was her turn. She “deserved” to be president.
The night John Kerry lost the 2004 election, Hillary Clinton became the presumptive nominee for 2008. She had the name recognition, the money, and the support of most of the party big shots. Bill Clinton had left office in 2001 after an appalling scandal just as popular as ever, a fact that still shocks me. “It was not impeachable!” was our lame defense. I had no particular animosity for Hillary, but I really just wanted the Clintons to go away.
I supported Obama early. The message I got from a lot of Clinton supporters was that Obama had “jumped the line.” Obama should wait his turn, after Hillary has her chance. Obama chose to debate Clinton on the issues, but Clinton wanted to debate on electability and experience. As for the 1990s circus, Hillary wanted a share of credit for all of the good stuff Bill did, but none of the blame for any of the bad stuff. Obama ran an extraordinary campaign and beat her fair and square. And then he beat John McCain in a race Clinton probably would not have won. People liked Obama and, after eight years of acting decently, they still do.
Fast forward eight years, and now Clinton has four years at State on her resume, and it is once again “her turn.” At 69, she would be one of the oldest nominees in history. None of the young talent in the party wanted to run against her, leaving her to defeat Bernie Sanders, an admirable man but also 75 years old and a Democratic Socialist. There were numerable shenanigans, but Clinton prevailed.
She was nominated, more than any other person I can think of in my lifetime, because people believed she “deserved” to be president. It was her turn, it was her time. So we ignored all the baggage and just figured she’d win and be a good president. I plead guilty — I chose to blame Bill for all the mishegas and roll the dice. Let’s get her elected, and we’ll figure out what to do with Bill later.
Remember when Donald Trump said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose voters? Outrage ensued, but no one ever acted on the free advice he provided. If Trump could get away with anything, why do we keep yelling about his latest monstrous comment? He made fun of a special needs person! He disparaged Mexicans! He bragged about groping women! Rape victims are coming forward! Zzzzzzzz. He could have admitted to killing Medgar Evers — his supporters could not have cared less.
Is this fair? This is the wrong question. Forty percent of the country would have voted for Trump if he mowed down a schoolyard of kids. Your job is to win most of everyone else, and you’ve got your own loyalists. Clinton invested most of her time trying to convince people that Trump was a jackass. Umm, we know that already. Ultimately, the election was about her.
Obama beat two MUCH better candidates, first a war hero with decades in government and then a popular clean cut businessman, both relatively comfortably. Despite all the handwringing about how Democrats have lost the white middle class, I believe that a better candidate would have won.
Many people still seem to feel that she has been robbed of what was coming to her. Do you remember when John Kerry lost in 2004? Kerry had a more impressive resume than Hillary Clinton — I never bought the “most qualified person ever to run for president!” stuff. Kerry was a decorated soldier, with 20 years of substance in the US Senate. During his campaign he was smeared with actual lies, as opposed to exaggerations, and he came closer to winning than Clinton did. Do you remember when Saturday Night Live rolled out the stirring Leonard Cohen song to commemorate Kerry’s valiant defeat? Huh, me neither.
Hillary Clinton suffered a political loss, but she will live out her life in a mansion with her grandchildren. She will be fine. I am less confident about the rest of us.