A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
I’m uncomfortable when people pronounce Bernie Sanders unelectable. It unfairly dismisses his followers’ potential to succeed and short-circuits his right to promote his platform. If he’s the nominee, I want him to be elected.
I just don’t want him to be the nominee.
Most of my friends are “feeling the Bern.” It puzzles them that I’m not, especially since I’m more left than many of them. I certainly support the Senator’s platform and if Hillary weren’t running, I’d be supporting him.
But Hillary is running. And, for me, that has made all the difference.
I’ve had a long-running love affair with the Clintons. They are to me what the Kennedys were to my parents. When Hillary was roundly criticized in 1992 for continuing to practice law and fired back, “I suppose I could have stayed home, baked cookies and had teas,” I found in her someone who would use the bully pulpit against gender stereotypes. As president, Bill certainly had his human foibles and was often considered politically expedient. But he was intelligent, his heart was generally in the right place, and he knew how to get things done. He was ever-civil even in the face of unreasonable adversaries. And he was strong enough to partner with a strong woman who radically changed the role of First Lady. As Hillary today reminds us, before it was dubbed Obamacare, it was called Hillarycare.
Their combined advocacy for children and education corresponded with my own work in the Head Start program. I knew my low-income, minority and disabled preschoolers had advocates in the White House. Hillary, in fact, had made children’s health and welfare her life’s work before her entrance into the national spotlight. Before her entrance into the crosshairs of the misogynist political machine.
I’ve met both Clintons a few times. I was a facilitator at the first Clinton Global Initiative. Because Hillary was my U.S. Senator, I’ve been at relatively small gatherings where we’ve shared a laugh and had photos taken. After I stood in line for three hours to have her sign her latest book, she laughingly asked me where I got my t-shirt. I’ve always found her to be warm and engaging, despite how she projects to, or is interpreted, by the media.
In short, I am an unwavering apologist for that two-some. But my support for Hillary goes beyond that. The Clintons are not running for president; Hillary is. And when I line up my criteria for my chosen candidate, Hillary best matches up.
Not in any particular order, I’ll start with her electability. While I don’t believe Bernie is unelectable, his victory is harder to ensure. Even his enthusiastic younger supporters have not been turning out at the polls in sizeable numbers – an overarching issue for Democrats. Bernie’s no more an outsider than she; Republicans just haven’t started slinging mud at him yet. Hillary has a very strong showing in states with diverse populations, which is most of them. She won 71% of the Hispanic vote in the Texas primary. The GOP has been commandeered by hate and fear mongers – and their top three candidates reflect this takeover. We must defeat them! As hard as it is for me to believe, this race is predicted to be close. We can take no chances in November; many who voted for Nader in 2000 had good reason to regret it later.
Horrified by the prospect of having to utter the words President Trump – David Duke’s endorsed candidate – moderate Republicans are beginning to say they’d hold their noses and vote for Hillary if it came to that. They would not cross over for a self-described socialist – even moderate Obama is too left for them. Given the Republican alternative, Hillary, perceived as a more moderate candidate, could attract some unlikely supporters in the general election.
Yet those who judge Hillary as too moderate should consider that she’s been endorsed by the left-leaning New York Times as well as full-blown guerrilla lefty Mayor Michael de Blasio. When Hillary and Bernie served together in Congress, they voted the same 93% of the time.
Another criterion is appointment of a progressive Supreme Court justice. Hillary’s inclusive record suggests she’ll seek to rectify many –isms in her nomination, while Bernie is likely to be primarily driven by the issue of campaign finance reform. Although that behemoth underpins many social ills, Hillary’s correct that “we are not a single-issue country.” I believe she’ll tackle CFR head on, but her platform is more comprehensive. It’s true that her funding sources are not as unencumbered as his, but with our current screwed-up system, big bucks are needed – this election will cost each candidate an estimated one BILLION dollars. How much are the Koch brothers contributing to discredit and defeat the Democratic nominee? Now is not the time to go all purist on contributions. We must win this! And, at least for now, that takes some filthy lucre.
As a retired school administrator, gun control is also high on my list. Hillary’s been endorsed by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence while Bernie has voted against the Brady Bill five times. While I’d give him the edge on climate change, her demand for justice and outrage over water poisoning in Flint is unparalleled.
Hillary is a long-time advocate for income equality. She’s been a consistent voice for equal pay, child care, civil rights, and veterans’ benefits. She was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy organization. The much-besieged Planned Parenthood has also endorsed her, citing her legislative leadership; Bernie has curiously dismissed Planned Parenthood as “part of the establishment.” She’s earned respect and support from organized labor as well as from minority organizations.
Like many Americans, I have sleepless nights worrying about domestic and international conflicts. I can only hope someone has diplomatic solutions to what was perpetrated by the last Republican administration. Hillary has vastly more international experience than Bernie, which also makes her record more suspect and subject to scrutiny. She’s made some great decisions; she’s made some questionable ones – mistakes that can help her avoid both figurative and literal landmines going forward. I watched all eleven hours of the Benghazi hearings during which she remained articulate, unflappable, and sharp under pressure. Afterward, Chair Trey Gowdy had to admit they had nothing on her – nothing after spending $20 million dollars, holding 32 Congressional hearings, and asking Hillary almost 2,800 questions. A committee member even admitted on camera that their intent was to slow her campaign.
Shame on them all for wasting our time and money!
Like Bernie, I don’t care about Hillary’s emails. Those are also “trumped” up charges, which Colin Powell has railed against as well.
Which brings me to “the vast right-wing conspiracy.” Another progressive and independent media site ran an article entitled, If You’re Liberal and You Think Hillary Clinton Is Corrupt and Untrustworthy, You’re Rewarding 25 Years of GOP Smears. Long title, interesting message: “…There’s nothing Republicans can throw at her that we haven’t already been fed to death. And when you take a step back and look at Clinton objectively – which is admittedly difficult for many, even, or maybe particularly, on the left – that’s exactly the point. Hillary Clinton’s reputation is largely the result of a quarter century of visceral GOP hatred…With the exception of maybe Barack Obama…it’s tough to name anyone conservatives have more vigorously derided throughout the years than Hillary Clinton.”
I’ve had my share of bullying as a result of my support for her. During her first Senate campaign, a man came to my door to ask if I had any extra Hillary signs. I apologetically told him that my first five had been stolen, and the one on my lawn was my last. He said, “OK. I was just going to take it home to Wisconsin and use it for target practice.” Sixteen years later, I’m dangerously tailgated due to my HRC bumper sticker.
Gail Sheehy, in her 1999 book Hillary’s Choice, called Hillary “the lightning rod of people’s fear of change: the change of generation, the change of political leadership, the change in the equation between men and women…” Hillary seems to understand that, as quoted by Ms. Sheehy: “I’m the boss they never wanted to have. I’m the wife who went back to school…and got a job as good as theirs. I’m the daughter they never wanted to turn out to be so independent.”
Not much has changed since the end of the last century. Yet Hillary has held up pretty well. She’s tough – too tough for some. Without realizing the inherent sexism, we want her to be warmer; we want her to smile more. Perhaps she will when there’s more to smile about. Because it’s such a mess out there. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would want the job.
It may take a miracle rather than a president. I like Bernie, but we’ve tried angry, white guys. We’ve tried men in general. I’m ready for a little feminine energy in the White House – and not to choose the dinnerware.
Give me Hill!
Copyright 2016 Patricia A. Nugent
Patricia A. Nugent is published in trade journals, literary journals, online journals, and regional publications. She wrote The Stone that Started the Ripple, a dramatization about a modern-day reunion of the suffragists and is the author of They Live On: Saying Goodbye to Mom and Dad, a compilation of vignettes portraying the stages of caring for and saying goodbye to a loved one. She can be contacted through Journal Arts where her poem about Trump has had almost 11,000 hits!