Forty-four people have been America’s President – a group that includes exactly zero women.
So of all the things Hillary Clinton must overcome between now and the next presidential election, must misogyny really be one of them? I mean, seriously.
Unfortunately, I’m asking not so much because of the predictable braying of the right – but instead after seeing, with dispiriting regularity, Hillary denigrated from the left. Even allowing for the regular roughness of political discourse on Facebook, it’s surely shameful how often Hillary is referred to as “a bitch.” Or “that bitch.” And it flat-out floors me that such a designation should ever come from a liberal – specifically, in my experience, several who consider Hillary to be insufficiently left of center, or not left at all.
Well, my friends, there is nothing liberal about calling any woman a bitch. This vitriolic election season, especially, if you find yourself on the brink of doing so… how about, instead, you follow that old reassuring line that teaches children how best to cross a road: stop, look, and listen.
Think a few more thoughts before adding yet more noise and unpleasantness to what is, unmistakably, an already loud and unpleasant political climate. So you object on various fronts to Hillary becoming our next president? Ok. But at what point does the strength of your objection twist and turn from useful to useless?
Two answers come to mind. One: when liberals help to prop up misogyny. Two: when Donald Trump becomes America’s 45th president.
So you’re fed up with the two-party system, and want a revolution? Ok. But why pave the way with so many blunt instruments: self-righteousness, certainty, and invective. (Or as the conservative journalist David Brooks puts it, “moral preening, an uncompromising absolutism and a paranoid unwillingness to play by the rules of civic life.”) After all, if the thing you’re critiquing is a too-rigid status quo – maybe your critique shouldn’t also be so rigid.
Putting aside “bitch” for a moment, is Hillary Clinton really the “lesser of two evils” in her opposition to Trump? Rather than objectively and quantifiably a better bet for America and the world. And are Hillary’s shortcomings really thrown into such dreadful relief by Bernie Sanders, who, by some reductive logic, is held to be such a paragon of virtue? Or is she, simply, flawed – like all politicians are, Bernie included. Like everybody.
Sure, when it comes to holding our elected officials – our presidential candidates – to a higher standard: count me in! For a change, though, let’s also hold America to a higher standard.
On both sides of the political aisle, a dogged belief in American exceptionalism is so ubiquitous it starts to pass by almost unnoticed. America is either the greatest country on earth already (anywhere else Joe Biden’s DNC speech would seem ridiculous; here it’s par for the course) – or, God willing, it’s about to be “Great Again” (the Trump claim currently adorning many heads, thanks, infamously, to baseball caps made in China). How corrosive is this belief? More to the point, how greatly does it impede the reaching of more sober conclusions?
By any reasonable standards, America’s forming of “a more perfect union” has a long way to go. On the debit side of things I would pick: the zealous intolerance of the Christian right; gun crime; the still-bleeding and not-yet-fully-reckoned-with original sin of slavery; macho, might-is-right militarism that is recklessly close to imperialism; and the sad disconnect between giant, avaricious corporations and millions of Americans living in poverty. You’ll no doubt have other or similar picks, as well.
Forget the jingoistic flag-waving, slogans, and empty rhetoric, America is a real place with real problems. In the long pursuit of fixing these, why should it get to play by a different set of rules? You can respond to the ills of America with cynicism or anger – but these alone won’t fuel the hard-work of doing better. Just the same, though, idealism on its own can only accomplish so much.
Let’s not overstate the capacity of any one person – or office, or generation – to bolster, or restore, America’s mythical ‘greatness.’ And let’s not disproportionately blame any one person – or office, or generation – for everything currently, or historically, impeding this greatness.
Instead, let’s size up America as it really is – now – and reach a more sober conclusion. If Hillary Clinton is not the next president of America, then Donald Trump will be. That’s a choice between bending the arc of progress towards justice – or not. Between helping to establish a more progressive Supreme Court – or not. Between presenting America more favorably to the world – or not.
Even if you’d prefer to pick between different choices, it’s way past time to stop calling Hillary a bitch.