It’s almost cliched. You can’t turn on the TV without hearing mainstream TV and print reporters solemnly proclaiming the despicability of both major party nominees for president. Sorry. I just don’t see equivalency between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, solid though the reasons philosophical and stylistic might be that someone would not wish to vote for Clinton.
So I was interested to see a writer, L.V. Anderson in Slate, willing to speak the unspeakable. Says the headline on the article inspired by the second debate: “Forget This “Hillary Is Unlikable” Stuff. Hillary Is Downright Inspiring.”
Yes, I’m familiar with all the arguments against Hillary as inspirer-in-chief. She’s part of the establishment. She’s laden with potential conflicts of interest. Her judgment during the whole email thing was poor. She seems, to many observers, wooden and robotic. Fine. The fact remains that Hillary stood onstage and calmly and persuasively made the case for her candidacy while her looming, lurching, lunatic opponent attempted to humiliate her in front of the entire world. If Hillary can do that, then the rest of us can do whatever we put our minds to.
Put yourself in Hillary’s shoes for a moment. You’re 68 years old. You have spent decades—decades—in the public eye, absorbing criticism from every possible angle. Your opponent is an impulsive, amoral ignoramus with a long history of humiliating women. He has made it his strategy during this debate to dredge up what are probably the darkest moments of your personal life—your husband’s affairs and alleged sexual assaults—as evidence of your failures as a wife and as a woman. He has brought three of these women to sit in the front row during the debate in an attempt to throw you off guard and cow you into submission. He literally tells you to your face that he will imprison you if he wins the election.
What would you do? If I were Hillary, I would blubber incomprehensibly through my rage-tears for the duration of the debate, if I lasted onstage that long. What did Hillary do? She stood tall and looked comfortable. She listened carefully to the voters who were asking her questions and offered them empathetic, intelligent, and articulate answers. She serenely and thoughtfully enumerated the character faults that make Trump unfit for office. She laughed it off when Trump insulted her in the most personal of terms. And at the end, she complimented him on his children. Never mind that his children don’t really deserve that compliment—Hillary responded to undeniably sexist personal attacks that are unprecedented in the history of modern American politics with an inspiring level of grace and poise.
Yes, that was also the debate I saw. And I concluded again when I listened to people like Chris Matthews declare that somehow the debate was a draw that there still remains a double-standard for women. To those who say “it’s not because Hillary is a woman” I say, yeah, and Arkansas Republicans keep saying hatred of Barack Obama here has nothing to do with the color of his skin.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times took up this theme this morning. Imagine, he writes, if it was Hillary Clinton who talked about groping men? And he produced an encyclopedic listing of deplorable actions by Donald Trump in personal, business and foundation dealings. Imagine — but you can’t — if you could have said the same things about Hillary Clinton. This is just the start:
Is there a double standard for women in politics?
Imagine if it were Hillary Clinton who had had five children by three husbands, who had said it was fine to refer to her daughter as a “piece of ass,” who participated in a radio conversation about oral sex in a hot tub, who rated men based on their body parts, who showed up in Playboy soft porn videos.
Imagine if 15 men had accused Clinton of assaulting or violating them, with more stepping forward each day.