Baptism of Mud: The Inevitability of a Woman President and the Incredible Burden of Being First

by Chris Henson

Emails, people! EMAILS! Just in time for Election Day! Who could have ever seen this coming?

Basically, the GOP views a Hillary administration as inevitable (and even preferable to a Trump presidency) and they’ve predicted it for nearly three decades. At this point, all this email bullshit is intended to impact the down-ballot races, weaken Hillary before she is inaugurated, and keep her down by maintaining a dark cloud over her for her first term. Expect obstructionism like you’ve never seen over the next four years and a safe as milk Republican presidential nominee in 2020. This was always the plan. Just sayin’…

The lesser of two evils?

Let’s be honest. I don’t know how anyone can look at an electoral contest between a woman — who has for her entire adult life served her nation in one way or another and yet been hounded and lied about and accused and jeered and called every name in the book from “murderer” to “bitch” and fruitlessly investigated over and over and over without a single conviction — and an extremely rich reality TV star — who proudly admits to avoiding paying taxes and screwing over people who work with him, delights in making humor out of the downtrodden, actively hates whole groups of human beings, refuses to disassociate himself from known domestic terrorists, “respects” women by claiming he can grope them at will, and can’t even belch out a complete sentence without interrupting someone else — and somehow conclude that voting this year means “choosing the lesser of two evils.”

Yet here we are, less than two weeks away from pulling the lever on the most unseemly election ever, and many of us are still clinging to this nonsense. Like the prospect of having a woman president, the misogynistic character assassination long game is unmistakable and utterly inevitable. It’s the way America has always handled the business of correcting itself — by first revealing how incredibly ugly and hateful that which is to be corrected can get.

As the nation where “any child can grow up to be president” we have always understood, by simply observing everything from women’s suffrage to women’s liberation, that the road to electing a woman president would mean that candidate running an unspeakably difficult and deliberately painful gauntlet. Still, it’s curious to me that all the accusations leveled against Hillary are so familiar, so similar to the allegations that so easily bounce off so many male candidates. Dishonesty. Underhanded business dealings. Missing correspondence. Marital impropriety. Substance abuse. Sociopathy. Mental and physical illness. “Murder.” Could there be anyone more evil than Hillary Clinton? Other than every man who has ever run for office, I mean?

The examples are manifold, but the most obvious is this one. Hillary Clinton is not the first sitting Secretary of State to oversee an embassy attack, yet she’s the first to face investigation for it. And, if Clinton is being denigrated with the same often outlandish aspersions that most men in her position are, but more of the jabs are landing and sticking to her than they typically do to her male counterparts, the first question has to be: “Why?” Is it being a woman that makes her somehow more vulnerable?

Of course not. But, I believe that being a woman is what makes her a constant target. And I believe that the chronic fusillade of character assassination is due in large part to the fact that she is an intelligent woman boldly interrupting a men’s long-running game. And she has been at it for the past 25 years.

In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find a high-level political candidate who hasn’t been accused of some pretty serious shit. Obama was accused of childhood fire bombings, for heaven sake. Bush of draft-dodging and orchestrating 9/11 and his wife of drunk-driving and manslaughter.

Granted, there are many liberals who despise Hillary as well. Clinton is, after all, kind of a neoliberal — pro business and pro military — which makes her closer to an old school conservative than a true progressive. And she’s not Bernie Sanders. But what’s shocking is that many of these liberals blame their defection on Hillary’s “dishonesty.” And Benghazi. And her emails. And her charity. They’ve adopted a large number of trumped-up Republican talking points because  they conveniently support their disgust.

Hillary is not the most honest person alive, but that doesn’t mean she’s a liar. “Liar” is just a handy label that, once applied, is harder to get off than a Texaco condom.  The thing is, every politician is at some point guilty of misrepresentation. Feel free to name one who isn’t below. This doesn’t make them or her pathological. It makes them driven. It can be ugly, but it’s what happens when a nation dives into a frightfully expensive, two-year-long popularity contest every four years. The stakes are unbelievably high. Winning is everything. It is — goddamnit — what it is.

Pure honesty at the high level to which Hillary Clinton is being held is extremely rare, especially under as much prolonged micro-scrutiny. But by considering the predominant source of the accusations (the Right Wing) and the historical significance of their target (a president with a vagina), perhaps we can at least filter out all the allegations that have been investigated and dropped and thereby get a more realistic grip on who Hillary is and what this election means. I’m not suggesting that we should vote for Hillary because she’s a woman. That’s a bad idea. On the other hand, it’s obvious that much of the drumbeat against her is, at its root, simply because she’s a woman.

A war on women?

But that sounds more like a conspiracy, doesn’t it? Not really. Conspiracies are clandestine, hidden, secret. At this point, the anti-Hillary movement is more warlike — loud, brazen and chock full of misspellings. And maybe even a little out of control.

I guess I’d be more inclined to believe that the constant smear campaign against Hillary isn’t part of a “war on women” if someone in the Republican leadership — say, Donald, for instance, but literally anyone — would suggest to Trump supporters that they not refer to her as a “bitch” when they chant about her at their rallies. It’s a tiny, tiny thing. But it would go a very long toward making them seem less, well, deplorable.

What I’m saying is maybe — just maybe — this torrent of accusations leveled at Hillary Clinton lo’ these 25 years is simply the baptism of mud that any first woman president was always destined to endure. “She must be a liar because everyone keeps saying she is.” The fact is, if she was a man, few people would bat an eye at any of the accusations. We know this because we’ve seen it over and over again.

Think about it: Susan B Anthony. Margaret Sanger. Eleanor Roosevelt. Nancy Reagan. Geraldine Ferraro. Margaret Thatcher. Golda Meir. Rosa Parks. Vanessa Williams. Angela Merkel. Benazir Bhutto. India Gandhi. Condoleezza Rice. Nancy Pelosi. Amelia Earhart. Mary Magdalene. Madeline Albright. Michelle Obama. Corazon Aquino. Madame Curie. Aretha Franklin. Laura Bush. Joan of freaking Arc — all women who stared down the seemingly insurmountable odds of being headstrong, powerful, driven women and were — to a person — thoroughly lambasted, dismissed and derided for even thinking they could be leaders in their own way.

Eight years ago, we often heard that Obama was going to “destroy America” as our president. And today I’ve been told that he has, although my follow-up questions of “Yeah? How?” have never been answered. Not once. Feel free to answer below. We know that Obama hasn’t actually destroyed America or taken anyone’s guns or rights away or ruined our reputation.

But some people say he has because “racism wasn’t a thing until he became president.” Uh, it sure as shit was. Or “my healthcare premiums doubled thanks to Obama.” Well, all our healthcare premiums doubled lots of times before Obamacare — and you know it. Or “we’re being attacked by terrorists now that he’s been our president.” Unless you are only now turning eight years old, you know goddamned well who was president when The Towers fell. And it wasn’t Bush’s fault either.

These are just a few tiny morsels of the smorgasbord of lies people are feasting on — very conveniently packaged falsehoods that are easy to ingest and regurgitate later. And that’s after only seven years. Now multiply that time frame by three and it’s easy to see how Hillary’s reputation has been sullied over a mere 25 years or so.

Here’s the thing. I believe that, as our president, Hillary Clinton is going to far exceed the incredibly low expectations many people have set for her. I also believe that many people will never concede this. And I honestly don’t think she cares if they do or not. I believe she’s ready. She’s qualified. She’s intelligent. She’s got a strong backbone and a long record of public service. She’s respected around the world if not so much at home. Most of all, she’s a fighter. And yes, she often fights for her own career and family — which some people (when they’re not doing the same themselves) like to call being “self-serving.”

But she has to fight. Women have ALWAYS had to fight. And maybe that’s why, ultimately, women are the ones who get shit done.

So, yeah. I’m with her. Absolutely, unequivocally. And inevitably.

© 2016 Chris Henson


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