As the election draws nearer, and evidence mounts that Donald Trump really is the worst candidate ever to have a real shot at President of the United States, one common refrain from those who still support Trump (and those who intend to vote third-party or stay home) is that they just don’t like Hillary Clinton.
I am not one of those people who thinks it’s unreasonable to dislike Hillary. And we’ll tease that apart in a moment to consider the factors, fair and unfair, that make Hillary unlikable, but first I want to make this clear: Hillary Clinton is arguably the most qualified and competent person ever to run for President. She has dedicated her entire life to public service, and part of the reason she fails to connect on a human level is that she’s just so damn caught up in policy details. Oh, and her opponent is a priapic sex-monster who is either virulently racist or willing to embrace virulently racist voters to win, an irrelevant distinction.
The point is, you don’t need to like Hillary Clinton to think she’s the right choice in this election, or to cast your ballot for her.
Let’s consider the reasons people dislike Hillary. First, the fair reasons. Bill and Hillary are shady. That’s simply a fact. For whatever reason, the Clintons have lived their professional lives toeing the line between legal and illegal. Some would argue they have crossed that line, although courts have generally disagreed, but it sure doesn’t look good. As someone who is generally a fan of the Clintons, it frustrates the hell out of me.
Hillary has been caught in lies more than once. Most notably about her email server–I won’t get into all the details here (lest this should become a 5,000-word longread) but as much as her supporters will defend her, there is simply no disputing that she outright lied about the nature of the information she shared on her email server.
Now, it’s true that she was only made to lie because the email issue, which is in no way criminal, was blown up by her opponents into a big fake scandal. It’s very much the way her husband was finally caught in a relatively small and innocuous lie because his sexual dailances had been blown up into an artificial scandal.
And that’s the beginning of the unfair reasons Hillary Clinton is disliked. She and her husband have been the central focus of all right-wing suspicion and anger for the better part of four decades now. It’s hard, maybe impossible, to think of another politician who has been subject to such a campaign of character assassionation.
If you believe Hillary Clinton committed fraud in her law practice, if you believe she and her husband were behind the secret murder of political opponents and witnesses, if you believe she laughed about defending a child rapist, you have been deceived. All of those stories are lies, concocted and perpetuated by the right-wing media. It’s like believing that Al Gore invented the Internet–actually, it’s worse, because there’s actually a kernel of truth behind that claim.
Most of the smears against Hillary, at least in her pre-Secretary of State days, were motivated purely by sexism. From the time she was First Lady of Arkansas, Hillary’s critics on the right have been driven almost mad by her mere personality, her refusal to abide by traditional gender roles and her insistence on involving herself in policy. The sexist bias against Hillary was so strong in Arkansas that it’s generally credited with costing Bill Clinton his re-election as Governor, and before he retook that office Hillary was forced to reinvent her entire image, to give up the agency she had so long held onto and pretend to be someone she wasn’t. Someone who more closely approximated the “good little woman” too many people expected.
Sexism continues to follow Hillary, but I won’t pretend it’s impossible to dislike her for non-sexist reasons. Yes, many people who object to her ambition do so because ambition is seen as an offensive quality in women. But even if she were a man, Hillary has a level of ambition that many people would find distasteful. She and those around her have projected an air of entitlement almost since she was elected Senator, as if she simply deserved the office of President, and anyone who opposed her was committing a sin.
In her quest to achieve that office, Hillary has shape-shifted to the extent that her true self is almost unknowable. For someone who, in her early political years, fought so hard to preserve her identity, she is now a classic political chameleon whose policies and perspectives shift to follow polling data.
Hillary is nowhere near as charismatic as her husband, who always seems truly and naturally interested in the stories of the everyday Americans he engages. Though she has practiced her inter-personal skills, the fact is that Hillary is much more interested in policy and governance than individuals. And that’s okay.
In fact, that’s the biggest reason I think you should vote for her.
For all her faults, Hillary Clinton is absolutely dedicated to the business of being President. Yes, she’s ambitious, but she has shown again and again–in her advocacy for health care, for children, for women’s rights–that her ambition has less to do with personal gain than with her drive to work for Americans. Hillary wants to serve, and she wants to serve all of us, to the best of her ability.
True, her idea of what’s best for America may be different from yours. Personally, she’s much more hawkish than I’d like, and far too cozy with corporate interests. She has not prioritized the needs of Americans of color the way I think she should, but to her credit she has responded to pressure from Black Lives Matter and made that a more prominent aspect of her platform.
But this is the era we are living through, one of overwhelming corporate authority. And our system, flawed as it is, produces only two viable options on Election Day. No matter who you vote for, one of two people is going to be President come January 2017: Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump. One is a living pile of garbage. The other is a hugely qualified lifelong public servant who has some real flaws, particularly a lack of likability.
But I’ll say it again: You don’t have to like Hillary Clinton to believe she will do a good job at being President. And that’s what you should remember when you go to the polls.