Listening to Hilary Clinton’s speeches I was struck by how she has developed over the campaign from a rather stilted and wooden persona into a powerful and confident force. I thought her acceptance speech was brilliant and that she and her supporters should be proud of her achievements. At the start of the campaign I had difficulty reading news stories that talked about ‘Clinton’, having to work to remember that they were referring to Senator Clinton not President Clinton. Now the reverse is true—’Clinton’ now means Hillary Rodham Clinton, not one of the most successful and important world leaders of the past 50 years. I don’t know but I suspect that the power in the US senate may well collect around Clinton. I was curious about her campaign from the outset and prepared to give her a hearing, but was horrified by the way the campaign developed—my political philosophy and sense of what is needed now entirely opposed to what was being offered. However she gave it her best shot and I am sure that Barack Obama has benefited from Penn’s rough tactics, even if Clinton’s candidacy didn’t.
Hillary Clinon and her supporters have a great deal to be proud of.
However there is a narrative being pushed by some influential Clinton advocates that is frankly demeaning to their candidate, if not a little ridiculous. Trapper John on the Daily Kos has written an article Why Clinton Lost: The Nutcracker. The contention is that Clinton lost because of sexism, building his case on a tacky gift item, a Hillary Clinon nutcracker. Is Trapper John aware that a high-profile Clinton surrogate, James Carville, was selling Clinton on a tack that was so similar as to be indistinguishable. Indeed her stamina, tenacity pugnaciousness was attracted praise and admiration from all quarters, even from her traditional foes. In short, with a slight change of approach it would be possible to see the nut-cracker as a celebration of the very qualities that people responded and appreciated in Clinton’s campaign.
I am by no means saying that Clinton didn’t have to deal with sexism, but once she discarded the caution that came with the early ‘inevitability’ pitch she largely moved beyond it and defined herself, as great politician do. To continue to nurse this grievance is to diminish Hillary Clinton in a way that her detractors never can.
But this gets ever more absurd the more it is examined. Do Clinton supporters really imagine that Obama didn’t have to cope with a great deal of racism, systematically exploited by all of his political opponents, posing a much far greater threat to his candidacy. There was a time after the maths got a bit tricky that the entire message of the Clinton campaign seemed to hinge on Obama’s unelectability because of ingrained racism. While everybody is aware that the Obama was very to avoid exploiting sexism the same can not be said of the Clinton campaign (and the Obama candidacy is now much stronger for it): the New York Times, having endorsed the Clinton candidacy found itself in the embarrassing position of admonishing the Clinton, first implicitly and then explicitly for exploiting racism.
In retrospect there is an argument that it was better to make a start on these issues now rather than to wait until November to start unpacking them. Obama was the front-runner, almost the presumptive nominee throughout the period of the toughest campaigning, so there was an argument for making sure he was properly vetted.
Both candidates had to deal with tough problems and the demons that they have been grappling with have not been vanquished; more works remains to be done. Neither the scourge of sexism nor racism should be dismissed, nor should they be played off, one against the other, and the presumptive Democratic nominee now has a peculiar responsibility to make the tackling of sexism an important part of his platform. But the continued pursuit of a morally and intellectually bankrupt victim mythology by some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters only diminishes her great achievements.