As the leaves here in northwestern Pennsylvania turn roadsides glorious colors, their chorus is heckled by our collective presidential campaign nightmare. I’ve seen so much TRUMP – PENCE blue that it hardly registers anymore, but a less frequent genre of signage bums me out anew every time.
I saw a 4×4 the other day that sported this sticker: “Life’s a bitch. Let’s not put one in the White House.” A yard sign I see maybe three times on my commute pulls the old bait and switch. “Hillary” is writ large, but beside her name in smaller letters appears, “for Prison.” And on the evening news, one Trump placard declared, “Better to grab a p**sy than be one”—meaning, I suppose, that Trump is the grabber and Clinton the grabbee. Why not, I have to ask, just spell it out? Isn’t skipping letters, well, kind of “W-U-S-S-Y”?
On October 8th, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Trump’s “locker room” effrontery an “elephant in the room.” I can’t for the life of me get around another elephant in our great American room. It’s as bulky as Donald’s, but blends in with the mountains and the prairies. It’s as unfair as Donald’s is richly deserved. And it’s so pervasive that as near as I can tell nobody thinks of it as an elephant.
The pachyderm I refer to is the hatred of Hillary Clinton. Millions are having a jolly old time despising the woman. If I read them aright, venting about her feels cathartic. They consider their vitriol to be righteous indignation and, therefore, somehow faithful.
Hillary’s elephant stomps even among those planning to vote for her. Consider this little chuckle, popular on Facebook: “I feel like Clinton and Trump are two divorced parents fighting for custody of us. And we just wanna go live with grandma [sic].” Or this caption of a photograph showing Hillary shrugging: “If she wins will she sit behind the same desk Monica [Lewinsky] crawled under.”
I can chuckle at the former joke, but the latter punches below the belt. Clearly, some folks delight that Bill cheated on Hillary repeatedly and humiliated her before a nation. Boy, if that ain’t a knee-slapper. And when her reactions were less than gracious, as has been alleged, the stories are told in perpetuity to discredit her. No slack whatsoever.
As a voter who wants to regard each candidate’s skeletons with a blend of realism and compassion, I have to admit that the Clintons have done plenty over the years to make even their most ardent supporters wince. Still, the Washington Post is not only endorsing Hillary, but also rejecting the better-of-two-evils rationale. In an article serving generous portions of both praise and blame, the editors lead with the conviction that “Hillary Clinton has the potential to be an excellent President of the United States.” The Post does as good a job as I’ve seen in balancing her merits and shortcomings and reaching a fair conclusion. Complete objectivity is impossible, but the editors come close.
My fear is that on Election Day, no number of endorsements, no surplus of verifiable information (there is plenty to be considered) or logic will influence millions of voters. As my alert says, I’m not addressing folks who have decided to vote for Trump.
No, I’m speaking to voters who are willing to step back and ask, “Are my feelings about Hillary fair?” I suggest that the widespread, intense dislike for her owes much to what Clinton herself once hyperbolically called a “great, right-wing conspiracy.” And in recent months, an intellectually sloppy “false equivalency” between the candidates has put Hillary hatred on steroids.
In fact, what the former First Lady called a conspiracy in 1998 was no such thing, since that word connotes secrecy. What Republicans have executed is a masterful, relentless, well-documented strategy that has lost neither funding nor zeal over the last thirty years. Folks scratch their heads and wonder why Hillary didn’t disclose her recent case of pneumonia. If I were her, I might not admit to having dry skin.
Vladimir Lenon said, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Many of the allegations against Hillary Clinton have, indeed, been proven true, but the dictator’s principle has been foundational to the Republicans’ strategy to fatten Hillary’s elephant. None of the letters after my name covers psychology, but it doesn’t take much coursework to understand that words repeated about a person—true, false or mixed—eventually become defining. Does anybody know, for example, aviator Wrong Way Corrigan’s first name?
Or more poignant where fairness and compassion are concerned, what do I remember about a kid I’ll call John from elementary school? His classmates, myself included, teased him about his weight. He was pretty big, but that was certainly the least important thing about him. Size was all that mattered to us, though. Fatso. Tub-a-Lard. Our favorite was Titties.
When I saw John’s obituary a few years ago, it occurred to me that I couldn’t say much about him other than he always looked defeated. He was picked second-to-last, but that was because our class included “Dora,” his female counterpart.
“Oh, hell no,” I hear some of you saying. “You are not going tell a story about how cruel kids can be and then ask us to consider whether that same adolescent dynamic might be influencing our take on Hillary Clinton.”
Actually, that’s exactly what I’m asking. The Democratic nominee deserves to be embraced or rejected based not on selected life episodes, but on the fullness of her days, her whole person. Same goes, by the way, for each party’s nominee.
I’m not kidding myself. Hillary Clinton is flawed, but I find much about her to appreciate, even like. If you think I’ve lost my marbles, fair enough. But if you wonder where in the world I get my information and would like to check out a couple of my sources, I’m pasting in links below.
Let’s hope the morning of November 9th finds America in one piece, still able to converse and love. May God forgive me and my careless classmates. And may God bless John, Dora, and Douglas Corrigan.
Sources (including all references above):
Examination of the anti-Clinton strategy I mentioned:
Washington Post endorsement:
A PBS Frontline program contrasting Clinton and Trump over the years (I consider this one to be the best time investment of all these sources):
Costs of email and Benghazi probes (Fiscal Times is arguably slightly right of center politically):
You want an objective “full Monty” on the Clintons’ shenanigans, here you go (by the way, if you find a Trump supporter so clearly and thoroughly sourcing that candidate’s stained laundry, let me know):