Who is Hillary Clinton?
Yes, she’s a former Senator, Secretary of State, First Lady, mother, forgiving wife, and doting grandmother who also might be a criminal, a liar, an opportunist, a thug, or a power hungry bastion of unyielding ambition who will say or do anything to acquire power. Pragmatists might argue that the truth lies somewhere in between, but where, exactly, do these litanies of qualities overlap? Who is Hillary Clinton in the absolute?
If Hillary Clinton wants to succeed in forging a stronger bond with the people she loves and wants to protect, then she must open up about her strengths and vulnerabilities.
Wesley Pruden has labeled her the Democratic Nixon. Eleanor Clift, a longtime defender of Ms. Clinton, has compared her equally to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Has any political figure in recent–or even distant–memory attracted such polarizing reactions? Even her own husband, who left office with a 66% approval rating and still may have cost his successor the election of 2000 did not invite such acrimony or praise. Even so, Bill Clinton, despite all his own confirmed scandals and moral failings, could easily win reelection today were there no 22nd Amendment. Hillary, by the same token, has always fought allegations of dishonesty and corruption, even before serving in elected office. So, what gives?
Is it Ms. Clinton’s gender that simultaneously inspires love and loathing? What is it that makes her admirers swear loyalty to the point of challenging Barack Obama with a brokered convention in 2008, even after she’d lost the delegate race? Is it her femininity that causes a shocking number of voters to vow that they would never vote for her, even against a neo-fascist like Donald J. Trump? She tickles the American Amygdala, generating primal reactions of love and loathing, fear and hope all at once.
Maybe that’s because, even after three decades in the public eye, Ms. Clinton has only ever let her critics and deputes define her; rarely has she offered an unfiltered glimmer into her core, and for that matter, neither has her husband. Part of what endured George W. Bush to voters was wife Laura’s seemingly candid tales of coping with George’s alcoholism. Barack Obama scored points with the electorate when Michelle portrayed him as less than perfect in the mornings. Bill has occasionally offered some insight into their love affair, but given his own credibility issues, and given that he and Hillary have lived apart for long portions of their political lives, voters tend to balk.
Perhaps Hillary’s one antidote to all the speculation, lauding, lynching and polarization could come from her most protected asset: her daughter, Chelsea. Since 1992 when right wing pundits mocked then-teenage Chelsea for her appearance, both Clintons have worked to shield her from public view. Likewise, on the odd occasion while on the stump, Chelsea bristles at probing questions involving her parents’ marriage. Maintaining the privacy of her family is understandable, even commendable, but it does nothing to address the real elephant in the room–who is Hillary Clinton, really?
Despite mixed sentiment, Hillary Clinton is savvy and effective
Regardless of love or hatred for Ms. Clinton, on one issue both sides of the political spectrum can agree: she is one Hell of a trooper. No matter the setback, she gets right back up again and keeps on the march with extraordinary durability. But that’s also a weakness–her tenacity offers only limited insight into her most intimate beliefs and principles.
Hillary Clinton can silence her critics, but if she wants to succeed in forging a stronger bond with the people she loves and wants to protect, then she must open up about her strengths and vulnerabilities. Until she does, the superhuman quality which has propelled her for so long will continue to alienate a huge portion of the electorate. To win, and to forever solve the riddle of Hillary, she must learn to show her unfiltered humanity.