I get it,” Hillary Clinton said Thursday night, in a moment of candor as she accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. “Some people just don’t know what to make of me.”
That is certainly true.
So what then to make of the fact that this woman, about whom so much vile and ink has been spilled, who has been frustrating viewers trying to understand her for more than a quarter century, endured it all to become the first woman to accept the Democratic Party’s nomination?
Clinton has regularly endured, from the right and the left, aspersions ranging from crookedness to murder. Where others might get called flip-floppers, she’s a liar.
At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week, a male demonstrator in Public Square dressed in an ill-fitting gray hijab carried a sign with a disillusioned slogan — “This Is The Best We Can Do?” — above cartoonish pictures of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
But his paraphernalia revealed a clear bias. He had a pink skin-colored blow-up doll on a wire leash, a printout of Clinton’s smile taped over its face. He dangled her from time to time. The wire leash cut over the doll’s left plastic breast.
Some people still don’t like what they see
Suspicion of Clinton continued in Philadelphia. Throughout Clinton’s acceptance speech, supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders scattered around the Wells Fargo Center walked out or booed.
That was the kind of week it was and the kind of primary it’s been: Bitterly torn, despite Clinton’s historic candidacy and unparalleled experience, which may indicate a shifting Democratic Party as well as America’s aversion to a female candidate.
You wouldn’t know it from the chants, but in her speech Clinton sounded Sanders-esque. With simple, declarative statements she described the platform she and Sanders had adopted. She talked about getting money out of politics, expanding voting rights and reducing student debt.
She vowed to tax Wall Street and the superrich and to fight for affordable child care and paid family leave.
Are these the usual things that one says at a political convention? Yes.
But maybe there is hope in the one truism about Clinton that rings most true — that she is interested in policy more than performance.
If Clinton’s administration is held to certain principles, maybe she can use that legendary wonkiness to find real solutions.
Foreshadowing that, Clinton talked about fighting Citizens United by changing the makeup of the Supreme Court, which decided it, or considering a constitutional amendment. That’s the only (unlikely) way to reverse the court’s decision, but it’s the kind of straight shooting and attention to detail that Clinton would be allowed to pursue if we just let her be president already.
Where are we now?
The whole cast of speakers this week, from former President Bill Clinton to President Barack Obama, Chelsea Clinton and Hillary Clinton herself, spoke about the nominee as someone who wanted to be president as a continued form of service.
Many rolling their eyes at home might think it’s not crazy that what drives you to be president isn’t service but the desire to be president.
If that disqualifies someone, then we’d be a leaderless nation.
That ambition or desire to serve strengthened her will to be a “woman in the arena,” as Obama said this week, for longer than lots of anti-Clinton voters have been alive. Beyond that, what do we really know about the nominee?
We know that she has changed positions on important issues, as have Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and her husband. So those who sense that she’s just saying what the crowd wants to hear must organize to hold her accountable, as has always been the case.
Maybe now the level of vitriol directed against her can be channeled into productive discussion or dissipate as we wait and see the next steps in her campaign.
For now, we can celebrate the fact that a woman stood on that stage where no woman had stood before, and it makes us greater, even if her dry slogan about greatness is no better than the opposition’s.
Her standing there doesn’t make her a messiah or absolve America’s legacy of misogyny, the blow-up doll after blow-up doll decorated with her face.
But it’s a first step.
This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers.