Hillary didn’t lose this election. She got beat. And in the aftermath, the whole political establishment — media, pundits, party operatives, pollsters, political strategists and consultants, people who voted for her and people who didn’t — are blaming her. Exactly the way an abusive husband blames his wife (“If you hadn’t made me so angry, I wouldn’t have hit you.” “If you had not left me, I wouldn’t have beat you”). The same way our culture blames the rapist’s victim: she shouldn’t have been drinking, shouldn’t have been out that late or in that place, shouldn’t have attended the party, shouldn’t have worn that sexy dress.
This is wrong. Wrong morally. Also wrong if you really think about it.
So let’s think about it. Yes, she was in many ways an imperfect candidate. But, then, aren’t they all? Too cozy here, too distant there, too private, too public for 25 years, too calculating (but just imagine if she’d been too emotional!), too much baggage (Thanks, Bill). In other ways, she was the perfect candidate to be the nation’s first woman president: well-schooled in virtually every aspect the job, paid-her-dues experienced, strong and smart, willing and able, a card-carrying member of a political establishment —perhaps a political machine — she helped create. Again, all of that cuts both ways Any of it could make you the heroine. Or the goat.
However, the fact that Hillary is still being vilified today — a full week after her defeat — and not just critiqued, but vilified, suggests a whole lot more than political incompetence. People just can’t stop dumping on her; and it was all the dumping on her from the beginning, I posit, that brought her down.
Just one instance: The “basket of deplorables" comment. Unfortunate, intemperate, impolitic, politically incorrect, rude, disrespectful, and probably, let’s be honest, exactly how she was feeling. This was the phrase from the loose lips that sunk this ship? I don’t think so. How long is the list, after all, of insulting, degrading things Mr. Trump said about his fellow American citizens with no political consequences whatsoever? Having banished political correctness from political discourse, having employed sexism, racism, misogyny, and white supremacism, having belittled women, the disabled, a distinguished jurist, the President of the United States, and an American war hero, how is it that Mr. Trump and his supporters get a free pass and everyone has permission to pile on Hillary?
Then there’s the woman thing. “Oh, I would love to have a woman president,” Trump apologists would tell me. “Just not that woman.” Just not that woman — who happens to be prepared and qualified; they’d rather take a chance on that man, a candidate who is proving, daily, how unprepared and unqualified he is. Strange how it came out that voters would upend the “Devil you know” maxim to vote for someone they really don’t know at all. They worried about what was in her emails. (Nothing suspect or dangerous or illegal.) But they didn’t worry about what was in the tax returns he wouldn’t release. (We don’t know to this day.) Or his locker room banter. Voting for change? Perhaps. Voting for a man versus a woman? Decidedly. Sexist assumptions won out: even a narcissistic, bullying misogynist with the world’s worst comb-over seems better, stronger, more able to “do something” than a woman in a pantsuit. Because he’s a man.
Critics suggest Hillary was out of touch with struggling working class voters, and that her insensitivity to their economic pain was the basis for her defeat. Really?! More out of touch than a man who lives in a gold-plated penthouse on Fifth Avenue built with Other Peoples’ Money? More out of touch than a Republican establishment that thwarted every single piece of legislation designed to give displaced working Americans a hand up? I reject that theory. I walked a dozen working class neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio, canvassing for Hillary the weekend before the election. I met scores of struggling working class men and women who understood that Hillary had their back, that Democratic policies enabled them to work and buy their homes, pay for cars and trucks, educate their children, secure health care, and plan for the future — in other words, to take part in this great big American Dream. Here’s the thing though: most of the voters I talked to, except for the older women, weren’t white. They were Asian-American, African-American, Muslim-American. It appeared the white voters living precisely the same lifestyle on the same leaf-strewn streets in the same neighborhoods, dealing, apparently, with precisely the same economics, opportunities and barking dogs, felt displaced by their non-white neighbors. This racial, cultural chasm trumped (I’m beginning to hate that word) any economic disconnect, and Trump exploited it.
Hillary didn’t lose; she was beat. And what that says about our country is profoundly sad and, increasingly, terrifying. The political strategy didn't work. And the message didn't compute. But, more critically, the fight for the soul of our country was lost. That doesn't make us losers and victims; it makes us warriors, stronger, focussed warriors. We are called to defeat at every turn the racism, sexism, nativism, greed, arrogance, anger and fear that beat Hillary -- and not just two years or four years from now, but every single moment. We were beat, but not beaten down. We love this country, we embrace our great and vital, ever-changing democracy, and we're compelled to fight for it.