There’s a saying in Boston that every lifelong Democrat gets one mulligan. Mine went to Bill Weld in 1990; I have friends already planning to use theirs on the miraculously bipartisan Charlie Baker’s reelection. In the hope that Republicans have the same concept, I’m expending a lot of emotional energy these days trying to convince the diehard GOP women in my family – swing state voters, all! – to use theirs for Hillary.
Truthfully, I can’t understand why every woman isn’t supporting her. How can we not? Granted, it’s easier for lefty liberals who already agree with Hillary’s policies to tap into the feel-good feminist frenzy her candidacy is generating. Sarah Palin or Carly Fiorina might be tougher for me. But here’s the thing: Sarah Palin or Carly Fiorina would never make it this far. The painful truth that the ‘sure, I want a woman, just not that woman’ camp won’t admit is that Hillary Clinton is not one of many options we’ll be presented with to elect a woman to the most powerful position in the world. For the foreseeable future, she’s the only option.
It’s no coincidence that it hasn’t happened until now. Also no coincidence that the only woman in 240 years to get anywhere near the grand prize is heading to the finish line thoroughly bruised, battered, and far from pristine. How would Sarah or Carly or Elizabeth Warren or whichever woman you’d ‘rather’ see break the barrier look after 25 days of the relentless, unprecedented media scrutiny and blatantly misogynistic attacks she’d be subject to? How about after 25 years?
Hillary has endured the same scrutiny of her education, ethics, intelligence, professional experience and life choices that a male politician would, plus endless criticism about her haircut, physique, wardrobe, and parenting decisions that are a special cherry-on-top treat for the ladies who dare to seek office. She grins and bears the standard, gender-neutral political accusations that she’s a liar, out-of-touch, elitist, insufficiently patriotic or ‘slippery’; while at the same time taking the higher ground amongst Trump campaign buttons extolling voters that “Life’s a Bitch, don’t vote for one” “Hillary sucks but not as good as Monica” or “KFC Clinton special: 2 small breasts, 2 fat thighs, and 1 left wing!”
My intensely emotional reaction to the DNC convention surprised me. From almost the first moment, I was brought to tears by the Katy Perry anthems and endless renditions of “Fight Song.” During Michele Obama’s spectacular speech, I cried for my own girls, who despite their intelligence and integrity and my best efforts still spent key developmental years convinced that the most important metric was not their GPA or their teams’ win-loss records, but instead the number of ‘likes’ generated by highly produced photos of themselves versus their friends and frienemies.
Later, there was President Obama’s speech and his assertion that there has never been a person, man or woman, as qualified to serve as POTUS as Hillary Clinton. Accompanied by his ever so cool ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I was just telling the truth, man’ to Bill, her very own tangled Rasputin. When Obama embraced HRC on the stage and visibly whispered in her ear that he was so proud of her, I cried and thought of my sister-in-law, whose dazzling Wall Street career was cut short when the stress of balancing her daytime life in that toxic boys’ club with her real-time life as a mother and a person of character literally made her so sick she can no longer work. I remembered the sting I felt in learning that a man who I thought was my friend called me “pushy” and said he needed to “keep me in my box” because I had the audacity to follow up on some emails.
On the final night, watching HRC walk out onto the stage to accept her nomination, looking so small and alone in that white pantsuit, I couldn’t help tearing up and thinking of my mom, who should have been a doctor but instead became a nurse, quitting after just a year or two when the pressure to be at home with my sister and me became unbearable.
I know it’s manipulative. I know it’s pageantry. But it’s also history. Thinking of her next January, standing outside on a cold day with her hand on a bible, the attention of the entire world focused on a woman not because of how she looks or what she’s wearing or who she’s marrying but because of what she’s about to do, it doesn’t feel cheesy to be crying all the time. To tell the truth, it feels really good.