[Clinton: radiant with ideas & conviction in the final presidential debate.]

Hillary Clinton bravely faces Trump & the forces of darkness.

The journey of women, like America’s journey, is always evolving toward equality and social justice.—Meryl Streep, narrator of Shoulders: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Story, below.

By the final presidential debate, who could deny that our nation’s howling retrograde armies have assumed the bodily form of Donald Trump? In the face of ignorance and evil, Hillary Clinton acquitted herself almost flawlessly and looked fantastic. Her white suit alluded to the long struggle by women in America for equal treatment—and thereby stood, as well, for justice for all. In contrast, Trump was his usual vile self, and the Women of the House of Trump dressed in black—Melania capping her ensemble with a “pussy-bow” blouse, as if to refer dismissively, from the summit of haute couture, to her husband’s vulgarities. Symbolism has never had it so good.


[Darkness visible: Trump’s Women go marching in.]

There’s been so much inspired ink on what Trump’s surprising level of support means. The dominant narrative, of course, is that it springs from economic pain among America’s middle- and lower-middle classes. But clearly in this backlash there’s also a strong racist, sexist, misogynistic, nativist, homophobic component. Trump’s sole gift as a leader may be, in stirring the embers of fear and pain, to kindle rage.

As a progressive who fervently believes in American exceptionalism, I’m worried. A proven cure for angry, unexamined feelings is education, which leads to consideration of others’ viewpoints and to self-inquiry, but that’s a slow process.

This week’s New Yorker brings comic relief of sorts with an entertaining analysis of Clinton, Trump, and their campaigns’ supporting players by historical novelist Thomas Mallon. He outlines what he’d write about the campaign in a novel he’d call Presumptive. With Trump barely two-dimensional—a “flat character” in fiction’s lexicon—he doesn’t merit Mallon’s serious consideration to carry the novel’s point of view. Clinton, of course, does. But right off the bat, Mallon hits his hardest, darkest note regarding her:

If Nixon was shredded and poisoned by each of his pre-Presidential defeats, Hillary died a little with each of Bill’s victories, one after another, in Arkansas and beyond, all of them forcing her to stand at a spot on the stage that she knew she should not be occupying. Her life was supposed to take place behind the lectern, not beside it, hoisting the hand of the man who’d just got the votes.

By the time it was “her” turn, it was psychologically too late, just as it was for Nixon in 1968. In his case, winning could not make up for losing; in hers, fifteen years of jury-rigged self-fulfillment cannot make up for the previous twenty-five of self-suppression and worse.

In going with the unoriginal Clinton-is-Nixonian metaphor, Mallon inflates a minor observation into a risky and false-feeling note in an otherwise savory essay. I do agree she’s better than Bill—as a person: but that dawg Bill was a successful president, and she hasn’t pulled that off yet. As well, the sexism she faced, if nothing else, impelled the couple to take turns. Did waiting and racking up political triumphs—becoming a stateswoman—really kill her soul?

Wary and inscrutable do not equal warped. She faces a white tycoon who bleats how the system is rigged against him. Why? In large part because he faces a “nasty woman.” Can anyone imagine Hillary Clinton having survived with even half his record of mendacity and infidelity? With children by three husbands? A string of business swindles?

So, yes, she’s cagey after three decades of far-right assault, most of it as absurd as her opponent.


[Clinton blinded Trump, who failed to make his dirt stick.]

As for Clinton’s steely pragmatic nature, similar doubts might’ve been sounded about Abraham Lincoln, who worked as a tough, amoral lawyer. He represented a railroad. Who could have predicted his rise to personal and political greatness? That is, besides pretty much the entire South?

So Lincoln gives me hope. He knew—and the South knew—what his election would mean. The first assassination attempt on Lincoln’s life came on his way to taking office. Idiots still debate whether the Civil War was “really about slavery, and whether Lincoln “really cared.” What’s true is that he grew in office. It was as if America produced him; in doing so, the union preserved itself and removed one of its last impediments to greatness.

We can’t know whether or when America will need to produce such a person again. But Trump’s depravity makes this moment feel like Armageddon. Clinton, resplendent in her white tunic, has shown considerable courage in facing this rough beast unleashed by dark forces. Never mind her secret soul—who most fears Clinton’s effect on America’s historic and evolutionary destiny? Trump’s supporters.

Clinton is an incrementalist who faces a number of intractable problems caused by previous politicians, of both parties, and by human nature itself. I believe she can grow, as she has in the past. I’m certain Trump cannot. And, moreover, that he’d harm America for decades through bad appointments. Since I got over my own unexamined sexism regarding Clinton—that maybe she’s not “nice” behind the scenes, when my standard for male politicians was much lower—I have only one concern.

She’s hawkish for my taste. Her vote for the Iraq war was the biggie. Out here in the hinterlands, I saw George W. Bush’s crime-in-the-making for what it was. Why couldn’t she? But at least she’s admitted her error. Moreover, Barack Obama’s Lincolnesque move of appointing her as Secretary of State, after they’d been such bitter rivals, not only grew her as a stateswoman—as he intended it to—but surely grew her as a person as well.

This week’s issue of the New Yorker features an eloquent endorsement of Clinton, “The Choice.” Its weakest aspect comes in addressing my concern, vaguely hoping she has “learned greater caution” in military matters from Obama. Though it spends much time thumping her unworthy opponent, the essay otherwise makes a good case for Clinton’s tax plan, her economic development policies, and her likely restoration of moderation to the Supreme Court. Clinton, like Obama—and, for that matter, her deeply flawed husband—appears to understand America’s march toward a sacred horizon.

Belief in America is part and parcel of my own hard-won sense of our species’ spiritual destiny. But will we ever get out of the weeds? Maybe this is what democracy is about after all, a series of crossroads. Maybe it’ll take 2,000 years to get everyone on the same page. Maybe “Amazing Grace” is right—it’ll take 10,000. Until then, I guess, it’s baby steps. Now each side—one mildly progressive, one violently regressive—has presented to us its avatar. We must choose one or the other.

Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home—“Amazing Grace”


  • lilachavenblog says:

    God save us from Donald. I saw Chelsea Clinton when she stopped in Westerville. The only other candidate that I’ve seen in person is Geraldine Ferraro.

  • J.V. Wylie says:

    Richard, thank you for the courage and honesty of your full-throated support for Hillary—not just in contrast with Trump, but to unambiguously point out that here is someone who has the distinct potential of growing into becoming a truly great president.

  • shirleyhs says:

    Oh, Richard, this is so good. And it made me laugh because I too made note of the color contrast and started a post with the title “On Wearing White.” Now I won’t write it because, happily, you wrote the definitive one.

    One other thing to note about white. Harriet Rubin wrote a little book called The Princessa, based on the example of The Prince, giving advice to women about power. In it, she adviced women to wear white, which makes them stand out instead of blending in, announcing their courage. The example she used was Joan of Arc, going against advice to wear dark colors, wearing white into battle.

    As the election gets closer, I am aware of carrying emotional weight that I hope will be released, at least temporarily, by Hillary’s victory. But the work of healing will be enormous after the damaging campaign.

    I published my own Hillary post, just as you published this one. Hope you don’t mind if I offer your readers the opportunity to look at the op-ed I published in the Minneapolis StarTribune yesterday and the backstory of how it got there. http://www.shirleyshowalter.com/waking-up-to-the-news-in-lake-wobegon-and-what-im-learning-about-op-eds-the-backstory/

    • Richard says:

      Yours is a gratifying endorsement, Shirley. I’m putting down the book I’m reading on Hillary to read your Hillary post! Must be something in the air that we hit similar places, and notes, at the same time.

  • owen1936 says:

    Bravo, Richard. Incredibly well thought out and said.

    • Richard says:

      Well, like everyone, I’ve been brooding, Dave! I almost didn’t write it but felt things had fully coalesced for me. May they for the entire electorate. I mean, other that a very short flirtation with Bernie Sanders, I’ve always been going to vote for Hillary. But I had to work through some of my concerns, in part because her image has been shaped by a quarter century of relentless scrutiny and attack. There’s not much on her, in my view, for all that.

      • owen1936 says:

        Even with Hillary’s win, which some are seeing as still in doubt, the psychodrama will not be over. News items the past few days include 1) FBI to reopen email investigations, 2) Republican House members are planning two more years of investigations, and 3) some Trumpians threaten violent revolution if she wins or to remove her from office “in any way necessary.” Putin must have slipped some KOOL Ade in our drinking water.

        • Richard says:

          I know, everyone’s worried. Most of the rage will melt away, I hope, if it’s not continually stirred. At the same time, it does exist. If Hillary makes economic progress, surely that will help. But that’s going to take steady, slow progress of the sort Obama has been making. Such progress does not seem to change minds, because it IS slow. I am impressed by how far Obama has come, considering the mess he inherited, economically and internationally, and he’s getting attacked because the problems aren’t gone—with the implication he caused them. Forgotten are Bush’s tax cuts and starting two wars. Americans are weird. I think what’s strange is our uneasy melding, or oil-and-water mix, of Enlightenment ideals and Wild West impulses.

  • Dear Richard, Thanks so much for your post and your whole-hearted support of Hillary Clinton. You know, I once either read or watched a tv show (if tv, it had the tone of PBS, as I recall the gist) on Abraham Lincoln. One startling fact which came out was that in spite of whole-heartedly being against slavery, Lincoln sometimes enjoyed racist jokes. There are these little facets of personality or past history which crop up in any person’s life which make us want to reproach them for lack of consistency. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen, philosophers, and divines.” And I think he probably meant the pettifogging kind of divines, all in all. Some people against her have made a lot of Hillary’s comment about sometimes needing to have different public and private stances on something. I feel that this is brave honesty on her part and not inconsistency, because there are many occasions in government which our officials must be trusted to do their own jobs behind the scenes without informing us, the governed, about everything they do and say, much of which might not consort with our own views of what they should be doing. I’m not talking about things which would offend our moral sense, but each man or woman has his or her own view of what “the person who would be king” must do. That doesn’t mean they’re right, just that they have a right to an opinion. My real fear about Trump is that he is mobilizing the same sort of hate and mistrust and fear in the country that Adolf Hitler mobilized against the Jews in Germany at a time when a lot of people in Germany felt down on their luck too. We can’t afford to have someone so divisive in the White House, especially not now. As a Chinese book of wisdom (the “I Ching”) says, and I think it’s obvious no matter who says it or not, “division within makes it harder to conquer challenges without,” or words to that effect. And we are certainly in a period of a lot of challenges from without. People in the whole world over are desperately trying, each in their own country, to find a global plan they can follow to peace, justice, and harmony with others, and I think Clinton by far offers us the best way to approach that; I can understand why you see her as hawkish, but I don’t think she would act without need, whereas Trump seems to relish causing chaos and division. Anyway, thanks a lot for the post; we need to unify firstly, defend secondly, and unify again with others in the world.

    • Richard says:

      Well said, Victoria. Trump is simply out of the question for so many reasons, including that he can’t be trusted with our military. I do believe Hillary can. I certainly believe she wouldn’t have dragged us into the Iraq war! So while she may seem hawkish for a Democrat, there’s a huge gap between that and what Bush actually did.

  • bardharp says:

    Thank you Richard. Always thought provoking. About that same page, the constitution allows every citizen the right to live on their own page, not necessarily share the page with the whole country, save for that right. So since I value your opinion, I’d like to read your page for the country, not just the Hillary/Donald conundrum. (Developing a personal page would make a great writing assignment, by the way – define your page and how other’s pages may or may not fit within personal tropes – I’m guessing the page will drift into many)

    Also, I share the concept of a spiritual destiny for the United States, yet that exists for me only in the right for each citizen to find their own path to spiritual fulfillment (without causing harm to others, of course). Can a country with so many identities actually find the harmony we dream of? A prayer unfulfilled across history. Today will be no exception, sadly. Either candidate.

    • Richard says:

      That’s a tough assignment, bardharp. America’s ideals as codified in the Constitution—and, for me, as modified—might be a good starting place. For that document is sacred, though not immutable. And look at the continuing debate over it. But when I consider the societal progress, as I see it, made in my lifetime, I am awed. And made hopeful. Hard to imagine where we will be in another 60 years if it continues. This is my hope, that it will, and that we’ll continue to address problems. Yet I know that what I cheer has others all torn up and fearful and angry about.

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