Reconsidering Hillary Clinton

By Dan Riley

(Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

Throughout the days and weeks following the election of Donald Trump, I read dozens if not hundreds of articles and columns that sought to understand how the controversial Republican candidate had pulled off the greatest political upset in modern history. Several of those pieces were published in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

On Nov. 8 of last year, 62,984,825 voters cast their ballots for Trump. How many factors did each of them grapple with before they came to their final decision? There were probably dozens or even hundreds of complicated and interconnected decisions to weigh before choosing whom to entrust with the most powerful office in the world. However, many of those factors, multiplied by nearly 63 million American voters, results in hundreds of millions of reasons why Trump won. And that’s without saying anything about the 66 million reasons why he shouldn’t have. So what happened? Maybe people’s minds are not built to tackle questions that large. But if anyone is qualified to give it a shot, it is Hillary Clinton.

“What Happened” is yet another reflection on the results of the 2016 presidential election. For readers who supported Clinton’s bid for the United States presidency, it is an exercise in catharsis as well as a brilliant and enlightening deliberation on the future of progressivism. Everyone, be they progressive or conservative, Democrat or Republican, owes it to themselves and to our nation’s future to read the chapters on feminism and Russian electoral interference. We all give Donald Trump’s musings on Twitter a great deal of attention, so surely we can spare a former senator and secretary of state a few well-written pages.

My perception of Clinton has changed dramatically since the election, shifting from reluctant respect to wistful admiration. Before Nov. 8, my attitude was “I’m not ‘with her’, but she’ll do.” I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary, and while I was not the deluded sort of college liberal who was “feeling the Bern” and refusing to accept that there was no way for Sanders to win the nomination, I held enough anti-establishment sentiments to enjoy watching Clinton struggle to secure each and every delegate.

As I saw it, the “fight the power” anger that I and every other populist fed off of throughout the election cycle took two shapes: The Trump camp sought to burn everything down, and the Sanders camp sought to break everything down and rebuild from the rubble. Both views suggest working from the outside in, but since Nov. 9, Clinton has changed my mind, convincing me that the best way to change a system is to play by its rules until you can reach a position to rewrite the rules.

I would invite Collegian readers to reconsider their views on Clinton. While I imagine the majority of our readership probably voted for her, I would also imagine that many chose her reluctantly as the “lesser of two evils.” Both candidates had extraordinarily high disapproval ratings, so it made sense at the time. But looking back, I just do not understand why I viewed her as evil. In fact, I wish I had been with her from the start. Her approval ratings through the years suggest that I would have had good reason to be: In 1998 as first lady, she held 67 percent approval, at the end of her second term as senator of New York her approval was at 65 percent and throughout her time as secretary of state her approval never dropped below 60 percent. It seems that when she is working in the public eye or holding public office, Clinton impresses and excels.

I am left wondering how I came to hate someone so accomplished. I would not be alone in speculating that, as it became clear that Clinton would be a political juggernaut in the 2016 presidential race, I and others viewed her not as a citizen seeking to serve the public, but as an entitled person seeking a job promotion. We focused on Benghazi and private email servers, one a tragedy and one a fabricated scandal, but neither indicative of an evil politician, to reinforce the view of Clinton as conniving and self-serving. Looking back, I know that I became distracted. Throughout 2016, I could have rattled off the basic Trump platform: build the wall, ban the Muslims repeal and replace Obamacare. I could not have done the same for Clinton, because I was too focused the Trump scandal of the day, which made for better television. It was easier to hate Trump than to attempt to love Clinton.

Attempting that love is easier now in the context of the Trump administration. I would invite Collegian readers to reconsider Clinton, if only for history’s sake, and to consider reading “What Happened.” Many people want Clinton to disappear into the ether and let others deal with revitalizing the Democratic party, but bear in mind that even if you disagree with her vision, she is still one of the most intelligent, capable and qualified members of the American citizenry. We are stronger together, and stronger with her working for us.

Dan Riley is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]