Hillary Clinton: Bridge Woman

Out there in America - yes, still - is a generation of women who were born in the 1940s, raised in the 1950s, and who came to radical consciousness in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I am one of them. Hillary Clinton is one of them.

We were raised to be respectful daughters, dutiful wives and doting mothers. We were not to rock the boat. We were to marry doctors, not become them. Most of all, we were cursed with the need to be "nice."

Then in fast order came the pill, Betty Friedan, Robin Morgan and second wave feminism. Suddenly we were free to enjoy sex and athletics, have adventures, enjoy careers and lead authentic lives.

Unfortunately, we had to build this freedom on the foundation of conventional behavior instilled in us in our youth.
I call us "bridge women."

We have one foot in the past and one foot in the brave new liberated world we invented for our brave new liberated selves. Over this bridge skipped our daughters and granddaughters, delighting in a freedom that we, ourselves, could never completely enjoy. For them, a career is a birthright and a wire hanger is one way to hang a blouse.

As Clinton said in her famous 1969 Wellesley graduation speech, "But we also know that to be educated, the goal of it must be human liberation. A liberation enabling each of us to fulfill our capacity so as to be free to create within and around ourselves."

In a profile of Clinton that appeared last year in Mother Jones magazine, Jack Hitt wrote, "Hillary is the real revolutionary: She had a career. She had a family. She had a husband with a career. They were both ambitious boomers - perhaps the most ambitious. They wanted not just good jobs but the very best of all possible jobs."

And we know how that played out.

Now Obama-mania appears to be sweeping the country, and Clinton, our first serious female presidential candidate, is poised to lose the Democratic nomination. (And if she and her husband play dirty politics with superdelegates at the convention, they will destroy the Democratic Party and John "Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomba-Iran" McCain, the man whom, when Chelsea Clinton was still in high school, got laughs by joking, "Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno," will be our next president.)

Morgan, a brilliant philosopher, has written a polemic in favor of Clinton (www.womensmediacenter.com). In it she rails against the sexism that has done so much damage to this candidate: the discussions of her likability, her ambition, her lust for power, her sexuality, her pants suits and hair styles, the microscopic examination of her marriage, the questions of whether she's "strong enough," the t-shirts that say "If only Hillary had married OJ instead," the unbelievable "South Park" episode that had terrorists secreting a bomb in Clinton's vagina.

"This is sociopathic woman-hating," Morgan writes, truthfully. If it were about Jews or African-Americans, we would call it for what it is - hate speech. "Hell, PETA would go ballistic if such vomitous spew were directed at animals," she says.
Yet Clinton is, and always will be, a bridge woman. Her roots are in her dutiful, conventional upbringing. Her tragedy is that she never really rebelled. She never really changed.

She has trotted out her husband to campaign for her until it looks like she is riding on his coattails. Worse, it reminds us of his terrible arrogance and sense of entitlement, and makes us realize that we cannot endure another round of him being in the spotlight.

She has surrounded herself with the worst power-players in the Democratic Party. Among them, lobbyist and Karl Rove-wannabe Mark Penn and Terry McAuliffe, who has been the Clinton's bagman for the past decade or so.

She has burned through $120 million.

She started by having the most money, the best organization and the most clout. But she blew her advantages in the traditional old-fashioned Democratic way: lots of network TV ads when the networks are rapidly losing viewers; campaigning only in big states; spending no money on grassroots organizing; and counting on her connections and her friends' deep pockets to carry her through. These are the same inept strategies that cost the Democrats elections in 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000 and 2004.

Barack Obama chose the Howard Dean-Deval Patrick strategy (the Clintons hate Dean): pay attention to all the states, even the so-called "red" ones; knock on doors; enlist and inspire young people to work their butts off; do a lot of grassroots organizing.

If Clinton's old-fashioned strategy hasn't killed her, certainly her record has. She was on the board at Wal-Mart. Even though her Senate resume is as thin as Obama's, she voted for the war in Iraq. She voted to give the president the power to bomb Iran. She voted for the bankruptcy bill. She refused to support a ban on cluster bombs.

"Does sisterhood have such a thin veneer that all of those Iraqi lives are forgotten in order to have a woman in the White House," wrote a commentator, Kathleen Barry, in response to Morgan's piece. "Then why not Condoleezza Rice? Is there that much difference between them?"

Clinton's life resonates deeply with me. I like her. I admire her intelligence and accomplishments. I have taken many of the same hits that she has.

Yet her inability to change, admit failure and grow - coupled with her need to be the good girl, dutiful and obedient to the conventional realities, strategies and wisdom that have always surrounded her - make it impossible for me to vote for her.

Mindful, as Morgan says, of the danger of electing "a handsome, cocky president who feels he can learn on the job," I will reluctantly vote for Obama. Joyce Marcel is a columnist and journalist in Vermont. A collection of her columns, "A Thousand Words or Less," is available through joycemarcel.com. And write her at joycemarcel@yahoo.com.