Chelsea Clinton recently forwarded me an article by New York feminist Robin Morgan in support of her mother's candidacy. Though Chelsea and I have never met, I somehow ended up on one of her thousands of listserves. Morgan's piece listed contemptible misogynistic behaviors practiced in various locations around the world and in different periods of history. By way of somewhat questionable logic, she bundled them all together as proof that Hillary is the best candidate, and angrily denouncing naysayers, fired it off.
I would like to support Hillary. I am a feminist and Hillary's candidacy represents the chance to witness the shattering of the last glass ceiling. Like many of my ilk, Hillary represents our unrealized or postponed opportunities, and for our mothers and grandmothers, the never-dared-to-dream dreams of roads untraveled. I would like to support Hillary, but I can't.
It's not the acerbic, attack-dog demeanor of her campaign. It's not her discomforting air of entitlement or her unfortunate lack of charm. I'm not much of a charmer myself. It isn't even her embarrassingly childish proclamations such as, "I'm ready to lead!" or the "red phone" fairy tale. After all, her campaign rhetoric fits the Checkers speech mode established by Richard Nixon in 1952 and which, according to George Packer, still dominates our elections.
I can't support Hillary because I don't know who she is and I don't think she does either. I followed a trail of clues in search of Hillary Rodham Clinton and found myself at the feet of a political party hack whose core values are -- and have been for a long time -- a liquid gas poised to morph into anybody or anything it takes to win.
Hillary's friend, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, was active and at her side in all the photo-ops at the start of her campaign. Hillary was apparently completely comfortable with Madeline's part in Bill Clinton's policy of the seven year sanctions against Iraq which caused the deaths of 567,000 children (the lowest approximation), comfortable with Madeline's statement when asked about these numbers: "The price was worth it." She was comfortable until a lot of 2008 voters let her know they were unhappy about the whole Iraq affair, including her vote to attack the country. She was comfortable with Madeline until hordes of young people and new Democrats came rushing in to support Barrack Obama. From one day to the next Hillary switched horses and Madeline disappeared.
From the start, Hillary not only proudly assumed credit for everything that happened when her husband was the President, but absurdly added her years as First Lady to her political resume. We knew that her actual "experience" started with her position as a U.S. senator, but, like the plumber's wife who talks handily about clogged toilets even though she has never wielded a plunger, we overlooked it. It was close enough. After all, she could have been the president if she'd had the chance. However, when she came up against real, live, disgruntled Pennsylvania voters who had lost their jobs offshore because of NAFTA, she switched horses, telling us she hadn't agreed with the NAFTA pact pushed through by her husband, anyway.
Hillary and Bill have always openly supported "free trade" agreements. Hillary was highly comfortable with the fact that Bill and Mark Penn, her chief campaign strategist, were aggressively working to seal the trade agreement deal with Colombia. Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch expressed dismay with Bill's "chummy relationship" with a Colombian president whose administration is "under a cloud" for association with paramilitaries, assassinations of hundreds of labor unionists, and the forced displacement of thousands of Afro-Colombians. On the campaign trail Hillary learned that dealing with Colombia was considered not so cool. She switched horses again, and Penn disappeared. The fact that Bill is -- and will be in the future -- Hillary's closest advisor in this and other matters, Ms Wallach found to be "extremely disconcerting." As do I.
I'm afraid that Hillary's calculated lie about being under sniper attack in Bosnia -- which she and Bill continue to write off as a late night memory lapse but which obviously wasn't because she repeated it three different times at different times of the day -- made me cringe. A mother would never willingly take her daughter into a war zone. Even the fuzziest of brains would fade in Chelsea and fade out snipers on the way to the vocal chords. Calculated lying may be endemic to politics and certainly George W. Bush has perfected the art form, but frankly I need (and I think we need) something better.
The sad, hollow Hillary Clinton-as-feminist myth melted down when I learned that she had served for six years on the Wal-Mart Board of Directors while she was the wife of the governor of Arkansas. A feminist, even a Republican feminist, wouldn't serve on the Wal-Mart Board of Directors. Wal-Mart is not only anti-worker and anti-union, but it is anti-woman. Two thirds of the Wal-Mart employees are women, ten percent are managers. A gender bias class action suit against Wal-Mart on behalf of one million women is currently pending.
There will be a woman president. She may even be Hillary, but I hope not. We can do better. A woman of integrity will step forward. She'll use "we" instead of "I" when she thinks about the country and when she addresses voters. She won't be married to an ex-president or carry the burdens or reap the political rewards of his reign. She'll be more thoughtful, more truthful and more comfortable in her own skin. She won't lean on or spout the old male-driven military solutions to the country's problems. She'll have a political vision, an inspirational, redemptive, feminine vision of peace and social justice that will tap so deeply into our national pulse that we'll sweep her into office and we'll all go to work again reinventing our democracy.
In the meantime, we have a highly promising young male alternative.
Laura Santina is a freelance writer whose articles have been published in the San Francisco Chronicle, Berkeley Daily Planet, Peace and Freedom Magazine, Z Magazine, the N.Z. Women's Studies Association Journal, Counterpunch, Commondreams and many others.