Mostly whimsical reflections on life
Hillary Clinton may have bumped against instead of cracking the ultimate glass ceiling because of an excitement gap.
Bernie Sanders wowed a new generation. Donald Trump aroused an older, angrier one. Clinton left a lot of people limp. The curious thing is that she had the most radical idea, but didn’t use it in her campaign.
Sanders championed free college tuition. Trump promised to return manufacturing jobs and build a wall. Clinton touted her experience and a website full of policy papers.
Sanders called for a political revolution. Trump said he would bust the status quo in Washibgton. Clinton showed up for job interview.
This is not to minimize Clinton’s campaign or strategy. It appeared sound. But it didn’t succeed because in the end Clinton didn’t elicit excitement. Her campaign wound up pushing her as an alternative to Trump.
The presidential election droned on relentlessly, punctuated by jaw-dropping comments by Trump and the constant drip of the Clinton email issue.
Trump managed to talk over his frequent and often deeply troubling missteps. Clinton never completely got out of her own way in talking about her emails. Trump’s supporters looked past what he actually said and viewed him as authentic. Clinton was stuck under a sinister shadow of distrust, a captive of crony capitalism.
It didn’t have to be like that.
In a pre-campaign appearance in Portland at the Oregon World Affairs Council, Clinton talked fluently and passionately about a strategy to boost economic growth and family income domestically and across the globe. Her plan: Empower women and girls with education and opportunity.
Her idea transcended pay equity and paid family leave policies. It spoke of fundamental reforms in classrooms, workplaces and board rooms. Give women opportunity get out of their way and reap the benefits as women rich their potential economically and in leadership and innovation.
This wasn’t a white paper; it was an ambitious vision with the potential to touch every corner of the world. Clinton’s vision was every bit as visceral as Trump’s border wall, except it was about lifting people up not keeping them out.
Perhaps the Clinton team, and Clinton herself, deemed the idea as too aspirational, as if Medicare for All and a towering border wall paid for Mexico weren’t? What their campaign strategy overlooked was a deep American thirst for change. They wanted candidates who excited their imaginations and raised their hopes for America.
Empowering women may not not be a priority – and may be a pariah – for a portion of the U.S. and world populations. Those people never would have voted for Clinton under any circumstances. Empowering women – with breathtaking examples of how it could be done and the benefits that would ensue – could have excited critical constituencies – women, African-Americans and college-educated men and women – that sat on their votes or decided at the last moment to vote for Trump.
Much of Clinton’s adult life has been spent seeking to better the lives of women and children. All the smears and jeers cannot obscure her dedication and faithfulness to that cause. And yet Clinton failed to capitalize on her best virtue, her truest love in her campaign.
Personally, I had no trouble voting for Hillary Clinton. I agreed with most of her policy papers, views and instincts. I even understood her caution approach to many issues, her preference for finding a way to a win instead of an applause line.
But I also regret that Clinton didn’t build her campaign around that elemental issue that would have broken a world full of glass ceilings. I believe that would have excited a winning coalition on November 8 and, more important, carved a special place for her in the historic books – and the hearts and minds of women worldwide.
It would have been enough to change the post-election conversations mothers had with their daughters.