People talk about Hillary Clinton being “unlikeable.” The need to like our presidential candidates seem juvenile. It’s as though we are accepting or blackballing someone from a high school clique rather than choosing the leader of the free world — who could alter human history for decades or centuries.
I don’t need to like my president. I don’t need to have a beer with her. I don’t even like beer. I need a president who is going to appoint responsible people to the U.S. Supreme Court who won’t reverse civil rights, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights. I don’t expect to like the president. What I want is for the president not to harm me.
I had my own questions about Hillary. Why was she the only woman who could be president? That rolled around my head for several years.
I had concerns because of Bill Clinton. I volunteered for him and felt betrayed by the Defense of Marriage Act, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, welfare reform, and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that multiplied the mass incarceration of minorities.
I didn’t find the issue of his affair with Monica Lewinsky immoral, but it was an abuse of power. Many women accused Bill of sexual harassment. How Hillary worked out the details of her marriage is her own business. The defense of him after women repeatedly accused him of harassment reminded me of mothers who ignore a child’s complaints of abuse because they don’t want to face the perpetrator. But perhaps that is harsh. It must have been unimaginably complicated to maintain a marriage in the White House while under constant attack. People are often least likely to see the faults of people they are immediately involved with and related to. Who knows, she could have actually been in love with the guy. At the end of the day who else are they going to talk to?
I have thought about the things that Bill did, but blaming Hillary for any of it is sexist. Hillary has had time to mature and change her views. Where she stands today is what is important, not what happened 20 years ago.
I was at a meeting at City Hall in 1996 with the Clinton lesbian and gay liaison and lgbt activists. She said very clearly that transgender rights was not on their agenda. Today Hillary supports transgender rights.
Patricia Smith, the mother of a man murdered at Benghazi spoke bitterly at the RNC about Hillary. She has every right to be bitter, and you can’t take that away from her. She needs to speak her mind, and we need to listen. But Hillary was neither criminally responsible nor was she alone in the decision making after Benghazi, and is unfair to blame it on her. The Republican Congress denied funds for embassy security.
Many Bernie Sanders supporters continue to attack Hillary and would rather risk Donald Trump becoming president than support her. Many people have compared Trump to Hitler. Reuters just reported that Trump wants to purge the government of Obama appointees and make it easier to fire public workers — which, Eric Schmeltzer, writing for the Huffington Post, points out is eerily similar to Hitler’s move to prevent political opponents from holding civil service jobs.
Would those same people who refuse to vote for Hillary be happy to enable Trump’s racism? We could be in just that situation. Would they cavalierly proclaim they need to push the Democratic party further left by voting against Clinton if it meant losing all civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, since and including emancipation? With the right Supreme Court selections and elected officials, those things could happen.
In the late ’70s, I heard people on the far left proclaim that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Ronald Reagan was elected, and we saw there was a difference. Ralph Nader ran for president in 2000, not to win, but as a spoiler. The point was to push the Democratic Party farther left. What we got was George W. Bush, who led us into the war on terror and unleashed a Pandora’s box. That kind of thinking only aids the far right. Maybe some white, straight, cisgender people can afford to have Donald Trump become president. I can’t.
There are no perfect people, and there are no perfect politicians, so there are no perfect presidents.
Ultimately Hillary will be the first female president, because bullets bounce off of her. We don’t need to like her. We need her to get the job done.
Cei Bell is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia. She is the recipient of the Leeway Foundation 2015 Transformation Award for Literature.