Editor's Welcome Note: Everyone, please welcome JoPat Wellman as our new guest blogger. Known as @desertcronenm on Twitter, she and I have followed each other since our days at Daily Kos. She is a life-long liberal married 45 years, mother of two, grandmother of four. She has a BA, and an MA in English and was for 30+ years a teacher and administrator in public schools and university system. A former school board member and union president, she was an activist for teacher and student causes. - Spandan
I never thought I would be voting for Hillary Clinton, much less defending her unequivocally. The fact is I see many similarities between Hillary and myself, not just in our age, which is 68, but more importantly, in our battles. The difference is hers were fought on national and international stages; mine were usually, but not always, fought out of the spotlight. While the venues may have been different, the battles left similar scars. The vicious attacks launched against her have moved me from harsh critic to empathetic supporter.
I will confess that I never cared for the Clintons, especially Bill, and I was at times a very harsh critic of Hillary. I have come to the realization as I watch the Left try to destroy her that, while some of my criticism was legitimate, much of it was influenced by right-wing propaganda. What I see now on social media is the Left incorporating, as it always has, the Right Wing’s talking points into its own attacks.
The Left and the Bernie Sanders Campaign are using Hillary as an indictment of everything they see as despicable about the Democratic Party, not just politics in general. She’s emblematic of the political system they hate, and so to support this hatred, her critics have twisted her record, her words, and her behavior to fit their narrative. They don’t see her as a strong woman who has risen to prominence in a white male dominated society. In fact, many of her most virulent critics are white men, who condemn her for playing by their own rules. The irony is that on paper she is one of them. Finally, she reaches the pinnacle only to be shredded by those who have given white men, including Bernie Sanders, a pass. We have watched the same scenario play out for the past seven years with Barack Obama. Pres. Obama is criticized for dragging his feet on gun control; Sen. Sanders is excused for his votes against gun control. For some the President’s use of drones negates his other accomplishments, but these same critics lift Sanders’ sparse legislative record to Olympian heights while overlooking his willingness to use drone warfare.
Hillary is the one designated to carry Bill’s shame; she is rarely seen as the humiliated, aggrieved wife. In fact, she’s often ridiculed for not satisfying him thus the reason for his wandering eye. Moving from blaming her for his adultery to holding her accountable for his capitulation and triangulation during his presidency was not a far leap to make. Now she carries the burden for crime bills and welfare reform because as First Lady she pushed her husband’s agenda.
Make no mistake right now Hillary is the target of withering attacks focused on two crime bills which were supported by Democrats and signed by President Clinton. Let’s be clear about this. Both bills were, in part, a response to a rising crime rate and a crack “epidemic.” Many in African-American communities were crying out for politicians to help them deal with crime in their neighborhoods. The bills were also supported by most members of the Congressional Black Caucus. (See Chapter 3, Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons & the Racial Divide by Joy-Ann Reid) No denying Hillary pushed for the crime bills, just as she did welfare reform, however reluctantly as Michelle Golberg claims, but it stretches credulity to hold her more responsible than those who authored, voted for, and signed the bills into law. Her critics must ask themselves if they, as First Spouse, would have refused to push their spouse’s agenda. I would love to be able to say no, I would not have. I would love to say I would have been righteous, but I cannot. And I doubt her critics on this issue would have been righteous themselves. The Left can’t have it both ways—out of one corner of its collective mouth, critics blast Hillary as too aggressive in pushing her husband’s agenda, while it criticizes Michelle Obama for not embodying feminism by choosing “safe” issues to promote.
Another issue used as a weapon against Hillary was her use of the term “superpredator.” In my opinion, the mistrust of her partly comes from the way Bill Clinton craftily and subtly appealed to racism to win the white votes, which is not so dissimilar to the method Bernie Sanders employs. The speech, which contains the offending term, was given two years after the passage of the 1994 crime bill, so obviously she was not stumping for the bill as depicted on the Left. Nowhere in the snippet of video does she refer to African-American kids, although I see that accusation all over social media as well. I’m not questioning why many have that opinion, but, if you do, I would like you to consider this. Where I live gangs are made up of Hispanic and white kids, some of whom have committed heinous crimes. When I heard that term in the 1990’s, I didn’t think it had a racial component to it because I saw gang members from across ethnic, racial, and cultural lines. Maybe Hillary’s statement was a dog whistle, or maybe she was buying into the depiction largely promoted by the press of the super gangs made up of superpredators who were sweeping through the US picking up kids to add to their rosters. I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in New Mexico gangs were depicted as roaming freely between Mexico and the Southwestern states on the “Golden Highway.”
Hillary is also condemned for depicting these kids as without conscience or empathy, beyond salvation, yet Bernie Sanders said the same thing in a speech but without using the word “superpredator.” To be fair to both candidates we have to put both speeches in historical context. I cannot tell you how many times as a teacher in the 90’s that I had to sit through “gang orientation” by the local police department and the FBI. Whether the fear of gangs was legitimate or not, the atmosphere in the 90’s was not dissimilar to the atmosphere of fear surrounding ISIS today. There’s always an enemy coming to get us.
Suddenly, after years of men accepting speaker fees from financial institutions with just a whiff of criticism, Hillary is roundly criticized for taking the same fees. Bernie Sanders implies and his followers accuse her of being corrupted by donations as well as those speaker fees from corporations and banks. I can’t speak to all of her speeches, but in one she makes the case for gender equity in their hiring practices. Here’s what I see—hypocrisy, blatant hypocrisy. Men have been accepting large fees for years and years, but somehow when a woman is finally in a position to do so, she becomes the poster child for money’s corrupting influence. Frankly, I’d rather have Hillary get some of Goldman Sachs money than, say, Mitch McConnell.
Again, I see a double standard when Bernie Sanders claims that his rating of D- by the NRA exonerates from any accusation of undue influence by special interests. However, Hillary’s claim that she and Sanders voted alike 93% of the time is flatly rejected as proof that she is not corrupted by outside interests. Actually, there exists evidence of a quid pro quo between Sanders and the NRA by the same set of standards the Left uses to judge Hillary. While Sanders gets to claim he’s from a state where his constituents are gun-toting liberals he must represent, Hillary cannot claim the same privilege of representing her constituents on Wall Street, the heart of New York. This needs to be stated clearly: employee donations make up a large part of money that comes from financial institutions and corporations.
Too often political opponents will present a distorted picture of each other’s voting record. For example, Elizabeth Warren, whether intentionally or not, misrepresents Hillary’s record on the bankruptcy bill. In fact, Hillary met with Warren and did her best to address Warren’s worries by offering amendments that addressed those very concerns. When Hillary could not push her compromise through, she voted against the bill. Hillary’s actions on this piece of legislation are matter of public record, which contradict Warren’s assertions. Her vote for the flag burning legislation is yet another example of her record being distorted. The truth is that politics is complicated. Votes don’t always reflect a senator’s work on compromises to reduce the fallout from a bill that is certain to pass as was the case in the flag bill. This is what skilled politicians do, and Hillary Clinton is very accomplished at working the legislative process. Again, Bernie Sanders is praised as the King of the Amendments, but Hillary is vilified for the employing the amendment process to make a bill or law more palatable.
When you live to be 68 or 74 years of age, your life is littered withmistakes and errors in judgment. The test shouldn’t be if you made mistakes in life, but did you learn from them and apply those lessons in shaping the rest of your life. Rather than see Hillary as someone who has matured by learning from mistakes, the Left reaches back to her brief stint at 16 as a Goldwater girl but discounts her work for very liberal candidates shortly after that. Yet Sanders’ essay that includes women fantasizing about gang rape is airily dismissed as youthful folly although he wrote it at age 31. The reality is that her critics on the Left have spent so much energy creating this devil woman that they are willing to believe any of the propaganda coming out of leftwing blogs and the Sanders’ camp without ever researching unbiased sources for confirmation. I know because I’ve been guilty of doing the same thing.
Do I think Hillary is flawless? No I do not, but neither do I think she will sell us out to big money. Am I deeply bothered by some of her behavior during the 2008 campaign? Undoubtedly I am. But I have to choose between the two, and so I’m going to vote for the one who campaigned for Barack Obama instead of the one who wanted him primaried. I’m going to vote for the one Pres. Obama asked to be his Secretary of State, not the one who has spent the President’s terms calling him weak and naïve, questioning his positions, and using right wing talking points against the him. I’m going to vote for the candidate who Pres. Obama says is his friend. I’ve trusted him in all things so why wouldn’t I trust his judgment now. I personally think she’s a better person and politician because she worked for and with Pres. Obama.
I’m going to vote for Hillary because she sees the political landscape for what it is, which is reflected in her realistic policies. I’m not voting for an ideologue that flogs one issue at the expense of other serious concerns. I’m going to vote for her because she understands global politics, and while I once thought her accomplishments as Secretary of State were lightweight, I’ve come to find out that they were substantial. I’m going to vote for her because of her testimony before the special committee on Benghazi. I’m going to vote for Hillary because she may not be the purist’s choice, but she is the best choice.