I’ve been behind Hillary Clinton as a candidate for a while. My research into her shows that she has a strong progressive record in the Senate, that she’s an intelligent and well-read person who thoroughly researches any issues in front of her, and that she seems genuinely drawn to and committed to public service as a career. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, if for no other reason than she’s won the Democratic primary and is now the party’s nominee with the full-throated support of her recent rivals. But I’ve also noticed that other people who support Secretary Clinton, either through the primaries or now that she’s the candidate, feel the need to hedge a lot of their support with some version of “I know she’s not perfect, but…”
“She’s not perfect.”
Well NO FUCKING SHIT, people! NO ONE is perfect. Besides the fact that a “perfect” politician looks different to every single person voting based on personal preferences and experiences, the fact of the matter is that ANYONE who devotes decades of their lives to politics has to make compromises. They go through culture shifts. They learn more, they’re exposed to new information, they find out what it really means to work in politics and see something they truly believe in become twisted and grotesque as it moves through the system. They see the snail’s pace of bureaucracy and conspire to work around it for the sake of efficiency. I have lived in or near Washington, D.C for over half of my life and I can assure you there is not a single candidate out there, none of them, who does not have some detraction, flaw, or black mark on their record whether personal or professional. NONE. All of them have had to make tough choices and all of them have chosen wrong at some point. Or just chosen a way that you would not have. And all of them are human, with all the flaws, vices, and prejudices inherent in the human condition. The closest we come to a flawless career in politics might be Tim Kaine and everyone thinks he’s the personification of beige, and apparently THAT’S a flaw too. If we waited for a “perfect” woman to run for president, we would literally never have a woman president. Frankly, if that’s the standard, then we should just give up on government entirely, because perfection is a myth.
So why do we feel such a need to apologize for Hillary’s expected and unsurprising flaws specifically? Why didn’t Bernie supporters preface their statements with “I know he’s not perfect, but…”? Or Trump supporters for that matter? Why is perfection the specter haunting the single woman in this race?
There seems to be this attitude that the women or minorities who manage to break through the seal of white dudeness that is the standard in our culture have some kind of duty or responsibility to be stubborn and ruthless enough to withstand every obstacle and insult thrown in their path, while also being a model trailblazer with no downsides. You see it when people meticulously dissect the gender and racial politics of The Mindy Project in a way that they never did with How I Met Your Mother, and you see it in the way that Clinton’s background and experience has been dragged over the coals and picked apart in a way that doesn’t give her the benefit of the doubt that most of her male colleagues receive. Overall, her politics and decisions are not significantly different than those of President Obama or Bernie Sanders. She is running to be President of the United States, a position that requires a high degree of pragmatism, intelligence, ambition, and not a little bit of ruthlessness. All evidence suggests that she has those qualities. So do all of the other candidates who have participated in the primary and general election process, in varying degrees.
Listen, I’m not here to accuse anyone of sexism, or lecture them as to why they should vote for Hillary, or anything along those lines. The information is out there. What I’m asking is to examine the standard you’re holding her to, and ask yourself if you’re holding the male politicians you’ve supported to that same standard. Have you researched their lives back to their teens to pick apart every step along the way? Have you wondered what their careers would look like if they’d been put under a microscope and made the center of a national conversation on gender roles for years? Have you picked apart their spouses’ words and deeds and wondered how they influenced or didn’t influence those things? Have you questioned their motives and ambition the same way? Politics is ugly business. It’s horse-trading, glad-handing, grand-standing, and media manipulation. Changing that will require a bottom-up systemic change that somehow corrects for several central aspects of human nature, not a single perfect candidate representing a previously under-represented population.
There are no perfect politicians. She is neither the worst, nor the best of her kind. But in this race? She is by far the most qualified and vetted candidate. She has spent four decades in public service, particularly working toward helping women and children. She has seen, up close and personal, what it means to be President and the level of stress and scrutiny she’s inviting into her life. She has also made mistakes, missteps, and regrettable decisions. But stop apologizing for her. State facts calmly and clearly, correct misinformation, and admit her flaws. But do not apologize. There’s nothing to apologize for.