To the Madam President Who Should Have Been

It must take a certain amount of courage to run for president of the United States as a woman. It is no secret that women in every walk of professional life are held to a higher standard than men. They must work twice as hard and be twice as prepared, they must say the right thing at every moment. Try to be strong and she will be called bossy, try to appear gentle and she will appear weak. Hillary Clinton, with a long career of defying gender stereotypes, must know that well.

Her historic nomination brought forward scrutiny to the umpteenth degree. Her husband’s career and his scandals were also on the chopping block. When President Obama ran, no one thought to derail his candidacy by attacking his wife. It would be ludicrous. But it seems impossible for our society to see Hillary Clinton for who she is, to see her without looking first at her husband. Experience is a valuable asset to any politician seeking high office, but not for her. She has been in politics so long and has been so successful, she must be cheating the system. There must be some secret to a woman having worked so hard and made it so far in the business of politics, after all. Her greatest crime, wanting to remain private, may be understandable as a person who has, for so long, been subject to ridiculous questioning and scrutiny. Many career politicians have made comparable blunders, and remain beloved and understood. It is understood that we must allow those people to make mistakes, and that no one is perfect. She has been given no such second chances. Any trip and the worst has been assumed. Worse still, her husband’s errors are also credited to her. It makes no sense to blame the wife for her husband cheating on her, but her critics have called her an enabler of his womanizing. It is as ludicrous as it sounds.

Hillary Clinton deserves better than the scrutiny she got, the misogyny her success awoke in America. Her historic nomination awoke the festering monster of sexism that had been admonished into silence for too long. It can’t be argued that extremists on almost every fringe have hailed Donald Trump as their candidate and have entered the mainstream to troll and insult others. Hillary Clinton, strong, prepared, experienced, and female, is the antithesis of the white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements that have embraced Trump. But her run did more than frenzy the fringe, it also brought to light the sexism that is deeply embedded in our society, how difficult it is for people to face and acknowledge a woman’s success of her own right.

Throughout American history, whenever there is a progressive push, like the abolition of slavery, the civil rights movement, or the first black president, there always rises a counter movement to the change. It seems America has shown it wasn’t ready yet for this push to the future. The glass ceiling remains painfully intact, and with this election, white nationalists, the alt-right, and nativist movements have gained a traction they have not had in years. It is sad that Mrs. Clinton has had to see this as the culmination of a career of exemplary service. But in the end, I hope history will be kind to the first woman nominated by a major American party for president. Historians will remember her career as Senator of New York, her work for the Children’s Defense Fund, her involvement in taking down Osama bin Laden, her refusal as First Lady of Arkansas to bow to feminine norms of the time.

She should have been elected president. 2016 should have been the year in which we could first say Madam President with pride. But she wasn’t, and America now has to be introspective, and wonder where we went wrong. However, no less credit should be given to Mrs. Clinton for a campaign well-run and for the courage and grit it took to stand up and present herself as a candidate when people were not-so-patiently waiting to tear her down. Her campaign, her life, and even her concession speech, delivered on November 9, exemplify her drive, her will to work hard in the face of possible failure, and her absolute respect for American democracy. She deserved much more than the painful culmination of this election season.

At this moment, news of President-elect Trump’s cabinet appointments and tweets dominate the media. Protests and electoral college schemes get a highlight. And extremist groups grapple to claim a stake in the mainstream. But all this news overshadows Mrs. Clinton’s achievements, her best campaign moments. People are quick to analyze Trump now, and what possible strategy could he have used to win. They now wonder what will happen, and how these next four years will shape our history. How far back can we go? Is it possible to move forward? But in all this, Mrs. Clinton’s own strides forward are temporarily lost. And that is a sad reward for her bravery.

I hope that once the smoke clears and we settle into a new administration, America will remember Hillary Clinton for everything she has done, that she will take her place among such trailblazers as Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks. Someone new will take the baton from her and run. Every time a woman tries to run for major office, it will get easier. Whoever shatters the glass ceiling once and for all will have an advantage, a lead, that no American woman has had before. And she will owe it in part to Hillary Clinton.

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