Hillary Clinton’s campaign memoir, the aptly titled What Happened, hits bookshelves today, and the former Secretary of State has done minimal press to promote the book that will surely be a best-seller. Yet, on Twitter and in the hot-take-o-sphere, there is an emerging consensus about Clinton, the 2016 election, and her book: She should just shut the fuck up.
The types of liberals who use the term “neoliberal” are not pleased that Clinton is back in the headlines nor that she is talking about the election. They see the election loss as totally her fault, especially because they believe in their heart that #BernieWouldHaveWon. Conservatives, Trumpists, and whatever passes for a moderate Republican have always hated Clinton, perhaps because she was a First Lady who dared use her position to make a political career for herself.
My intention is not to parse why people hate Hillary Clinton (I did that in 2016 for Revelist.com), but the notion that as a wonkish centrist she earns far more hate than makes rational sense suggests she should will be difficult to deny while this book is being promoted. Pretty much every time Hillary Clinton has appeared publicly, there is some headline telling her (literally) to “shut the fuck up and go away.”
In my lifetime, I have paid attention to every election since 1988, and with the exception of that year’s losing candidate Michael Dukakis, every, single other “loser” has stayed on the public political stage with only minor whingeing from the political class and media types.
George H.W. Bush, obviously, stayed in the public eye as a former POTUS. Former Senator Bob Dole, who left office to run against President Bill Clinton in 1996, not only stayed in the public eye but earned money by being a commercial spokesman, media commentator, and paid lobbyist. Can you imagine the shit tornado that would descend on the media the week Hillary Clinton announced she was going to be a paid lobbyist?
Vice President Al Gore, then-Senator John Kerry, Sen. John McCain, and even regular-old-rich-citizen Mitt Romney all remained very public and political figures after their failed election bids. No one was telling them to go away or to shut up or anything. In fact, the documentary Mitt released in the wake of the 2012 election was widely praised (myself included) for humanizing the former Massachusetts Governor who was often dinged for being robotic and was represented by a literal puppet on The Daily Show.
Any former presidential candidate’s book about the campaign should be welcomed by those of us who care about campaign politics and “the first draft of history.” That Clinton was also the first woman ever nominated by a major political party to seek that office adds another layer of historical rationale for this book. Yet, to those who hate Hillary Clinton, they don’t give a shit because “would she please just shut the fuck up already?”
That this criticism is levied at this woman who is simply offering her side of the biggest story in the world is just the poetic icing on the cake that Clinton should have been shutting up and baking instead of writing this stupid book.
There are plenty of reasons that are not related to sexism for people to not like or agree with Hillary Clinton as a political figure. In fact, we voters shouldn’t “like” politicians like we do celebrities or athletes, and we definitely shouldn’t treat political parties like sports teams. But there is nothing in her past that warrants the irrational, fervent vitriol Hillary Clinton faces each time she’s spoken out since the election.
Of course, this isn’t new. Back in the halcyon days of 2014, when everyone was hyping the possibility of Bush vs. Clinton II, then-RNC chairperson Reince Priebus said he hoped Clinton was the nominee because of her “ uncanny ability to make mistakes politically and she completely unifies the Republican Party.”
The only thing that really made Hillary Clinton unique before she ran in 2008 was that she was a former First Lady and she was the only woman ever mentioned seriously as a contender for president. Many of my friends on the left like to take issue with that statement, inevitably offering up Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren as another serious contender for president. Elected to office in 2013, Warren would have served even less time than Obama if she ran in 2016, and she was honestly only ever mentioned as a presidential contender in contrast to Clinton.
The only other women who have reached comparable heights to Clinton are former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. For one reason or another, all of these women are reviled and inspire a disproportionate amount of hate in response to whatever they do. Hell, even Warren has earned constant derision from conservative media and President Trump because the prospect of her candidacy terrifies them. Perhaps then, there’s some correlation between being the kind of woman who can that sort of political status and really pissing off a lot of people? Perhaps voters who aren’t used to seeing assertive women in positions of power take any legitimate complaint about them and magnify to the worst thing in the world. The only solution? For those women to just shut the fuck up.
I talked to hundreds of voters during the campaign, and I always asked them about whether or not they believed a woman should be president. With the exception of one woman — who I am not entirely sure wasn’t A) drunk and B) just messing with me — all said they absolutely believed a woman should be president. There were some, mostly older men, who said that they didn’t think a woman could be president for a variety of sexist reasons. Yet the vast majority of voters told me that they actually wanted to vote for a woman for president just not that woman.
For some of them, that may even be true. If it is; if you are one of those people who would love to show the women and girls of the world they, too, can be presidents, then the first step to doing that is being the one to shut the fuck up sometime. Women are not just less likely than men to run for office, they are less likely than men to even think about running for office. If you wonder why that might be, just look at how we treat Hillary Clinton.
To be clear, I am not suggesting that we start lionizing Hillary Clinton or making her “America’s Sweetheart” (Ashton Kutcher has had that job since the early 2000s anyway). Instead, I am just suggesting that perhaps we should be more tempered in our reactions to the things Clinton says or does. If that’s too much, and I recognize that it is, the very least we could do is let the woman live and speak and write books if she wants.