Of the most frustrating caricatures of Hillary Clinton, the idea that progressives should vote for her simply because she is the “lesser of two evils” is among the most disappointing (and inaccurate). The vast right-wing conspiracy has effectively portrayed her as Machiavelli in heels for more than 25 years, but anyone who has been watching, really watching the Democratic National Convention, much less taken the time to look into the work Hillary has done on behalf of others for the past 40 years, should know better.
During the DNC, I have been particularly struck by the testimonials provided by Anastasia Somoza and Ryan Moore, two Americans with disabilities. Each spoke of meeting Hillary as children and at events that many politicians simply use as photo ops to make them look good. But not Hillary. She befriended these young people whose struggles are far greater than most of us can imagine, not because it helped her politically, but because she cared. Hillary’s work to pass legislation to help children secure health care, traveling to poor areas to fight housing discrimination, and tireless advocacy for women’s rights are foursquare with progressive ideals that many of us share.
Hillary does not have her husband’s natural political gifts or President Obama’s unparalleled ability to lift people through his words, but instead of lauding her for the strengths she possesses – of inclusion, collaboration, and yes, listening – the media focus invariably lands on the skills she does not have, not the ones she does. Make no mistake, this has been an editorial decision that dates back decades to when she had the temerity to defend her right to have a career and not be a homemaker and has carried on from one generation of reporters to the next, who lean into the idea that she is an insular paranoid distrusted by Americans.
That she now has to “reintroduce” herself to a populace the media claims does not know the “real” Hillary is an indictment of their choices from 1991 to the present. Her biography has been out there for any reporter interested in learning it. Her speeches as First Lady show a woman who was well ahead of her time in advocating for causes that are now considered mainstream. Her time as Secretary of State is now chronicled in the release of more than 30,000 emails that show her granular level concern for everything from delivering clean water to tiny African villages to getting an Illinois small business’s gefilte fish delivered to Israel.
For the media to portray a vote for Hillary as some sort of hold-your-nose moment for Democrats, Sanders supporters or anyone else insults her decades-long commitment to others. She is a hard-working woman who has spent the better part of her adult life advocating on behalf of many whose voices are rarely heard in our democracy. That her work has often been behind the scenes and she has not tried to brag about her accomplishments shows a humility and selflessness journalists claim they want in politicians but penalize them for showing. The person she is running against is a know-nothing charlatan who has spent much of his adult life using others for his personal gain. There are clear differences between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but the lesser of two evils is not one of them.
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