[dc]"T[/dc]here's nothing either bad nor good, but thinking makes it so." That's Hamlet speaking, in the play of the same name (it's about a prince in Denmark, don't ya know?). The quote is in my arsenal of thoughts I've collected and keep in my personal psychic repair kit, little patches I put on emotional scrapes and bruises when I need reassurance or perspective.
You probably have such notions stored up for rainy days, too, a library in your brain of nostrums that serve as life rafts, keeping you afloat when you're feeling a bit at sea. "It's always darkest before the dawn" might be in your stash, for instance. Or "don't let the bastards get you down" might have made it into your philosophical medicine bag. "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice" might have found its way into your tool box for those moments when the roof of your mood is leaking rather badly and you need a tile or too to stem the flow.
Now that I've mixed up a big cocktail of metaphors to describe those homilies, clichés, and verities we use to keep ourselves sane, I'll return to Shakespeare's thought about how we can adjust our reality by adjusting the way we choose to see things.
And that brings me to the election of Donald Trump as POTUS, and to the corresponding defeat of Hillary Clinton, an incomparably better, more qualified, and decent human being almost no matter how you choose to think of her.
But how are we to think of this defeat, this ongoing nightmare? How are we to explain it to ourselves? Is there any way of arranging our thoughts to make this less painful?
Hillary Clinton has exceptional claim to the right to feel bad about that loss, and a strong claim to the right to sort it out in any way that might make sense to her. She's taken a pretty severe pounding from lots of people who really haven't earned the right to bash her.
Many of those same people, however, are unloading on her again in response to her book—What Happened—in which she offers her version of why she lost the election. Ain't hardly a thing that lady can say or do that doesn't get people's knickers in a knot. This is a woman so successfully tarred by the right wing for so long that she can't hardly win for losing, with people on the left routinely writing stuff that echoes Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly, Breitbart, Savage, Levin, Coulter, and the pantheon of fascists who have made handsome livings for a very long time by throwing rhetorical rubbish at her.
Even when she merely offers quite reasonable explanations of the "perfect storm" of elements that came together to deny her the White House, she still gets a ration of shit from across the political spectrum. Talking heads line up on cable news to say how bad she looks when she refuses to merely accept the fact that she was a "flawed" candidate who ran a bad campaign. She should just accept the fact that it was all her own fault, shut the hell up, and let it go at that.
But it is surely possible to think that loss was far from all Hillary's fault, especially as evidence mounts about the many ways this hard-working woman got screwed, and the many forces that screwed her—and us—out what should have been a safer and saner Clinton administration, a time less bleak and perilous than the one we are now hoping to live through.
It's hard to imagine worse campaigns than the ones spearheaded by Al Gore and John Kerry, but they didn't get nearly the criticism that has come Hillary's way.
It's hard to imagine worse campaigns than the ones spearheaded by Al Gore and John Kerry, but they didn't get nearly the criticism that has come Hillary's way. The instantly forgettable Tim Kaine (Tim who?) probably didn't inspire even his wife to go to the polls, but he surely was better than the puke-inducing Joe Lieberman chosen by Gore, or John Edwards, the pretty boy twit chosen by Kerry.
Nor did Hillary do any of the cringe-worthy stuff both Gore and Kerry did when those patrician Ivy Leaguers tried to pull off one of their stunts meant to show just what reg'lar fellers they were, huntin,' fishin,' wind surfin', and knockin' back a brew or two.
And as long as we're talking about those bad campaigns, let's recall that exceedingly creepy kiss Gore laid on Tipper at the Democratic convention, a low-water mark intended, I suppose, to distance himself in the marital sweepstakes from Bill Clinton and his Oval Office infidelity even though distancing himself from Clinton at a moment when Clinton's popularity was still surprisingly high was also not too cool, nor too smart, campaign-wise.
Nor should we forget that whatever other qualities he had, or other good things he may have done, John Kerry could effortlessly bore an audience of people who had just been released from years of solitary confinement, men and women who would beg to be sent back to the hole rather than listen to Kerry drone on about policy.
But they were guys, ya know, running campaigns against other guys who were surely no prizes themselves (losing to Bush/Cheney can't have been easy, but Gore and Kerry pulled it off) and it would have seemed rude to rub salt in the wounds of men who lost to other men. It would have been cruel to add insult to those injuries. Women—and especially Hillary—are simply held to a different standard. You lost, bitch, so man up and don't blame anyone but yourself.
But it took a global village to deny Hillary the White House. It took untold numbers of Russian trolls, a full-time right wing homegrown propaganda ministry at Fox and Breitbart that had been slinging mud at her since 1991. It took an FBI director who felt it appropriate to excoriate her even as he was announcing there were no grounds to prosecute her.
And. if that wasn't quite enough, it took a return visit from Jim Comey when he announced at a critical moment in the campaign that he was opening another investigation of her, an investigation that went nowhere.
Hillary also faced an American public receptive to the idea that she was "weak," not strong, like a man. We had the hit she took for getting sick with the flu. We had Bernie bros who couldn't let it go even as the man they'd supported endorsed and then began campaigning for Hillary. We had the usual internecine warfare among Democrats ("I don't belong to an organized political party" Will Rogers said back in the 1930s, "I'm a Democrat.")
Oh, and lest we forget, the mainstream media gave Trump a billion or more dollars in free media exposure, in print, on radio, on TV, and on social media. Hillary was lucky to get a sound bite with a snarky intro about her "emails," but Trump had his rallies and speeches covered in their entirety, over and over again, long after the novelty (and the slogans) and the news value had grown stale.
Lots of "progressives" chose to see Hillary Clinton merely as "the lesser of two evils," and decided to think that they could never, ever, ever cast a vote for even a teensy weensy atom of evil no matter what. They chose to see Hillary Clinton as the right wing had been describing her almost from the moment she and her husband showed up on the national scene. To them, she was "crooked Hillary" even before Trump laid that adjective on her, just no damn good at all, a hand maiden to the rich and powerful, a corporatist, a servant of imperialism, a regular Lady Macbeth.
Lots of union guys voted against Hillary, deciding to think they were likely to do better under a Trump administration because, I guess, it's possible to think that a reality TV star who lives in a golden tower is more likely to be the working man's friend than a woman could ever be, especially a woman endorsed by most every union except for a few local unions representing the police in places where white folks were feeling particularly imperiled by the colored hordes.
Lots of black folks decided to sit this one out, voting in fewer numbers than they had when Obama was the Democratic Party candidate.
Then there were the Gary Johnson "independent" nitwits who voted for that ninny because there just wasn't already enough self-defeating stupidity in the mix. Oh, and the smug-ass "Green" voters, of course, who still aren't curious, apparently, about what their candidate was doing at that table in Moscow with Putin and General Flynn.
Hillary Clinton also had to overcome misogyny no one was willing to admit was there, in addition to the racism that had been building and becoming more vocal since the day Barack Obama entered the White House.
Despite all that, Hillary Clinton won the damned election, took the popular vote by 3 million, would have been POTUS but for the electoral college and a handful of entirely suspicious districts in three states that very well might have been hacked.
But she doesn't get to say that there may have been other significant reasons for her loss aside from her own failures and inadequacies. I, for one, would love to see some of those glib critics show the grit, the dignity, and the restraint Hillary Clinton showed in just one of her debates with that slimy creep she beat in the popular vote.
"There's nothing either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so." Shakespeare had a point when he penned those words. And there's nothing delusional, outlandish, or even self-serving about how Hillary Clinton chooses to think about "what happened" last year.
It is worth remembering, however, that black men were given the right to vote more than a half century before women of any color won that right, and this in a nation where black men were (and are) feared, hated, and discriminated against with fervor and the full force of law. Might misogyny have been a big factor in giving a swinish male like Trump the White House?
Hillary can think it, but she's gonna catch hell if she says so right out loud.