Hillary Clinton may be one of the most vetted presidential candidates we’ve every–EVER–seen. Ever. Nothing in her life has gone unscrutinized, hashed and rehashed, by people who are fundamentally antagonistic toward her. I’m more than okay with her candidacy, especially since Bernie has imploded.
She has been at the forefront of the major issues of our time, especially the rights of women and children and the under-served and universal health care. In the 1970s, some conservative jurists dismissed her work in critical legal studies as diminishing the traditional authority and power of the parent. Historian Garry Wills, whose books on the Declaration of Independence and Gettysburg Address I’ve always admired, called her work some of the most important of the time and other legal scholars pointed out that her scholarship on children and women in the law helped to impose some order on a chaotic and confusing body of law. This was, after all, the role of critical legal studies: movement in legal theory and a network of leftist legal scholars to shape society based on a vision of human personality devoid of the hidden interests of gender and class domination.
If we think about it, these early years predicated subsequent actions: there is nothing contradictory about her movement from legal scholar to activist to politician to stateswoman. Her work in those days, exemplified in her efforts to help found the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, recognized that the law tended to serve the interests of the wealthy and the powerful by protecting them against the demands of the poor, women, children, ethnic minorities, traditionally disenfranchised, etc. Then there’s Office on Violence Against Women (developed with Janet Reno); Adoption and Safe Families Act (1997) and the list goes on. As First Lady, she rivaled Pat Nixon in official visits; as activist, she rivaled Eleanor Roosevelt. Because of Hillary Clinton, “it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights,” part of her speech at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. As Secretary of State, she found a terrific balance in the use of “smart power” (as opposed to “hard power” (weapons) and “soft power” (economic pressure), as Secretary of State.
I’m amazed at her endurance. I’m several years younger, and would pale at the pace she sets herself. The travel, the speeches, and the constant on-switch she demonstrates is incredible. Is she polarizing? I suspect it’s partisan polarization. How tough is it to be a woman in politics? To be caught in that bind of gendered expectation?