Is Hillary as “authentic” as Bernie?

Ann Klefstad
Feb 3, 2016 · 5 min read

It’s wonderful that Bernie Sanders is so authentic, so committed to his principles. I certainly appreciate that. He’s had a long political career in Vermont, a Blue state, and has steered his own ship, with strong support from his community and his family, including his wife Jane.

From an ABC interview:

“He spoke and it was unbelievable,” [Jane] said. “I just felt that he embodied everything I believed, and I was on board right away.”

When they met, Jane was a single mother of three.

“He understood what my concerns were,” she said. “Worrying about childcare, worrying about the cost of housing, worrying about how am I ever going to send the kids to college.”

The two have been married for 27 years. Between them, they have four children and seven grandchildren.

Jane has a doctorate in leadership and policy studies, is a former college president and has served Vermont on a volunteer basis over the years. She is one of her husband’s closest advisers — so close that her desk is directly next to his in his campaign office.

She said it hasn’t been too difficult balancing being a political adviser and a wife.

“I think since it has always been that way from the beginning of our relationship,” she said. “We’ve always talked issues. We’ve always creatively solved things together.”

Not to take anything away from Bernie and Jane, but think what an advantage this is: to build a career in a location of your choosing, with the strong support of a highly qualified and intelligent person who is unconditionally loyal to you. This was also Bill Clinton’s situation — after Yale, finding Hillary, heading home to Arkansas, and building a brilliant career in politics.

But hey — what about Hillary? After getting a law degree from Yale (an all-male institution a few years previously) she meets Bill. She dumps her career as a congressional aide to move to Arkansas with Bill. I can imagine her dilemma. This was the 1970s. If she wanted to be with Bill, she would be riding on the ship he was captain of. There were consequences to that. She would be a partner in creating a political career that would accomplish many of the goals she wanted to accomplish. Bill very much admired her superb intellect and political skills as well. So they embarked.

They’re in Arkansas. Vermont politics have a pretty clean record. Arkansas? Not so much. You do make your own choices, but the context you’re in, well, it matters. The Arkansas economy was in the toilet. The only bright star was the Walton family and Walmart, which was on track to become the biggest retailer in the world. They provided (in Arkansas) an expanding number of well-paid jobs. Bill was governor. Should Hillary have dumped his political career for a chance to spit in Sam Walton’s eye? Well, that wasn’t going to happen. She sat on the Walmart board and did what she could to both ensure the prosperity of the state of which her husband was governor and to do the right thing. She has almost always chosen the path (sometimes not the one you’d pick — ) that would enable her to accomplish some good actions, rather than the pure path that tends to lead to inaction, or to exile from the power than enables you to make change.

Next up is, of course, the famously aphrodisiac nature of power. Recently Lori Mattix did an interview with a Thrillist writer, about how she lost her virginity to David Bowie at age 14 — she and Mr. Bowie were both enthusiastic participants in this act (and David Bowie, of course, is a demigod to progressives). Something similar began happening with the young and handsome governor in Arkansas and his political groupies. This was another thing that comes with not having your own ship but only crewing on that of another — and Hillary was vilified in the most ugly and hateful ways for 1) not leaving Bill; for 2) being “old and ugly” and thus not sufficiently attractive to keep Bill leashed; for 3) somehow facilitating Bill’s adventures . . . you may not be old enough to remember, but it was about as ugly and stupid and hateful as you can imagine. Or maybe you can’t imagine.

She survived this, and when during his presidency Bill was entrapped by a young woman in a blue dress with a behind-the-scenes handler, she survived that too — as well as the impeachment attempt. And when she mentioned that Bill — and she herself — had been hounded, spied on, vilified, and slandered for years in the most vile ways by right-wing operatives, she was mocked as paranoid — even though it was obvious that what she said was true.

The Clinton Presidency was famous in its early days for the great responsibilities that she was given by Bill — and for which she was showered with the verbal equivalent of rocks and bottles by Republicans and Democrats alike. Her carefully worked out health plan, which would have been better than Obamacare, never came to a vote in a Democrat-majority legislature, not because of its merits or demerits, but because hatred for the idea of a first lady powerful in her own right had politicians of all stripes foaming at the mouth. So she went down to humiliating defeat, swallowed it, and went on to champion more traditional first-lady causes like children’s rights. And when she said she didn’t bake cookies — well, you’d think she’d confessed to raping Girl Scouts. Again, you may be too young to remember, but the level of vulgar sexualized humiliating hatred was shocking. She survived it all.

In all of this her freedom to speak and to act was limited because she was, actually, part of a couple. For all the insanity, Bill and Hillary honestly loved each other, apparently still do. And she kept her actions in check partly because of a disciplined loyalty to her marriage — which right-wing “family values” assholes continually mocked.

There’s more. There’s much more. But this is a brilliant human being who, because of the fucking sexist shit of the world which she, and not Bill, and not Bernie, had to swim through, just MAY NOT BE quite so insouciant, quite so “authentic”–seeming, as the guys. John Boehner can weep his crocodile tears. Women can’t weep in public without their power immediately crumbling. Bernie can have rumpled hair. Hillary’s various hairstyles have been covered in catty, pissy, insulting detail for decades. If Hillary yells, it is called a “mean scream” in “progressive” news feeds. If Bernie yells, it’s just authentic feeling.

And now, after Bill’s Presidency and after serving as Secretary of State during a difficult time of transition in which she worked with Obama to try to turn this nation’s foreign policy from one of force and domination to one of diplomacy and multilateral partnership (during which she took blame for every possible mishap and no credit for the gradual shift in the direction of diplomacy), it’s finally her turn. Her turn. And Bill? Has sort of lost his enthusiasm for the political game — it’s not his game now, see?

And the nation Hillary has served through thick and thin has decided that, well, she’s just not pure enough. After flinging shit on her for three decades no matter what she did, well, we decide she’s not clean enough.

This makes me so shrieking mad I want to go break heads. But Hillary’s a good example. She just gets up and goes to work again. No wonder she laughs sometimes when people don’t expect it. It’s the only way to survive her surreal career.