Yes, I Support Hillary Clinton — Now Please Stop Attacking Me For It
By Rachel Hills
When it was announced that Hillary Clinton had clinched the Democratic nomination, I waited to say anything because I wanted to be respectful of my friends who support Bernie Sanders. I know how much it hurts to have a candidate you believe in lose, and covering my Facebook wall in #madamepresident and “History Made” memes felt obnoxious and unnecessary, like rubbing salt into a wound.
Then, a few days later, I went to share the below photo, of me wearing my Hillary t-shirt to the opening showing of a friend’s film the night before, the first time I’d worn the shirt in the United States. The plan was to write something short and quippy, like “seems fitting to debut my Hillary shirt at a film about women crushing their dreams.” But as I went to write it and a knot began to form in my stomach, I realized something: I was afraid to share it.
I was also afraid to wear it.
I had bought the t-shirt late last year, before the Sanders campaign had fully taken off, feeling riled up by the necessity of taking down a potential President Trump, Cruz, or Walker. But until Thursday night, the only place I’d worn it was on a hike through a rainforest in another country. Going out in public wearing a t-shirt with Hillary Clinton’s name on it felt like opening myself up to confrontation I didn’t want — so I didn’t do it.
Reflecting on my own hesitancy made me think of the New York primary back in April. The streets of Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan were awash in Bernie-themed street art, Bernie stickers, Bernie buttons and t-shirts. I was convinced he was going to win the state, or at least win New York City. But when the results came in, they showed the opposite of what I had anticipated. Not only had Hillary won New York State, she had also won the city. Bernie, meanwhile, had won whole chunks of upstate New York.
Slate columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote about it afterwards, noting the same contrasts between the conversations she heard in her Brooklyn neighborhood, versus the way her neighborhood actually voted. “Same phenomenon as with Trump voters who are too ashamed to admit it,” one Bernie supporter commented in response.
But I’d posit a different explanation. I’ll allow that my being reluctant to wear my t-shirt in public says as much about my emotional sensitivity and aversion to conflict as it does anything else — it’s not like Bernie Sanders supporters have a history of beating up Hillary Clinton supporters on the streets. But I do think that the nastiness, vitriol, and sheer sense of righteousness that has dominated online and offline conversations during this campaign has had a chilling effect — and not just for me. See the legions of private Facebook groups that Clinton supporters formed throughout the primary to discuss the campaign without being harangued.
And it is fascinating to me that it’s Facebook, of all places — the social media platform full of people we actually know and allegedly like — where this chilling effect is strongest. I don’t feel like I have to watch what I say on Twitter, a more public forum, even though there are plenty of people there who will happily tell me I’m an idiot. But being told that you’re a terrible leftie, that Hillary Clinton is the second coming of Margaret Thatcher (a politician whose policies and ideology are at the opposite end of the political spectrum to Clinton), or that women’s representation at the highest level of government isn’t a relevant feminist goal because Angela Merkel is Chancellor of Germany and Thatcher was Prime Minister of the UK 30 years ago (isn’t one enough? don’t want to be greedy!) by people you like, and who supposedly like you, is exhausting in a different — and much more personal — way.
I published an article on The Establishment in February in which I argued that I was supporting Hillary Clinton “because” she was a woman, and that I was perfectly okay with that. But on further reflection, I’ve realized that’s not actually true. I’ve always known I wouldn’t support a conservative woman like Sarah Palin, Carly Fiorina, Thatcher, or even Merkel. But I also don’t think I would be this excited or passionate about any other female Democratic candidate (or many other female Democratic candidates, at least).
I’m not just excited that “a woman” might become president of the country that I live in, but that Hillary Clinton might become president: a woman who has been a national and international public figure for 25 years, who has been a thorn in the side of the Right for that duration, who has a lifelong record of working for progressive change, and who has had the word “liberal” thrown at her in the pejorative primarily not in the sense of “person too self-interested or weak-willed to be a radical” but in the sense of “those dirty, no good lefties.”
A woman who has fought, and worked, and never given up.
This is what I genuinely believe, and I won’t and shouldn’t be silenced because I fear vitriolic backlash.
No, Hillary’s not perfect (although frankly, I’m kind of exhausted by the fact that Clinton supporters have to keep including that disclaimer, as though other politicians are perfect, and we’re just making this special allowance of imperfection for her). But neither is Bernie Sanders, who’s not great on gun control, and doesn’t really seem to respect women (or accept the fact that he lost an election to a woman).
So, in conclusion, I like Hillary Clinton. So do many of the most incisive writers and activists I know. We don’t support Clinton because we’re less committed to progressive change than Sanders supporters, or because we’re cynically accepting a “second best” option. We support her because our analysis of power — who holds it, and how that needs to change — is a little different, and because we believe that she is the best person to shake up the (white, male) political establishment as it stands and get things done in the process. Disagreements happen, even — or perhaps especially — with people you mostly agree with.
I get that some of you don’t like her — in some cases, for good reasons that fill me with inner conflict too (See: American Imperialism and a problematic record on racial issues) — and I understand the importance of activism. But there are ways to express your opinions without diminishing people who agree with you on 90% of everything anyway.
You wouldn’t walk into a friend’s lounge room and tell them they’re a terrible feminist/progressive/human being because they support a different candidate to you (and if you did, you wouldn’t be surprised if you weren’t invited back). You’d probably listen, ask questions, express your own opinion, and if you wanted to try to bring them around to your point of view, you might do that by trying to find common ground.
So why not try the same thing on our Facebook walls? We have a demagogue to defeat, after all.
Read more perspectives on the election here.
Lead image: flickr/jon1204pdt