Election 2016: Misogyny and the Audacity of Plans

BY KELLY COGSWELL | I haven’t written anything about the election yet. Hillary Clinton is running again, and there’s so much misogyny involved I can’t stand it. And sheer idiocy. My God, whole crowds willing to swallow any crazy thing their candidate promises — whether it’s Trump vowing he’ll throw out immigrants or end gay marriage, or Bernie guaranteeing a revolution featuring single-payer healthcare and free college, and pie, and the sky.

So for the record, Hillary yes. Bernie no. And post-primaries, any Democrat will do.

Don’t bother attacking. It’s clear my opinion doesn’t matter. I’m a woman after all. Judged for my voice: shrieky. My haircut: bad, needs washing. My record: smudged. I mean, I’ve been writing these columns for such a long time, anybody can find dozens (out of several hundred) that prove I’ve been a delusional fool. Nope, I’m not at all clean, but at least you know what you’re getting.

Like with Hillary. Who is competent, careful, and has a reasonably progressive (though smudgy) track record of legislation and policy. When push comes to shove most of her stances are similar to Bernie’s. Though when it comes to women, she’s better.

She hasn’t just cast votes, she has initiated a lot of programs and legislation on the national and international level. She has worked for us, horse-traded even, and gotten laws passed and policy implemented. She’s an insider, and I’m okay with that in a world where women are second-class citizens at best; in the worst, raped, enslaved, mutilated, hidden, and murdered, considered less than human.

So she doesn’t make the same rousing speeches. I’m thrilled that she’s a policy wonk, an egghead, an annoying Hermione Granger before she bonded with Harry Potter and Ron Weasley over that enormous troll. She’s the Obama we got after the election. Thoughtful, capable, and tough. And willing to go bipartisan even if the Republicans aren’t.

Campaign 2008, Obama gave great speeches sparkling with the audacity of hope. He encouraged us with his deep mellifluous voice: Yes, we can do anything, even end partisan rancor. Behold! The dawn of the most perfect union is near. Difficulties, like queers, were swept under the rug, as he effectively mobilized the enthusiastic Occupy Wall Street sympathizers that were often so fucking radical that they didn’t need plans. Plans imply politics. Politics imply compromise, the establishment, and that nut-cracking bitch Hillary Clinton.

I thought he was going to be a total, bigoted, ineffectual asshole. I was wrong. Once he got elected, he governed as a realistic idealist, getting the job done in spite of the vicious Republican pummeling. He pulled the country back from economic meltdown, compromising his purity in ways that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren no doubt disapprove of. He named Clinton secretary of state and she helped him repair the international relations destroyed by Bush. He evolved on same-sex marriage.

And because you can’t reform health care by signing, or refusing to sign, a few documents, Obama willingly dirtied his hands with a complicated project of law. Not just mobilizing enormous teams of lawyers to draft a bill that would stand up to a constitutional challenge. But persuading members of his own stodgy Democratic Party to accept it.

All of that meant a great deal of politicking and compromise, the insider stuff Bernie says he despises. And if his track record after nearly 26 years in the House and Senate can be relied on, I think we can believe him. Only Senators Ted Cruz and Tim Scott have scores as awful as his on the bipartisan index (Georgetown University). And without political skills, Bernie’s the same as every white leftie guy ever, waving his nice clean hands a lot and shouting about income inequality. And getting nothing at all done, because in fact class doesn’t trump everything, particularly race and gender. And blab doesn’t get you very far.

Nope, I’d rather vote for an imperfect candidate with a wider vision and a pragmatic backbone. Someone who can work with others and is unafraid to evolve. And who will have an unimaginable impact worldwide as the first female president of the enormously powerful United States of America.

Time for you to inappropriately invoke Thatcher; declare Bern a better feminist than Hillary (try googling Dolezal, Rachel); and list Clinton’s failures, which always include “flip-flopping” on same-sex marriage, even though you voted for Obama, proud to put the first black president in the White House, no matter that he was then against marriage equality, and even campaigned with the same anti-gay preachers as Bush. And no matter that even working the adoring crowds, Obama was no Malcolm X.

Nobody expected him to be. It’s enough that with Hillary we’ll get a good, maybe a great president. And she’ll be more than a symbol of what women everywhere can do, but an actual advocate.

I was in France the day after the 2008 elections and I remember looking around the subway at the people of color, and remarking how most of them were grasping newspapers with Obama’s smiling, victorious face. And how they were smiling too, and standing a little straighter. It was extraordinary.

Hillary’s victory will mean as much worldwide to women. Maybe more.

Kelly Cogswell is the author of “Eating Fire: My Life as a Lesbian Avenger,” from the University of Minnesota Press.

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