Losing more than an election
It’s becoming clear that Hillary Clinton won’t be remembered as a faithful public servant who fought nobly on behalf of her party. Democrats are now commiserating the unfair defeat of Bernie Sanders, rather than Hillary. It seems that in the light of her defeat, the sentiment among many of her voters is ‘At least now we can stop pretending she’s a good person’. Despite her husband’s popularity, the word ‘Clinton’ will go down in history as a dirty word.
Bill Clinton was one of the most popular recent presidents, leaving office with a huge 65% approval rating. His cowboy persona that Americans loved is not so far off from the larger-than-life character of ‘The Donald’, seemingly impervious to personal scandals. Before Hillary, recalling his tenure would be reminiscing the period of economic growth in America, in which his Third Way politics flourished. He forged a legacy for himself as a philanthropist with the Clinton Foundation, however it seems that this will be tainted by Hillary; her campaign brought up suggestions of corruption within the foundation, which President Trump might pursue. This is just one aspect of how Hillary has been a tragic blow to the Clintons’ legacy.
But why? Hillary’s four years as Secretary of State had approval ratings at some points higher than Obama’s. Perhaps she should be remembered for foreign policy achievements, such as repairing US-Cuba relations, or her instrumental role in negotiating a Hamas-Israel ceasefire. Her services to New York as its senator, in rebuilding the city after it was forever changed by the events on 9/11, also surely deserve recognition. And of course, she could be celebrated as the first woman nominated by one of the major parties to run for President. Her appeal in her concession speech for young girls to ‘pursue and achieve your own dreams’ suggests that this is how she would like to be remembered. But no – Hillary will be remembered as the woman who lost 40% of the female vote to a misogynist. She may even be remembered as a misogynist herself, as her vicious campaign to defame the women involved in her husband’s discretions is the legacy that Trump wishes to bestow her.
Indeed, despite his polite words towards the Clintons in his victory speech, Trump’s presidency will surely bring about an overturning of Hillary and Bill’s legacies. The holes in Hillary’s foreign policy successes will be widened. The peace deal achieved with Hamas and Israel was merely superficial, as it lasted for the unexceptional period of 18 months. The unpopular NAFTA treaty, made under Bill’s presidency, can be labelled as another Clinton mistake. Hillary’s role in the disappointing Iran nuclear deal, pushing aggressive sanctions up until 2013, will also be emphasised. By continuing his rhetoric of tarnishing the Clintons’ legacy, Trump will be promoting his own policy of ‘Americanism’. The recent revelations that the Clintons, while publicly calling for the peaceful transition of power, are covertly trying to undermine the new President-Elect, will only serve to reinforce Hillary’s image as a liar.
The losing candidate often fades into obscurity, but this time the losing candidate has a much larger burden to carry; most who voted for Trump were voting on the basis of a demonised opponent, and those who didn’t will wonder why they voted for someone who couldn’t beat the farcical Trump campaign. The Clintons have lost more than an election, they have lost a legacy.
(Image courtesy of Chicago Tribune)