She shall overcome: After staring down misogynists for 68 years, Hillary Clinton faces one final hurdle in Donald Trump

At every stage, the patriarchy has tried in vain to block Clinton's path. She's learned a few lessons along the way

Published October 3, 2016 9:59AM (EDT)

 (AP/Richard Drew/LM Otero/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP/Richard Drew/LM Otero/Carolyn Kaster)

Alicia Machado needs to spend a long evening over a couple glasses of wine with Hillary Clinton. The former Miss Universe is being, by no fault of her own, subjected to exactly the same kind of misogyny by Donald Trump that Clinton has faced for 68 years now — and neither woman deserves it. In fact, no woman deserves to be marginalized and humiliated by Trump or any other man simply due to her gender; no woman deserves to be intimidated into doing stomach crunches in front of a pool of all-male reporters; no woman deserves to be slut-shamed using an alleged sex tape as specious evidence, and no woman deserves to told that she can't be president simply because she looks like a woman.

Fortunately, for Clinton, facing Trump is merely the boss battle at the end of a harrowingly arduous journey in which a rogues' gallery of enemies, mostly man-shaped enemies, have endeavored to beat her down because, they said, she's too fat, too ugly, too independent-minded, too smart and simply not cuddly enough for the delicate masculinity of patriarchs who are deeply concerned with losing some of their power to a strong, gutsy woman.

After watching this week's episode of PBS's "Frontline," entitled "The Choice" (watch the video here or below), about the dual lives of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, I've gained an entirely new appreciation for Clinton as a woman and as a public servant, not to mention the uphill fight that she's been forced to wage in order to arrive at this lofty station in her political career.

Clinton's life has been spent serving her nation and the world through activism and political change — be it on her own or in her complicated partnership with President Bill Clinton. Trump's life, on the other hand, has been spent enriching his own name-brand, with mixed-to-poor results. Clinton's mission has been directed outward. Her goals and motives seem to have been laser-focused on country first. Trump, on the other hand, probably can't name all the states and capitals. Through public service and issue-oriented activism, Clinton has become a better person for her experiences, while Trump has only endeavored to become a more grotesque tabloid thug — a malevolent cartoon cereal mascot renting out his name and his great, tremendous, very, very good (believe me!) grasp of superlative language to anyone paying cash. Accordingly, "Frontline" walked us through Trump's life of failed business decisions; his lavish deficit-spending of other people's money; his unforgivable and brutally racist demonization of the Central Park Five, calling for the execution of the suspects who were later exonerated; his association with proto-Trump Roy Cohn; and, of course, his mortifying treatment of Alicia Machado.

Even as we cringe and gasp at the unprecedented spectacle of this election, there's something poetic and epic — something mythological about it. It's almost as if both candidates are being confronted by the ghosts of their respective pasts. In Trump, Clinton is facing a demonic chimera of all the woman-hating goons who've fought to hold her back. Conversely, Trump is facing an opponent who karmically represents, in a way, all of the women he's wronged. Being embarrassed on the debate stage by a girl is the least of the penance Trump deserves for his ongoing menu of trespasses. If justice still exists in presidential elections, Clinton will humiliatingly defeat this flailing, fire-eating boss who insists he's such a winner.

Until now, I never really appreciated Clinton's lifelong struggle against an embedded patriarchy that's tossed one enemy after the next into her path. Most of those enemies have ranged from sexist to fully misogynistic — some, like Barack Obama or Bernie Sanders, have ultimately been benevolent foes, but they're the exceptions. Too many of Clinton's political skirmishes have been waged simply because she's a smart, driven, non-traditional woman. After straining for the approval of her father; after enduring the good-old-boy network in Arkansas — men who demanded that she change her hair and her last name, and lose weight in order to be taken seriously; after fighting Newt Gingrich, Ken Starr and the "vast right wing conspiracy"; after her Senate campaign against "America's Mayor," Rudy Giuliani; and after her primaries against current-day allies Obama and Sanders, Clinton has only Boss Trump remaining in her path. So far, she appears to be harnessing every hard lesson she's learned along the way to deceive her one-dimensional opponent into relentlessly punching himself in his own feeble crotch. (See his latest tweets about Ms. Machado, for example.)

It's no wonder she was able to so skillfully bait Trump into behaving like a feces-flinging spider monkey in the first debate. (Apologies to spider monkeys.) Indeed, she's been forced to outflank one preening strongman like Trump after another, and she's savvy enough to have accumulated a working knowledge of specifically where and how to pinpoint the gaps in the armor of her enemies. Clinton's been accumulating experience to that end and preparing to run against Trump or someone like him for 68 years. Only, in truth, it's not just Trump standing in her way now. It's also tens of millions of white, non-college educated fanboys who unapologetically idolize their orange messiah almost as much they hate her. Why? Because she's a woman and she's a political juggernaut who refuses to quit. It's also due to 30-plus years of false narratives and unfair caricatures that've relentlessly orbited Clinton because she's dared to rage against the prison bars of traditional gender roles. The new "Frontline" factually undermines those false tropes.

When Barack Obama said there's been no other candidate more qualified to be president than Clinton, he was 100 percent accurate. While Obama will always be "my president," Clinton is one of those mythological characters who's half human, half Resolute desk. She belongs in the White House. With all due respect to Senator Sanders, there's really only one Democratic politician who was destined to both confront and, hopefully, defeat Trump and his henchmen.

Hillary Clinton is an astonishingly gifted woman as well as a one-in-a-million role model for anyone who's had to overcome great adversity to achieve great things. She might not be your BFF or mine, but she doesn't have to be. Contrary to what we've been sold for too many years, a president doesn't have to be a pal you'd have a beer with. If there's a kernel of truth to her being typecast as a prickly, calculating technocrat, perhaps this is what it takes to shatter the political glass ceiling. You can't really know for sure unless you've scrambled over the same trap doors. In service of the unfair, too-easy stereotypes about Clinton, she's had to catch and absorb more bullshit than just about any other human being in politics, male or female, and she's emerged from all of it as an unbreakable, wisdom-infused, presidential woman with as much or more potential to be one of our greatest chief executives than anyone who's preceded her.

When and if she wins — and more than anyone else — Clinton will have fully and completely earned it.





By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Alicia Machado Donald Trump Elections 2016 Hillary Clinton Misogyny Pbs Frontline Video