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Admit it. Even if you support Hillary Clinton, some part of you secretly wishes some other woman *cough, Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Warren,* could be the first female president. You’re worried, because Clinton’s favourability numbers (38 per cent) are in the cellar, and pollsters everywhere are saying she’s the least popular Democratic presidential candidate since anyone started counting.
The girls and young women we want to be inspired by this moment aren’t. They’ve flocked to Bernie Sanders, who’s much more trusted.
Let’s face it, we want girls and young women to look into the future and see a clear blue sky, and Hillary—well, Hillary just seems like damaged goods.
If we really want our girls and young women to aim high, we should tell them the truth. They’re in for a fight, and there won’t be anything fair about it.
Because we’re telling them the biggest fattest lie in the world if we let them believe that Hillary Clinton's main problem is Hillary Clinton. Her problem is her gender.
Any other woman stepping up for this role would be attacked just as viciously and effectively as Hillary Clinton has been. And other women won't necessarily stand up for her when she is.
Until she ran for president, Clinton was the most admired woman in the world
This might surprise you now, but according to Gallup, in 2015 Americans admired Hillary Clinton more than any other woman in the world. More than Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai or Oprah.
A lot more.
And Clinton didn’t just top the list in 2015, but she’s topped it each of the last 14 years, and 20 years overall. That’s the best record for any man or woman since Gallup began polling this question in 1948. And those numbers matched Clinton's extraordinarily high approval rating during her tenure as Secretary of State, when she reached a high of 66 per cent. That’s far above anything Barack Obama achieved in his entire presidency, and it’s well above even Michelle Obama today.
So what the hell happened? The woman ran for president, that’s what. Who does she think she is?
Look no further than Clinton’s media coverage.
Negative media coverage flipped perception
Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center reports that in comparison with all other candidates, coverage of Hillary Clinton went overwhelmingly negative, with 84 per cent of stories taking a negative slant. That compares with 43 per cent negative reporting on Donald Trump and 17 per cent on Bernie Sanders.
To put it another way, the most qualified presidential candidate in history got twice the negative media as a racist four-time bankrupt con artist who is manifestly unfit for public office.
And Trump won HUUGE on earned media, garnering an estimated $2 billion in free coverage for his campaign, just by February alone - more than twice the coverage accorded Hillary.
In media today, traffic drives profits which drive content. Once it became clear she was going to seek the presidency, hateful or negative stories about Hillary went viral. So the media kept it coming and never stopped. Just as birtherism reinforced Obama's "foreignness,” the internet became a closed circle of the collective subconscious and misogyny.
And it worked. Her approval ratings dropped like a rock.
Like every other male presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton has baggage, but hers draws a nearly hysterical public and media response.
Look at the ugliness of the Republican convention, where the delegates were blood-thirsty. Bernie’s supporters weren’t much better at the Democratic Convention. They swooned for Obama and Biden, who share her record, and screamed at Clinton. Even Susan Sarandon famously says that Hillary would be more dangerous than Donald Trump. What are these people smoking?
The frenzy of hatred Hillary Clinton inspires is not unique to her, because it’s not about her. It would happen to any woman, and our girls deserve to know this. Because what’s happened to Hillary mirrors the swarming harassment and misogyny that young women experience every day online.
Clinton objectively rated the most honest candidate, yet is perceived as dishonest
Objectively speaking, Clinton is not corrupt and dishonest and she didn’t rig the nomination.
She’s been rated by Politifact, the Pulitzer-prize-winning fact-checkers, as more honest than every other major candidate.
And despite being widely perceived as a puppet of Wall Street, her Senate voting record is rated mainstream progressive - more progressive than Joe Biden's or Barack Obama's.
Nate Silver ranks her record in liberal terms as comparable to Elizabeth Warren, and not at all distant from Bernie Sanders.
Jill Abramson, the former editor-in-chief of the New York Times who has covered Clinton for decades, should be required reading on the subject of Clinton's fundamental honesty.
Even on the explosive issue of her emails, Clinton was singled out for special condemnation. Both Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice followed a similar approach to Clinton’s. Yet after months of virtually non-stop negative coverage, in defiance of all independent assessments, it's almost an accepted fact that she's more dishonest than any of her colleagues or predecessors.
Hmmm, woman as liar. What an awfully familiar stereotype.
So, here we are, 98 days from the election.
The most qualified candidate in history could lose to the least
The most qualified presidential candidate in history is running against the least qualified, and it’s a close race!
Older women are sitting back nodding, because they’ve seen this movie before. For older women, this campaign is like a looping sing-along Sound of Music, and they know all the words.
Luckily, Hillary has been doing this backward and in high heels for decades.
If Hillary Clinton stands on the doorstep of history today, it’s because she aimed high and fought for it with fierce intelligence and fearless determination. It took steel and guts to get where she is, and fire too. It took wisdom, clear-eyed realism and the toughness to fail and get back up, over and over again. It took a cast-iron stomach and the skin of a rhino.
It took every quality a president needs.
Our girls can handle the truth, and they deserve to know it.
If there's a roadmap to becoming the first woman president of the United States, it's written in the scars on Hillary Rodham Clinton.