I admire Hillary Clinton.
Tough-minded, ambitious women are not popular in America. Even so-called progressives don’t like them. Hillary Clinton is one of those women.
When she was still an undergraduate student at Wellesley, classmates remarked that she would be America’s first woman President. Before she was out of her teens, she was already off the road of conventional bourgeois life. She was chosen by her classmates to be the first student in the history of the college to give the commencement address. That speech, in which she criticized then-Senator Edward Brooke, who was on the platform with her, received huge acclamation from her audience and led to Life Magazine featuring a profile of her.
From the very beginnings of her legal career, families and children were the focus of Clinton’s work. She worked at the Yale Child Study Center while a student at Yale Law School. She worked on child custody cases as an intern at Treuhaft, Walker and Bernstein, a law firm that specialized in Constitutional issues, and which was founded by two former members of the Communist Party known for their “radical left” views. While still at the school, she wrote the article “Children and the Law” for Harvard Law Review. In that article, she surveyed the legal precedents and case law for children, and advanced the view that children were “powerless individuals” under the law, who should not be (as they were at the time) regarded as being legally incompetent for the entire period of their minor status. Rather, she wrote, they should be considered as becoming gradually more competent as they grew up. This article became one of the foundations for modern legal opinion of children under the law.
Fresh out of law school, she went to work for the newly founded Children’s Defense Fund as its first staff attorney, and she provided legal consulting to the Carnegie Council on Children.
This focus on legal issues for families and children continued throughout the next twenty years. She co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She chaired the Arkansas Rural Health Advisory Committee and the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee. She created the Arkansas Home Instruction Program for Preschool Youth to help families get their preschoolers ready for school.
During those years, she also found time to become the first woman to chair the board of directors of the Legal Services Corporation, the first woman on the Walmart board, the first woman to be made full partner at Rose Law Firm, one of only two women on the faculty at the Law School, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She chaired the board at the Children’s Defense Fund and the American Bar Association’s Commission on Women in the Profession. She continued to write scholarly articles on children and the law. She served on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Legal Services. Twice, she was recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the top one hundred most influential attorneys in the United States.
What’s wrong with this career? Hillary Clinton is not a man. Such an intensity of purpose, such ambition, would cause no remark if its owner was male. For most of the Clinton marriage, Hillary Clinton was the principal breadwinner. Oh, no you don’t, uh-uh, this is Murica.
After she left private life in 1992, to become First Lady, she did not stop being an advocate for families and children. Throughout the long years of being pilloried as a veritable Satan, accused of murder, denounced as scum for not abandoning her philandering husband, with every aspect of her personal life turned into some kind of conspiracy of evil, — through all that, she continued to work on issues for children and families. Elected to office for the first time at age 53, she established herself in short order as one of the more effective Senators in the national legislature. She got things done. Her ability to lead, and create legislation that would be successful and that would become law, put her in the top half of the Senate by the end of her first term.
I watched the video of her “confrontation” with the Black Lives Matter activists. Toward the end, after she listens calmly to the guy berating her, she says, “Okay, what do you want me to do?” He’s stumped. She goes straight to the point — all these things he says are true, now what do we do about it? And he doesn’t have an answer; for which, later, he blames her.
Well, she says, you can fill Yankee Stadium with white people, and a million more besides, and they all say, “I hear you, I’ll try to be better,” and it will accomplish nothing. You have to change laws, and processes. Apparently, that’s not what he wanted to hear, and it pissed him off. But, that is exactly what I wanted to hear. Because that’s what I want from the leader of my country: someone who will go straight at the problem, someone who will focus on changing the laws and processes.
The end of segregated schools; the Voting Rights Act; the Civil Rights Act; the Fair Housing Act; did not come about because we waited for white people to wake up and decide to get moral. They didn’t come about because people burped out two-sentence sound bites about “income inequality” and published them on campaign photographs on the internet. They didn’t come about because career politicians gave good speech, or looked good in a suit. They came about because people like Hillary Clinton were willing to step into the scrum and move the ball forward.
She has my respect, and she gets my vote.