Eric Frazier

Why I respect Hillary Clinton’s achievement -- and why you should, too

By Eric Frazier

Hillary Clinton is the first woman nominated for president by a major American political party.
Hillary Clinton is the first woman nominated for president by a major American political party. AFP/Getty Images

So, we have history.

Hillary Clinton on Tuesday officially became the first woman nominated by a major American political party for the presidency of the United States.

To which the slogan-shouting, sign-waving young Bernie Sanders partisans who’ve descended on the Democratic National Convention might collectively scream:

SO WHAT?

Well, here’s what. Nearly 96 years have elapsed since the ratification of the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Nearly a century. And in all that time, no woman has gotten within shouting distance of the Oval Office.

Is that because no woman was smart enough, or strong enough, or charismatic enough, or qualified enough?

Of course not. We all know why.

And that’s why it does indeed matter that Hillary Clinton, even with Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky and Benghazi and email probes and all her other baggage, has finally broken that barrier.

She tried and failed in 2008. And now she steps one step closer to her goal, allowing American girls to grow up with the luxury of taking the idea of a woman president for granted, as Michelle Obama so memorably put it.

Whatever your feelings about Hillary Clinton, that matters.

Does America love her for it? Well, not so much. She’ll officially accept the Democratic nomination with her approval ratings drooping to the lowest level in her 24 years on the national stage, according to Gallup. She is viewed unfavorably by 57 percent of Americans – somehow, just 2 percentage points lower than Donald Trump’s unfavorability rating.

On Tuesday night, Bill Clinton joined the all-star team of character witnesses who’ve addressed the convention, striving to bandage her scarred public image.

Eight years ago, Barack Obama didn’t need image rehab when he became the first African American to win a major-party presidential nomination. He was sleek and smiling, a clean slate of hope and undiscovered possibilities.

We know Hillary Clinton. We’ve mapped and re-mapped her many battle scars. We know she’s smart enough to command a room of international diplomats. We know she’s tough enough to survive a 12-hour televised grilling by her most determined enemies.

And, we also know she’s a terrible public speaker. We know she’s reflexively defensive. We know she’s either super-cautious or super-calculating or both. We know she’ll tell the occasional untruth.

We know that she is, deep underneath it all, still grappling, at 68, with the same question that bedevils every awkward middle schooler: Why don’t more people like me?

And if you fall in that disapproving 57 percent of the American public, you have your reasons for being there. Heck, you can probably recite them by heart.

Me? I’m with Obama. She’s “likeable enough,” as he once famously told her. Despite the cross-eyed-crazy levels of hate she provokes in her critics, I simply don’t see the sinister she-devil her haters seem to be conjuring when they chant "Lock her up! Lock her up!"

Critique her, as you should all public office-holders. Resent her, if you feel compelled to. Hate her if you’ve got nothing better to do with your energy.

But whatever else you do, give her achievement your respect.

She has earned it.

Eric: 704-358-5145; efrazier@charlotteobserver.com

  Comments