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She deserved the presidency, too – and far more than that.
Thanks to the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, we learned this week that Russia hired an army of 1,000 hackers to disseminate fake news stories against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
One of the lies that spread like wildfire in the fake news ecosystem was the claim that Hillary Clinton only became the Democratic nominee because she “rigged” the primary, stealing it from the rightful winner, Bernie Sanders.
Go to any mainstream comments section on virtually any story about Hillary Clinton and you’ll still see a deluge of allusions to this insidious claim.
“Dems should’ve run the people’s choice, Bernie Sanders,” I read in one comment section recently.
Perhaps the commenter has a narrow definition of “people” that whittles the category down to people like himself. But by a metric that offers a more generous definition of personhood, Bernie Sanders wasn’t the people’s choice. Hillary Clinton was. She amassed a 4 million vote lead over him in the Democratic primary. That’s an even bigger popular vote margin than the 3 million vote margin she held over Trump in the final tally of the general.
Insisting on the lie that Bernie was the “people’s choice” and that the primary was stolen from him is just as dishonest as spreading Trump’s “alternative facts.”
Hillary won the nomination because she earned and deserved it. Unlike the two men she ran against last year, running for president wasn’t a sudden “Why not?” lark for her. She didn’t think she was entitled to win by mere fact of her existence.
From being a young Methodist girl going from house to house in Chicago trying to assess the validity of her Republican father’s crackpot theory that Kennedy stole the election from Nixon (seriously), to her time organizing sit-ins and protests in college, to her time fighting discrimination with the Children’s Defense Fund, Hillary Rodham spent her life preparing for and advancing a career in public service.
And yes, Hillary Clinton spent many years preparing for the presidency – a confident sort of ambition that we admire in men but find distasteful and suspicious in women.
Insisting that a far less qualified man (who simply decided to give it a go on a whimsical burst of ego) deserved the nomination – and that the woman who spent decades diligently working for it could’ve only won if it was “rigged” – is misogynistic garbage.
Hillary decided decades ago to devote herself to working to effect change from inside the Democratic Party. In 2016, she ran on the most progressive platform of any Democrat in living memory.
Bernie, after decades spent on the sidelines trashing the Democratic Party rather than working inside to reform it, waited to join the party until he decided that he deserved its nomination. He carried with him that implicit message that any failure on part of the party to reward him with the nomination could only be a sign of a corrupt, Wall Street-aligned, party establishment bent on subverting the will of the people.
Bernie Sanders didn’t earn the support of the party before he demanded its nomination. And he didn’t prepare for a life of public service. In fact, Hillary Clinton was too nice to point this out during the campaign, but Bernie Sanders didn’t hold a steady job until he became an elected official just shy of 40 years old. A woman seeking the presidency would never get away with that resumé.
For all the talk of a “coronation,” Hillary Clinton never once acted as if the nomination or the presidency were owed to her by virtue of her own righteous existence. She has demonstrated throughout her life that any position she has sought was something she had to work, study, and fight like hell for. And she did.
“You criticize me for preparing for this debate,” Hillary told Trump in the third debate after he tried to ding her for studying hard beforehand. “And, yes, I did. Do you know what else I prepared for? I also prepared to be president.”
She meant it.
That’s why Hillary Clinton produced 112,735 words of well-thought-out, detailed policy proposals during the campaign. That’s 35,791 more words than in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Compare that to Trump’s paltry 9,000 words of policy.
Only one candidate acted as if the presidency was something she had to earn.
And that’s why Hillary Clinton was the people’s choice in the Democratic primary. That’s why Hillary Clinton was the people’s choice in the general election.
That’s why we must put to rest, not only the lie of a rigged primary, but the lie that voters soundly rejected Hillary Clinton.
Not only did Hillary Clinton win 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, but she matched President Obama’s 2012 popular vote haul of 66 million. Only Barack Obama’s total in 2008 – an exceptionally high turnout election – is greater than Hillary Clinton’s 2016 haul.
That means Hillary Clinton won millions more votes for president than any white man to ever run for the office – including the one who beat her.
In fact, of all the races she’s run, she has never lost the popular vote. That includes 2008, when Hillary Clinton edged Barack Obama out by 300,000 votes in a razor-thin primary battle that saw both candidates win nearly 18 million votes.
So let’s put to rest not only the lie that the Democratic primaries were “rigged” against Bernie, but also the lie that Hillary Clinton was resoundingly rejected by voters. She wasn’t.
Bernie Sanders trailed far behind in her in the 2016 Democratic primaries in both votes and delegates. In 2008, Barack Obama (a President I will forever be proud of and grateful for) was chosen by the party establishment’s Superdelegates. Donald Trump won the 2016 election because of an electoral college fluke; he was the system’s choice.
But Hillary Rodham Clinton has been the people’s choice in every election she has ever competed in. We ought to be honest about that. For the lifetime of work she’s put into “doing the most good” she could on behalf of an often merciless, unkind, and ungrateful nation, she deserves it.
Top image: Hillary Clinton on November 4, 2016 in Pittsburgh, PA. Photo by Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America.