What it Means to Ask Hillary to be Magnanimous

It might be that Martin is right. For the good of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton will need to be the “adult in the room” and do what she can to try to tamp down the wildfire that is raging among the supporters of Bernie Sanders.

But I also can’t help thinking about something I read by Sady Doyle recently.

“Secretary Clinton, first ladies, as you well know, have used their position to work on important causes like literacy and drug abuse,” the moderator says. “But they also supervise the menus, the flowers, the holiday ornaments and White House decor. I know you think you know where I’m going here.”

I watch Hillary Clinton’s face. She smiles. You always smile at the job interview. She smiles like a motherfucker, that woman…Because after everything you’ve done, everything you’ve fought for, that’s still what most men want to know. They want to know they can insult you and get away with it. They won’t work with you if they can’t.

Hillary Clinton lets them insult her with a smile on her face, because she wants the job. Because there is no way to just flip a table, throw the coffee, walk out of this bitch in protest, and get the job she wants. There never is. Not for her, not for me, not for any of us. She smiles.

So…there is nothing wrong with expecting the winner to be magnanimous. But the truth is, women have been doing that for centuries. We’ve been smiling and taking it because to do otherwise diminishes our ability to reach our goals. When we ask this of Hillary, women all over the country know exactly what that feels like and we risk triggering their ire in response. In this case, what we have is a white male candidate whose supporters claim grievances that are expressed via tantrums and threats. But we place the burden on the woman to reach out and make nice.

This is part of what it means to nominate the first woman in this country to be president. In a lot of ways, it is similar to what we learned from having our first African American president. Each move is viewed through the lens of what millions of people in this country have put up with for years. That is the price we pay for centuries of white patriarchy. It is important to keep that in mind when we establish expectations for how these “firsts” handle themselves.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.