Hillary Clinton: The Leader You Want When The World Ends
Eileen Myles, poet and 1992 write-in presidential candidate, explains why she believes Hillary Clinton is the most reasonable choice for president under the most unreasonable of circumstances.
I was standing in a hardware store in Texas, west Texas, and the woman I needed to talk to was behind the counter and there was a biggish guy with a gut standing in front of me. I was willing to wait, you know, standing around being a good citizen, when suddenly it swerved to politics. The guy said something about Hillary and her emails and then he sneered at Bernie Sanders. The guy grinned broadly and said, "To hell with them I’m voting for Trump," and then he looked happy and laughed hard. He made a joke. I intervened at that moment, kind of lost it actually, and I’m going back there tomorrow and I hope it doesn’t impact on the quality of door I get, which is why I was standing there. I started saying, "Trump is a monster and a racist," getting really angry like, "How can you even talk about voting for him?" I blew my cover and now everyone was a little like hoo-boy. But luckily I saw what happened. I recognized that that guy doesn’t know any more than I do about Hillary’s emails. I’ve heard that they reveal what a nice person she is then I also heard they weren’t classified when she wrote them and I haven’t looked hard into what is so wrong with those emails. It sounds stupid. Her emails? But what the guy was implying in a quick swipe was how dare she. How dare she be running her dirty little scam. And Bernie. You know the guy’s a socialist. Great. Because here in the great state of Texas we do things our way. That’s how a man runs his life. And yet she thinks she’s going to run a little number on America with all her secret shit, or the Jew gets to talk about how he is going to change things. That really riles this guy. They are interfering with the whole picture as he understands it and luckily there is a candidate who would be a fuck-you to these types and that is Trump. A guy who says it like it is. Yeah he’s kind of a nut with his weird hair but he’s out there with it. Guy’s rich. He’s no fool. And watching this small drama unfold I felt, oh yes this is America and this is exactly how Trump will be elected. Cartoon America. And all I wanted was a door. I keep thinking of that New Yorker cover with the American venerables — Lincoln, Washington, et al. — watching Donald Trump waving his arms on teevee and it just gave me a 1930s chill. There he is: the ludicrous one. Trump, kind of a fuck-you joke at the end of the world which I happen to believe is where we truly are. Not standing in the hardware store, not writing in bed.
So I think part of the reason I believe in Hillary Clinton or the efficacy of putting her in the Oval Office is that I think she might bring it on a little slower, and otherwise all I feel is a toboggan slide with either one of those men, Bernie and Trump. I voted for Hillary last time too. I’m sort of a fan of a limited effect, a small definable margin you can build on and keep going. She makes sense. I think that if Hillary Clinton had been in office for the last eight years we’d have better health care right now because she failed already in that regard and she did not go away and if elected last time she would have tried to do it again knowing what she wanted and how to get it from the abominable creature she’s been a part of: Congress. I remember her talking in the first campaign and she had a very clear plan. She always does. She makes sense. She talked openly and frankly about the mortgage crisis and there too she had specific things she wanted to do. She intended to save people’s homes. Obama didn’t talk about that at all and he pretty much gave it to the banks. I saw that he was economically conservative when he came in (U. of Chicago) despite all the beautiful talk. I find him eloquent and kind of a poet. I think he just had some vision and we needed that and I’m totally grateful for him. But I wanted Hillary last time because she was a experienced congressman, she had been "in" the White House before and knows how it works. The first time I voted I voted for Eugene McCarthy and I knew he wouldn’t win but it felt so great to vote for him, to vote for the right guy, the one who wanted peace. And I voted for Shirley Chisholm next because I loved her and I just thought how amazing it would be if she was the president of the United States. I have the button. I can’t even remember who they were running against. Right away I thought my vote was symbolic. I wanted it to support my system. THAT system didn’t work. And it still doesn’t but today I’m trying to get to the roots of why I think what I am thinking: that I want this woman to win. Lyndon Johnson I know for a fact was a great president. And I don’t mean by that he was a great man. He horrifically escalated the war in Vietnam. And he also got the civil rights bill passed and all the great society programs of the '60s exist 'cause of him because he was like a guy who loved to wheel and deal and he had a strong domestic agenda and there’s a romance about who Kennedy was, but Johnson did the thing and I think Hillary Clinton will be like that. I think she’s a leader. Could anyone be named Hillary and not be bossy. Yet she is being tarred for that. Well really for everything.
Can we talk about tarring. That might be the heart of what I want to say here. An old friend on Facebook says she’s outraged I’m voting for Hillary. She says do you realize she was a registered Republican, she’s a racist and a bigot and her and Bill personally supervised the growth of the prison industry, all the killing she did, and my friend goes faster and faster and soon we’re getting a form, a shape. Something evil called Hillary. Someone else on Facebook says she called young black men super-predators. I mean she was talking about gang violence in the '90s and she said there were super-predators in the black community. Truly bad phrasing, even bad thinking but not the same as young black men = super-predators. And especially not the same as what it would mean today. Can we look at her republicanism: Hillary supported Goldwater briefly in high school. Nobody is actually a registered voter in high school. Yet even the New Republic reports that she has been a Republican. That same year she supported Eugene McCarthy. Later on she worked for McGovern. I did the same swerve. I wanted Kennedy buttons but so did all the other kids in junior high. The Democratic storefront was out but the Goldwater office gave me a giant black and orange poster that I put over my bed. They seemed to be going out of business. I just didn’t have a clue. Bernie Sanders has written about women’s desires to be gang raped not while he was in high school but when he was a grown man. Today he’s against funding Planned Parenthood. So where are all the vociferous sexism charges? We assume he grew away from his love of gang rape and that he has something even better in mind for funding birth control. Older men get lovable and older women get monstrous. We give him a pass. I’m thinking we are living in spectacular times. Not like in the Vietnam era when we watched the war on teevee and seeing it for the first time politicized us, and not like in the '90s when you didn’t show war at all (“Shock and Awe”) because of its politicizing effect. We now are in spectacular times when we see black men shot in the street in America by cops (though it has always been happening) and we actually see girls getting raped on lawns (which also happened to a lot of us in “the day”) because now everyone has a phone and shares everything. It feels different.
So now information is spectacular too meaning that where it’s a little bit true that Hill was a Republican when she was a kid and she did say something stupid but specific about some black youth, so if we tweak it this way it will stick to the next accusation and soon we have a hovering ominous witchy form. This same kind of conflation produces the emotive and powerful spoutings of Donald Trump as well as the liberationist swagger of Bernie Sanders. There’s women for sure who can play it that way. I suppose I do. And if you ever want the newest version colorful misogyny please try Camille Paglia. She’s got the stuff! But the accumulative sensational style is not Hillary’s thing — she being a different personality type (though ironically for five decades she has lived with the charismatic man.)
Yet now thanks to the combined force of sexism and ageism and the automatic likening of a woman to the moon Hillary remains primarily a reflective figure, just an accumulation of what anyone else wants. Women historically have always been the symbol for anyone’s negative thoughts about the economy (in the '80s it was Ivana Trump, never, as we used to call him, the Donald) for as long as there was one and today, she, Hillary, readily stands in for the corporate culture. Somehow she is it. Who ever said abstractions are gender neutral in the English language? If it’s evil and menacing, and we’ve got to stop it, it’s a girl!
And now for some essentialism. Right? Do you know what it would be like in America with a woman in the Oval Office. Or for the world. Yet it seems sort of radical now for women who aren’t for Hill to say I’m not voting for someone because they have a vagina. Yeah since 1971 I’ve had the freedom to vote dick, dick, dick. It’s interesting we never put it that way. A man runs. Cock 'n' balls. No big deal. We’re not going to mention his genitals. Unless he’s done something illegal. But Hillary has a vagina. Certainly a great misogynistic moment for everyone. She has a vagina. That does not interest me. It interests me. It very much interests me. It especially interests me that she has a killer vagina. With it she has murdered women in Pakistan, voted against Glass Steagall, and she vows to vote against it again. She is the cause of most of the poverty in America. Elizabeth Warren doesn’t trust her (yet if you read the specifics about their relationship it’s strange because Hillary has actually sat down and talked with Warren, even taking her advice, changing her own opinion, and acting on it not once but twice. My candidate is teachable yet even Elizabeth Warren misreports it. Probably while she was considering own her run.)
So I have questions. I’d like to sit down with Hillary Clinton onstage and ask her about Glass Steagall and all the big banks and her own campaign contributions. I’d like to ask her about the Trans Pecos pipeline, which is currently getting no national coverage and is about to tear up part of my world and the world of a lot of tiny animals living on the largest expanse of open space in North America that is about to be quietly ruined. Hillary what will you do? Why is methane called natural gas and how do you feel about fracking? Why are states rolling back the tax breaks for solar heating, basically ruining the industry, now? Now of all times. In light of your concern for civil rights and the lives of black Americans since you were a kid and as the first female president I think you should be the first one to talk seriously about reparations to African-Americans. While thinking hard about the U.S. economy we should probably also try benefitting the lives of those whose free labor it is still based on. As America hurtles toward the abyss it is time for my candidate to try being expansive and make some beautiful, large, workable plan pertaining to justice and history and what you want to do.
Because Hillary Clinton is my candidate she is the one I get to interrogate and possibly effect as opposed to that guy wanting to throw out Muslims or building along the U.S.–Mexico border an even bigger wall. Or that man selling me a really nice solar battery car. When asked about Israel Bernie yells shut up, shut up, shut up. He’s not explained yet how a Congress that doesn’t like the health care we’ve got would be open to single-payer. I don’t see that Congress raising taxes either for free higher education. It’s a wonderful show. I wish it was true. I don’t think Bernie will “make Hillary a better candidate” as someone has suggested on Facebook. We will make her a better candidate. I want to stop living in this ass-backward world where her time in office or times next to Bill’s always resemble a hate crime unlike the terms of Jack Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, George Bushes, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Franklin Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt...virtually all of whom except Jimmy Carter waged war and killed enormous numbers of people.
I think of Congress, most of whom voted just like Hillary in support of the Iraq war. Barack Obama didn’t vote to bomb Iraq in 2003 and that difference between him and her was a big piece of what got him elected. Then he came into office and conditions became different and then it did make sense to expand the war in Afghanistan. We know that Bernie Sanders also didn’t vote to bomb Iraq. It was a righteous call and I admire both of them for it. Yet when the U.S. Senate passed a resolution unanimously reaffirming its support for Israel, which was at the time bombing the shit out of Palestine, Sanders didn’t object. He didn’t co-sponsor the resolution and that’s as anti-war as he got. Apparently it’s OK to send munitions and planes and billions of dollars of support to some countries according to the candidate who’s going to change the nature of government in our time though neither he nor any other U.S. congressman ever would put sanctions on Israel for war crimes and this includes the Elizabeth Warren, the transformational female that everyone does want — Elizabeth, you support Israel too? It seems that everyone in Congress is complicit in the eternal infernal workings of the U.S. government. Everyone, even Sanders, is just a politician meaning finally about the daily business of staying in office.
Hillary Clinton is also a candidate like that. Yet people rail at her lying. Look at her on Youtube. Time after time she changes her tune. I wish Bernie would. That same Wall Street song over and over. But what’s he going to do? Nothing! Early on when she was running for senator from the great state of New York, Hillary Clinton visited Palestine — for which she got so much flack that she utterly reversed her course. Is she lying? I suspect there’s a complexity to her relationship with the Middle East that we will absolutely witness once she’s elected. Nobody is in a better position than she to truly interrogate our relationship with Israel because of the unswerving loyalty to Israel she has shown. I actually trust a person who can change their tune. I trust her. I don’t think Hillary has horns though she does have a vagina and wouldn’t you want it sitting on the chair in the Oval Office (not to get all weird) because things will never be the same. She will see something no woman in America has ever seen before and then all of us will see it. She’s like our astronaut. That’s what I want that at the end of this world or the end of this race the end of this joke: America. It’s why I ran (against her husband) in 1992. I wanted my vagina on that chair. Now I want Hillary’s there. I want to look back on my time. Even from right here. I went to the hardware store for a door. And I got it.
Eileen Myles is the author of nineteen books including I Must Be Living Twice: New & Selected Poems, and a reissue of Chelsea Girls, both from Ecco/Harper Collins. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Warhol/Creative Capital art writers’ grant, four Lambda Book Awards, the Shelley Prize from The PSA, a Creative Capital nonfiction fellowship 2016 & the Clark Prize in excellence in art writing, 2015. Currently she teaches at NYU and Naropa University and lives in Marfa, TX and New York City.