In August of 2008, I hitched a ride with a brilliant young Latina from the Denver airport to the convention center to celebrate the first black President's nomination. Having just helped lead one of candidate Obama's top volunteer groups in California, I was gloating over his victory, when my companion replied: "Yeah, it's great . . . But I have to say: I worked for Hillary in her Senate office and she was the best mentor to young women I can imagine having."
Whenever I catch a glimpse of Huma Abedin still by Hillary's side after the scandals to which her husband Anthony Weiner has subjected her, I think: "Hillary Clinton is down for other women in a big way." Hillary's reputation as a female Frank Underwood would suggest that she'd drop an aide from her staff faster than you can say, "Political Liability." But Hillary knows better than anyone what that level of public humiliation feels like and she has stuck by her girl.
Despite once having criticized Tammy Wynette's lyrics, she has also stood by her man. Many young women assume she stayed with Bill only for political gain. But I see a couple exemplifying the hard work of marriage. It's not politically correct, but it's lasting.
There's nothing Bernie supporters are hurling at Hillary I didn't hurl at her myself in '07 and '08. I thought I could never get past what I saw as her race-baiting tactics and corrupting ambition. Obama was always the clear choice to me -- even though I wanted to see a woman in office.
However, Hillary Clinton is a better candidate today than she was back then. Her loss of the nomination, her tenure as Secretary of State, and her scrutiny from Black Lives Matter, have chipped away her veneer. The real person shining through is a person I respect.
A majority of my peers see Hillary as too untrustworthy and "establishment," Sanders as the candidate of conscience and authenticity. I understand why they feel that way. I felt the same until quite recently.
It's not fun to support Hillary. It requires examining my own expectations of women: Is our ambition unseemly? Must we always be likable? Do we have the same leeway as white male counterparts to make mistakes and recover from them?
Hillary has had to build the biggest power base known to man just to compete with powerful men. And even still, she fights an uphill battle. In fact, on the left, her powerful allies are what make her most reviled.
Don't get me wrong. You can be a feminist and vote for Bernie. As Clinton herself has said, "I've fought for a woman's right to make her own choices and that includes the choice not to vote for me." But I can't call myself a feminist without at least confronting my own unacknowledged beliefs, not just about Hillary, but about what I will allow myself to be as a woman.
Supporting Hillary means feeling out of step with my generation. Worse for most women, including me, it means not being liked. Friends have told me they are "ashamed" of me, that I'm "supporting the oppressor." Supporting Hillary means pacing myself within a sweeping populist tide born out of justified rage over economic inequality. Trump and Bernie tap into the country's thirst for revolution.
Ironically, she who would be the first woman President is seen as the embodiment of business as usual. Goldman Sachs paid her beaucoup bucks for a speech. Her flat Midwestern accent makes her appear an uninspired choice. Her campaign slogans lack the visionary magic of "We are the change we can believe in." She admits she's not good at promoting herself.
She has been associated with her husband's racially divisive crime policies, despite the fact that they were not hers and that many black leaders supported them at the time, as did Bernie. Bill Clinton himself has publicly called his 90s approach to mass incarceration " wrong." Hillary rightfully told the black community to "hold me accountable" and repented her 20-year-old "super predators" comment, when confronted by a Black Lives Matter protestor.
Meanwhile, the Right has gone above and beyond to fan the flames of Dem division by feeding smears to liberals.
In a dramatic reversal of gender archetypes, Hillary is seen as all pugnacity and over-preparedness, while Bernie is all compassion and inspiration. But in an uncertain world, we need to be prepared. And in a man, toughness is the highest attribute. Just look at the authoritarian bent of Trump's followers. Deriding Ms. Clinton's use of elbows in the toughest game in the world is like blaming Muhammad Ali for throwing a punch. Still, she's a lot kinder than most people give her credit for.
A friend of mine likes to say he's on #TeamAbuela. Hillary Clinton is both a gladiator and a grandma. I want a gladiator with a heart against Trump, against Congress's obstruction, and against Isis. Many fear Hillary is too hawkish, but her leadership of the State Department suggests quite the opposite. She voted for the Iraq war over a decade ago. And, let's face it, most people believed the so-called "evidence" of WMD's at that time and Bush also lied about using the mere threat of war as leverage for inspections.
Hillary Clinton exhibits true grit running again. She has taken a licking for 30 years and kept on ticking, kept fighting to shatter that "last, highest glass ceiling." Kept fighting for women and children of all backgrounds to have more opportunities.
In two elections running, she's demolished her male opponents in almost every debate. She brushed Republican witch-hunters off her shoulders at the Benghazi hearings.
I have two little girls. It means something to me to see a woman who has fought this hard to make a female Presidency possible. It means something to know that that 240 years into our Democracy, someone who cares more about women and girls' rights than anyone before her will take office. Someone in a position to help reverse the rapid erosion of women's rights currently taking place, by appointing sympathetic Supreme Court Justices. It means something very deep, just like electing the first black President did.
President Obama has done a spectacular job in his historic presidency. I want to build on what he did and how he did it, methodically "bending the moral arc of history toward justice." I want to build toward single-payer health care in a sustainable way. I want to build toward free state college in a sustainable way. And I want to see us advance on all fronts, including, but not only, economic inequality. And we have to advance with the understanding that not everyone agrees with the most liberal among us.
A woman President represents Revolution, just as a black President does. Women and blacks didn't win the vote that long ago and here they are, finally achieving leadership roles. That's what Trump's followers are so upset about. Walking anachronisms, 20% of them are nostalgic for slavery.
A Trump win (and frankly, that of any of the Republican candidates this cycle) would make the havoc of the Bush administration seem like glory days. Let's remember that Hitler was elected. And at the time, our sea levels were not portending the evacuation of all coastal cities.
This race is remarkable for the high-running emotions of its male candidates on both sides and the pragmatism of its one female candidate. "Smart Power" defined Hillary's foreign policy doctrine -- a balance of strength and heart. I want that balance in the White House in these heady times. I want Hillary Clinton as my President.