Thank You, Hillary Clinton

I thought a lot about what I wanted to say on this anniversary of the 2016 election. I considered whether to write something reflecting back on the campaign itself, or something about the interceding year, or something about the resistance.

Ideas, and fragments of sentences, and whole paragraphs have been laying themselves across my mind for weeks, as this date approached. And, in the end, I decided I just wanted to say thank you to the candidate for whom I cast a vote one year ago today.

Dear Hillary:

Thank you.

Thank you for carefully weighing your decision to run for president, and then throwing your hat in the ring, even though you knew how difficult it would be; even though you knew, as keenly as any other woman in the country and more than most, the hellscape of vicious misogyny that would be unleashed against you.

Thank you for running on the most progressive Democratic platform ever, and for being a candidate both capable of learning and willing to learn. We say we want our progressive politicians to progress, and you did — because it was the right thing to do, even though you knew you would inevitably be accused of opportunism, political expediency, inauthenticity. Thank you for the courage and integrity that required.

Thank you for campaigning for 18 long months, day after exhausting day, keeping up a ruthless schedule that would drive most people half your age to collapse after three weeks, no less a year and a half. Thank you for giving up time with your family, your grandchildren; for giving up anything resembling free time; for giving up your privacy. Thank you for making countless sacrifices on behalf of this country, because you knew what was at stake.

Thank you for being a patriot — and for campaigning like one.

image of Hillary Clinton standing in front of a U.S. flag and smiling
[Photo by Barbara Kinney for Hillary for America.]

Thank you for being first to reach the summit of a major-party nomination, if not the first to walk the trail. Thank you for listening to the women who went before, for honoring them, for learning from them, for building on what they started, for giving them credit.

Thank you for bringing us along. For being a woman who uplifts other women; who never positions herself as superior to other women; who doesn't audit other women's expressions and experiences of womanhood.

Thank you for caring about children. For dedicating so much of your long career to bettering the lives of children and talking about them as the humans they are; for always remembering their present needs; for never using them as a political tool to suggest they need protection from marginalized people (but not from guns or hunger).

Thank you for talking about marginalized people as rights-bearing humans with complex needs and agency. Thank you for saying women's rights are human rights, and gay rights are human rights. For advocating in your every stump speech for protecting and expanding the rights of women and people of color and members of the LGBTQ community and disabled people and voters and workers. (And for understanding those aren't mutually exclusive groups.)

Thank you for understanding that identity is a bread and butter issue for marginalized people.

Thank you for being thoughtful and measured in your deliberations, for taking seriously the gravity of the presidency. For having promised to prioritize harm mitigation. For not treating lightly the enormous responsibility with which you would have been tasked.

Thank you for being a listener, and a learner. Thank you for finding a way to build bridges and forge unity and create fragile alliances with temperamental fools to get things done.

Thank you for putting out an enormous number of policy papers and factsheets, so we could see exactly what you wanted to do and how you would do it. Thank you for every detailed policy addresses, and every voter question you answered with both compassion and seriousness and details.

Thank you for everything you have done along your journey to this day last year. For fighting for educational and housing rights. For fighting for other female lawyers. For fighting for healthcare. For fighting for first responders and veterans. For fighting for people who need jobs, childcare, food. For fighting for people who need someone in power to recognize their value — their humanity.

Thank you for everything you have done in the interceding year. For writing your lovely book. For answering hard questions in public. For taking selfies with your supporters in the woods. For refusing to go away.

Thank you for being willing to fight for me, even when I haven't agreed with you. Even when I didn't support you. Even when I was a younger woman, still full of uninterrogated internalized misogyny, which sometimes spilled out in your direction.

Thank you for challenging me. For obliging me to grow as a woman and as an observer of politics. Thank you for telling me it's okay for me to expect more and hold you accountable, and for inviting me to see you, in all your complexity, as a person and a public servant.

Thank you for letting me see as much of who you are as I have — which cannot be easy, given the scrutiny and vitriol to which you are subjected.

Thank you for modeling self-care and the drawing of boundaries: When the press criticized you for not availing yourself of them — while you were shaking hands and giving hugs and taking photos and talking and listening to voters — I saw how you navigated a balance that allowed you to be vulnerable to the people who need it. And I thank you for that, too.

Thank you for your endless campaigning as you worked for every last vote.

Thank you for your voice — and your laugh, which I love so much. Thank you for your broad smile and your hilarious, utter lack of a poker face.

Thank you for your compassion, and for your wit. For making me cry and for making me laugh. For inspiring me to keep reaching — to persist.

Thank you for finding a way to process all the petty ignominies and sustained personal attacks with which you have been obliged to contend for decades. These things should not be the cost of any woman's success, and yet they are the stuff of every woman's life. To face them in their relentless indignity for decades, on such a grand and visible scale, is unfathomable. Thank you for your perseverance.

Thank you in equal measure for your righteous anger: At the people who try, even still, to harm you and your family; at the people who try to harm the rest of us. There are times in the middle of your mounting a defense of what is right and what is true, when I glimpse the flicker of anger in your eyes, penetrating your stoic veneer of steely resolve; or hear the edge of anger around the contours of your reasonable tone. And it gives me the air in my lungs I need to keep fighting.

Thank you for the moments you have shown undiluted contempt, responding with mirthless laughter. For the times that you have communicated disdain when a less confident or more obsequious politician might elect to indulge that infuriating, dangerous, "both sides have a point" malarkey.

Thank you for knowing there is a time to stop listening, too. To draw a line in the sand and say this is intolerable and cannot stand. To say you have heard quite enough, thank you very much.

Thank you for doing that, even despite the enormous pressure on women to be eternally indulgent and kind and deferential.

Thank you for neither succumbing to many of the foolish and demeaning expectations that are put on women, nor for running away from your womanhood. There are many who want the prize of being first, while abandoning any sense of loyalty or representation. Thank you for being a woman who is not ashamed to be one.

And finally: Thank you for giving me the chance to vote for you. When I stepped into that voting booth and cast my vote, tears spilling from my eyes, it was a moment in which I was so overwhelmed by its magnitude, I still can't articulate precisely what it meant to me. I will never forget it.

Thank you, Hillary.

Warmest regards,

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