Dear Hillary Clinton,
I would like to address this letter to Madame President, but I decided to dispense with wishful thinking and focus on the reality of our national life. I am addressing this letter to you as one smart, amazing woman to another. We’re far from equals in national life and accomplishments, but I think you would find me worthy enough for an honest dialogue. I, too, have been a leader, but unlike you, I served in the smallest of fish bowls. Yet, what I learned from politics in those Lilliputian arenas was that strong, smart, and capable women scare a lot of men and some other women, too. Sexism is as deeply ingrained in our culture as racism. It is no wonder that early abolitionists and feminists fought hand in hand against injustices.
I don’t presume to have advice for one of the strongest leaders in our country, but I do have great and lasting empathy and respect for you. Hillary, you don’t need to read about my pain after your election loss, however, or how millions of us felt your loss as our own losses disappeared into a terrible vortex of national disgrace and revulsion at the election of Donald Trump. Please, don’t be gracious and ever ask me to refer to the man as president. We both are aware of how beholden Trump is to Putin and Russian oligarchs who would prefer to see the dismantling of our democracy.
Today, I ordered your new book, not because I wanted to know what happened, rather, because I wanted to support you in the only way I’m able to at this time. As one of the millions of Americans who voted for you (approximately 3 million more than voted for Trump) and contributed to your campaign, I wanted you to know that you have nothing to apologize for to anyone. While any action we take in life could be second-guessed, you made a remarkable, tremendously brave, well-researched, and thoughtful campaign and based decisions upon a genuine desire to help others throughout your service to our country and during your long and arduous campaign in which you were unfairly treated by the Russians, Trump and his people, as well as American mainstream and weird-Alt-right stream media.
There is another reason you should never apologize again. Men don’t apologize. Only women seem to feel this need. Atonement appears to be almost engrained in our natures because we have been enculturated to do so.
I don’t, however, believe you lost the election, and I’m not discussing the popular vote which we know you won by a fairly substantial margin. I am speaking of the, as yet not fully documented, Russian involvement in our election. Of course, there was the Russian Troll Farm Facebook onslaught, and those feeling their misogynist oats somewhat self-righteously disguised as concerned-about-college-costs white males. I am also not speaking about African American men who chose not to vote only to realize later how large a mistake that was, and about white women who could not see the connection between their own biology and health issues and the Republican platform as Trump and the GOP Congress move to eliminate birth control in insurance mandates.
Let’s talk math: precisely one percent in four states in which you were leading handily going into the election? Oh, statistical analysis says that is not really possible, let alone likely. It turns out the Russians did manage to get into our voting systems, targeting 21 states (that we now know of). Our Department of Homeland Security only recently informed us of this information. Russian operatives also weaponized our beloved Facebook and Twitter feeds, turning social media into targeted propaganda.
While this all still feels like a bad version of the old Laurence Harvey movie The Manchurian Candidate, the real life, 2016 version of our presidential election turned out to be more insidious. Although Putin has publically claimed he won the election, Trump is too clownish in carrying out Putin’s tyrannical plans, and our democratic system has proven that, while it may be broached and damaged, infiltrated and mocked, it has not entirely broken apart.
And there are still remarkable Americans willing to fight and die for their country whatever their country does and wherever it sends them. While I deeply admire the service and sacrifice of our military men and women, I am not referring to them solely in this particular fight for country. I refer to the civilians fighting every day in the almost impossible tasks of trying to make democracy and justice work for all. We have a long way to go, but as long as we continue our resistance to tyranny, propaganda, and outside influences, we will remain a democracy.
I would like to remind you, Hillary, that you owe nothing to any of us. You do not need to lift a finger to go down in history as one of the great leaders in the United States of America, not women leaders, but leaders period. Thank you for everything you gave. Thank you for a lifetime of service. This is not a letter to list mistakes in your campaign because to err is human. Here, I am not writing for millions but just myself. Thank you. I will never forget. My children will never forget what you sacrificed. My grandsons (I have four little ones) will never forget because I will help them to learn and understand what you offered our country.
Nancy Avery Dafoe