Beware, Hillary Clinton said in her address on the third night of the Democratic convention, of the villain that ruined her life and that of the country. No, not Bill Clinton, Donald Trump. She listed the excuses she’s had to listen to from voters since her 2016 race against Trump. “I didn’t realize how dangerous he was. I wish I could go back and do it over” and “I should have voted.” Wake up, she pleaded, to how serious our situation is so that we don’t have another “woulda, coulda, shoulda election.” Would anyone blame her for not coming right out with it, saying “I told you so” and dropping the mic and going for another walk in the woods just outside the door in Chappaqua she spoke from, like the hundreds she took to get over the loss that surprised almost everyone and stunned her?
In fact, a lot of Democrats do blame her and they woulda if they coulda wrapped her in a moving blanket and shipped her to an undisclosed location. It’s easier to blame her for not going to Michigan or not calling out Trump’s lies more effectively or his invasion of her space at a debate, or for losing some voters by calling some of his supporters “deplorable.” Of course, she had more of a point than she knew with Trump, just this past week, embracing with enthusiasm not just questionable followers but two congressional primary winners who’ve called Muslims “savages,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “bitch,” and Democrats the home to a satanic cult that violates children. That’s not to mention Trump’s embrace of the “spectacular” demon semen doctor who’s endorsed his pet drug, hydroxychloroquine.
But the enormity of Trump’s failure as a president and human being just gives Democrats more to resent. We don’t know the sound of no hands clapping so it’s hard to gauge Bill Clinton’s reception the night before. But we do know that Hillary had to restrict replies to a birthday greeting with a picture of the two of them when they were young she’d posted on Twitter after receiving so many unwelcome messages of the #MeToo sort, queries about just how many times Bill had been on Jeffrey Epstein’s love island, and pictures of Ghislane Maxwell at Chelsea’s wedding.
Good times for the Clintons these are not, even though Hillary is the reigning expert on running against Trump since she’s the one person to have done so. She is—and who wouldn’t be—too wounded to know and too much of a reminder of the painful loss we’re now paying for with lives upended. No work, no school, no football, no economy.
It’s not fair to put it all on Hillary, usually I don’t, especially when I read the Republican intel report documenting Russia interference in the election and hear the levels Trump is admitting he will sink to to win in 2020. “He is what he is,” Clinton said, using Trump’s words about the virus to capture his poisonous nature. “Remember back in 2016 when Trump asked, ‘What do you have to lose?’ she asked. We know how much.
As does Clinton, having lost her last chance at the presidency. Four years almost to the day, she was the first woman to accept the nomination of a major party, in white as she was again Wednesday night, overcome by applause that wouldn’t end in a hall jammed with thousands of women, faces streaming with tears, a sound of glass breaking as Fight Song played for five minutes—or the entire amount of early evening time, before the network news was covering the convention, that she and Bill were given to speak between them this year. Four long years later, Clinton has gone from the leader of the Democratic party to an afterthought.
Before Kamala, there was Hillary clearing a path. There is so much to like about Hillary—she’s smart AND she bakes cookies—and so much to regret. As part of a power couple, she got more soiled by his weaknesses than he did, as if they went through a carwash and only she got wet. But then she escaped. She was the first First Lady to leave the White House early and win a Senate seat from New York, a state she’d only visited as a tourist. She became secretary of state, did a good job, and Barack Obama chose her to succeed him.
But she’s had a good run and time’s up and just as Bill didn’t help her campaign in 2016, she won’t help Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020. “I wish Donald Trump knew how to be a president,” she said, “because America needs a president right now.” It woulda, coulda, shoulda been her, over the worst commander-in-chief the country has ever known. Sen. Ted Kennedy said in 1980 as he conceded the nomination he almost wrested from Jimmy Carter that the dream would never die. But it did for him, as it will for all of us, and has for the Clintons. It’s time to drop the mic.