Hillary Clinton: Holding the Center in These Complex Transition Times, So We Can Do the Essential Work of Creating a Better World

Like most Bernie Sanders supporters, it was hard for me to watch Hillary Rodham Clinton take the stage on Thursday night to accept the nomination of the Democratic Party, while Bernie sat in the crowd looking on, unable to conceal his exhaustion and dejection.

As Bernie said, there is a winner and a loser to every contest, and he lost this time. But it is impossible to escape the feeling that he could very well have won, if the Democratic establishment had not undermined him at every step, aided and abetted by the establishment media.

What would this election season have looked like, if we had two outliers, Donald and Bernie, duking it out?

We’ll never know, because this time around the center held—the center represented by the centrist Hillary Clinton.

13886341_1201195163270344_4367171377964337613_n

As Bernie has been saying, it’s clear that his revolution has pushed Hillary to the left. We heard it in her acceptance speech, where she said loud and clear that she stands for free public education for kids from families making $120,000 or less. She said, somewhat less clearly, that she stands for “a living wage,” and for student loan relief. We know that she believes in universal health care. She said over and over again that she will work tirelessly to create more good jobs in America…with “clean energy jobs” a phrase repeated more than once in the speech.

I took away two important impressions from her remarkable convention performance last week.

One, she did a brilliant job at pitching herself as a leader. While she does not have the oratorical gifts of Barack or Michelle Obama, she looked more comfortable on the stage than I’ve ever seen her, and she spoke with a believable conviction about her ideas and vision for the country. She looked fierce and glad and on fire to sweep away that cracked glass ceiling once and for all, and hallelujah for that!

Two, it was clear from her speech that this is a leader who can learn, grow and change. While she has principles and commitments that have never wavered—women’s rights are human rights, for example, or all children deserve quality education and health care—she is also capable of shifting her ideas as she learns more about a given issue. This has earned her a reputation of “shiftiness,” but I am coming to see that as unfair. We want a leader who listens, thinks for herself and lets her opinions evolve.

For example, her stance on the invasion of Iraq, or the TPP treaty: initially she supported both these moves, and now she understands that we were led into Iraq on false premises, and that the TPP is not going to improve the lives of ordinary people—certainly not in the US, and maybe not anywhere in the world.

Seeing her position on these issues evolve over time gives me hope that she will also be the kind of leader who, as Bill McKibben wrote in a recent email to supporters, we can “pressure” to move towards the left of the center space she holds.

Like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is striving to represent “all Americans,” and let’s admit that that category includes the frackers and the assault weapons enthusiasts as well as the environmentalists and the peaceniks. For a leader, holding the center ground in the midst of such fractious, strong-willed constituencies can be exhausting, especially as you are doomed to fully please no one.

But this is the kind of leader a big, complex democracy like America needs. Someone who can sit calmly in the center of the storm and keep the ship of state moving forward, as President Obama has done despite the obnoxious Republican obstructionism in Congress.

Hillary Clinton has the advantage of being deeply steeped in Congressional politics, as well as gubernatorial politics and international politics—as she reminded us in her convention speech, she is no stranger to public life. Almost twelve years as the wife of the Governor of Arkansas, eight years as First Lady of the United States (and not the kind of first lady who just bakes cookies and chooses china patterns); eight years as Senator of New York; and four years as Secretary of State.

As President Obama said in his own super-moving convention speech, there has never been a candidate as well-prepared as Hillary Rodham Clinton to assume the presidency of the United States.

I believe that she will be an effective leader who will be able to get things done in Congress. It is up to us, her constituents, to let her know loud and clear how we want her to represent us.

That is where the Bernie revolution must get back into gear. We can’t sulk on the sidelines and refuse to vote! Now more than ever we must engage relentlessly with the powers that be, rejoicing in successes (like pushing Wasserman Schultz out of the party leadership) and continuing to let the Democratic Party know that if it wants our votes, it has to walk the walk of its democratic principles.

Hillary is right, “we are stronger together.” The Democratic Convention (unlike the RNC) showed an inspiring range of people coming together—people of all ethnicities and religions, all kinds of people standing together under that big tent to participate in steering our country into safer waters.

I was so glad to hear Hillary say clearly that she intends to work through policy to ensure that the rich, including Wall Street and corporations, start standing with the vast majority of Americans who are struggling to make ends meet. Clearly, she has heard Bernie Sanders and his millions of supporters. We will need to hold her to her promises.

Hillary Clinton is a transitional figure between the old guard represented by her husband, among many others, and the new millennial wave represented, someone bizarrely, by that old white guy (and Jewish Democratic Socialist), Bernie Sanders.

We are in the midst of a seismic cultural shift, not just in America but in the world. The era of the global free trade cowboy is coming to an end. The globe has become too small and the Internet connections too penetrating to allow violations of human and environmental rights to be perpetrated with impunity. The TPP is a last gasp of this old regime (and why Obama has been supporting it is beyond me, it’s a serious flaw that I hope he will come to regret).

We are moving into a time when the local truly does become the global; when each of us sitting in our homes is aware of how intricately we are connected, all across the world. Next step, to fully mine these connections for the potential they hold to mobilize each of us to stand up for what we believe in, and join hands with others who share our vision of social and environmental justice, irrespective of archaic artificial boundaries like nationality, ethnicity or religion.

No single leader can do this for us. We need to make it happen ourselves, where we live—and this means in our local, physical communities as well as in our virtual communities online.

The Republicans are mobilizing on their side, and they’ve got a leader they deserve.

In Hillary Clinton, we have a leader who will hold the center for us as we do the essential work of social change, transitioning our global human civilization from a “dominate, exploit and destroy” mentality to a “nurture, connect and prosper” mentality.

Is it an accident that our transitional leader happens to be a woman? I think not.

 

 

Next Post
Leave a comment

12 Comments

  1. I share your reflections and sincerely hope you are correct. These are times the like of which we have not seen before. These are the times when the decisions made by the USA will have the most profound outcomes for not just this great nation but for all of humanity. (I write as a London-born Brit, in his 70s, now living in Oregon; happily so.)

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

     /  July 31, 2016

    Good to hear from you, Paul! Yes, what transition times we are living through! I have been moving my focus towards aligning the personal, political and planetary…with special emphasis on doing that essential inner work (the personal) before heading out into the activist arena. HRC is an example of a leader who still has a way to go in reaching that alignment. But she’s the best we have in this moment, and we can’t afford not to support her.

    Reply
  3. Diane Husic

     /  July 31, 2016

    Jennifer, I very much appreciate your comments and hope that the many Bernie supporters that I know will come around to view things in a similar way. Right now, many are still angry, frustrated, and in some cases, responding with irrational vindictiveness. I wasn’t in the Bernie camp, but have not been a particular fan of Hillary either. I have been surprised at how my own sentiments shifted during the DNC week. And, I have watched in horror as the circumstances in the Republican party have gone from bad to horrendous/scary/despicable (take your pick of adjectives).

    Given the things that are important to me – including science and climate change, demonstrating respect for people regardless of your differences, having a leader of this country that understands the complexity and gravity of the global challenges we face, (and having one that we don’t have to be embarrassed by or fear the implications of irrational actions) – I saw on the Democratic stage a leader who is capable of the leadership needed at this time. Over the four days, the speakers, their powerful messages, the sense of hope, and the concerted efforts to bridge differences in order to bring people together all impressed me as evidence of what this team would bring to the table when leading our country. As Paul notes in his comment, our decisions at this time, will have profound outcomes around the world given all the challenges that face humanity and the planet.

    You noted that Hillary is “capable of shifting her ideas as she learns more about a given issue.” As you well know, this type of personal growth as a result of education is something we strive for in our jobs teaching the next generation. This isn’t flip-flopping, but rather a sign of someone who is willing to learn, compromise, and have their views challenged – to become a better person and a more effective, representative leader. Sadly, Hillary’s open mindedness is being used against her.

    Despite the problems we have in the U.S., I still believe that we live in a country that has much to be proud of and one that is still great. However, if you talk to the youth, you will hear that those who imply otherwise are both scaring and promoting feelings of helplessness and despair (and cynicism) about the future among the next generation of potential leaders.

    I was surprised at my reaction as I contemplated the significance of the moment where a woman has broken through yet another barrier. I would never vote (or not vote) for someone based solely on their gender/gender identity, race, or religion, but I lament the fact that women still have so far to go. Pervasive harassment (or worse) and inequalities (pay, opportunities) that remain in our society are unacceptable and I fear that a) they are getting worse and b) that many students that I work with seem uninterested in the ramifications of politics and policy on their futures, including their reproductive rights.

    In the past, I have not been one to engage in politics. Even with my work in climate change, I struggle to figure out my role as a scientist in advocacy versus activism. But given what is at stake during this election cycle, I realize how much work has to be done and that I will have to become a strong voice in the process.

    Reply
  4. Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

     /  July 31, 2016

    Thanks so much for these reflections, Diane! I so agree with you that we “elders” must lead the way for the younger people coming along, who are often so distracted that politics seems like the least urgent of their priorities. I have been re-reading Mary Daly this summer, and thinking again about her insistence that we need to avoid the distractions of the “foreground” and keep our focus on the “background.” With social media, we’re often paying so much attention to these foreground distractions that the big picture gets lost, and with it a sense of, as you say, “the ramifications of politics and policy” on our futures. This election is about much more than who lives in the White House. It’s about whether we can turn the tide of destructiveness and begin to live into a future brimming with bold new directions, new promise even in the face of the undeniable perils confronting us. Hillary certainly has made mistakes, but she has shown herself capable of, as Brene Brown puts it, “rising strong.” Everyone–EVERYONE–makes mistakes. The question is, do they learn from these failures and keep on striving to do better? I am hoping that Hillary will rise to be this kind of leader.

    Reply
  5. Diane Husic

     /  July 31, 2016

    Many of us realize what a critical junction the country faces in this election cycle. As an academic, I am trying to figure out the appropriate role I should play. We need to teach students to be respectful of difference, to be tolerant, to be problem solvers, and to be civically engaged, but we aren’t supposed to use our positions to “force” our political views on them. But given the magnitude of issues confronting the planet and humanity and the importance of having leadership that “gets it” (and displays compassion and empathy), this is a tough balance to try to find.

    Reply
    • Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D.

       /  July 31, 2016

      I don’t believe it’s possible to be “neutral” or “objective”–old Enlightenment ideas that only served to mask who was actually calling the shots in that time, and since. While of course no teacher or mentor should force their own political views on students–or on anyone–sharing our own perspectives honestly, and fostering constructive dialogue (which includes being open to changing our minds) is a crucial way to model the kind of civic engagement young people need to be learning.

      Reply
  6. Diane, as someone who previously has run his own business and then, after selling it in 1986, spent a number of years as a mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust in the UK, I have come to the conclusion that the best role model we adults can offer our ‘students’ is this: “Be the best you can be!” That flows from being fully aware of the person that one is. For self-awareness is the key to understanding oneself and, consequently, of understanding others. Understanding why people think and behave the way they do, for good and bad, is the only effective way of engaging with others and seeking that ‘civic engagement’ so critically important.

    Apologies, that paragraph sounds like a damn speech! I didn’t intend it to be so. Plus, my own journey of self-awareness has been a long and tortuous one – but that doesn’t change my view just expressed.

    Coincidentally, I have been having some informal chats with Jan Schmuckle: http://www.janconsults.com/home

    Her recently released book on the effectiveness of Role Montage in building leadership skills is highly relevant to today’s students. In Jan’s words (and I have no commercial or financial link with Jan):

    Role Montage: A Creative New Way to Discover the
    Leader Within You is written from Jan’s experience
    with her client work and her research. It helps
    leaders explore self-awareness and leadership using
    the role montage process.

    I’ll creep back into my hole!😉

    Reply
  7. Diane Husic

     /  July 31, 2016

    Paul – no need to go back into your hole. These types of conversations are critical for helping each of us along the path of self-awareness and to figure out how we can best work with our students/the next generation of leaders who will, as Jennifer describes, can “align the personal, political and planetary.”

    Reply
  8. Where and when do you consider and objectively discuss ethics? When do the citizens start requiring that those serving the United States of America uphold the laws as they are written and uphold the constitution. I am concerned that you and many do not address her criminal activity, Benghazi, hacked computer servers, non-profit fraud, and a potential First Gentleman that is a sexual predator. At what point, do we want more from a potential President of the United State of America?

    Reply
  9. Diane Husic

     /  August 1, 2016

    To anonymous at Long Beach: What is the *evidence* for HRC’s criminal activity? All of us make mistakes, have bad judgement and character flaws or make decisions that others don’t agree with. How do we move forward and learn from our mistakes? We teach our students to be critical consumers of information and to validate the credibility of sources.

    I, like the author of this alternative opinion, haven’t seen evidence of criminal activity: http://bluenationreview.com/hillary-clinton-is-one-of-the-most-ethical-and-most-lied-about-political-leaders-in-america/

    Reply
  1. Freedom with a capital ‘F’. – Learning from Dogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: