Hillary Clinton still faces scrutiny after presidential election
Hillary Clinton's surprising loss in the 2016 presidential election still has not fully sunken in for me. Rather, Donald Trump's "victory" still has not quite sunken in, even as we collectively begin to understand the complex array of circumstances that caused the upset. We know voter turnout played a huge role; Trump supporters showed up in droves while hesitant moderates and liberals dissatisfied with Clinton's candidacy did not. We know that James Comey's last-second letter might have just given Trump the edge he needed to win. As important as it is to reckon with the significance of such a devastating outcome — with an egotistical, childish reality television star who has around 20 sexual harassment and assault allegations being elected leader of the free world — we must move forward in a way that is responsible in addressing the reasons Trump won and respectful of those left behind simultaneously.
For that reason, there is value to be found in examining the role of Hillary Clinton post-election. Clinton kept busy, publishing a book about the election not even a year after her loss. Now, she has turned her focus to speaking at events, giving talks about the effect of climate change on women specifically.
And yet, she has faced heightened scrutiny for not disappearing completely. Historically, coverage of losing candidates following presidential elections has been scrutinizing. Media outlets famously covered Al Gore's weight gain following his drawn out 2000 loss. But, none have faced the level of criticism Clinton has. Mitt Romney, who lost to President Obama in 2012, just announced a Senate bid to fairly widespread conservative fanfare (at least for conservatives disillusioned with Trump). Clinton went through the ringer during the election for a number of overblown scandals designed to vilify her. Some, like the disproved Benghazi scandal, were planned years in advance to tarnish her name. But she has continued to be Trump's favorite Twitter target even now, with the election over a year behind us. This is not to say that she has not criticized the President, but then again she never tried to #lockhimup.
But some, including many liberals, take issue with her continued presence in the public sphere. Some think Clinton's candidacy damaged the party and that Democrats should distance themselves from her in an effort to shake the narratives that made 2016 such a disaster. Others think Clinton has been victimized and deserves retribution for her loss in an election where she won the popular vote by three million votes. Either way, Democrats are still divided, and that is especially troubling for a party that has an opportunity to take back the House and Senate this year at midterms. That division would certainly be heightened by a sudden reemergence of Clinton into electoral politics.
So then, how can Clinton contribute to a country she has devoted her entire life to improving? Some might suggest her taking on the speaker role more regularly. To others, she would be best served to work in higher education like former Vice President Joe Biden at the University of Pennsylvania. Beyond that, work in civics like that of the newly formed Obama Foundation might be a healthy way for Clinton to engage with supporters without drawing too much scrutiny from fellow Democrats. I do not believe that simply fading into obscurity is productive, or even realistic for Hillary Clinton. She has proven to be one of the more resilient politicians of modern times and has drawn much admiration for it. So does the future of the Democratic Party involve Clinton at the helm? No. The party needs to get younger and appeal to a broader base of voters. As we learned in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama, the ability to mobilize voters from all sects of the population wins elections. Clinton did not do that and it was ultimately her downfall, but she has the opportunity to contribute to this country outside the electoral landscape. In the meantime, Democrats should look for a young leader to inspire young voters who are seriously disillusioned with Trump. As millennials become an increasingly large portion of the eligible electorate, Democrats should seek to appeal to them to aid their chances against an aging, shrinking Republican Party.