Dear Hillary, you can continue to run for president, but should you?
[Author note: Somehow this piece, which I thought to be a clear invitation to Hillary Clinton to consider dropping out of the Presidential race to attend to her health, is being interpreted by some as an “endorsement” of her candidacy, and by others as a snarky attempt to “hate on Hillary.” It is neither, but in the interests of clarity, let me state outright that this piece is not an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, or Joe Biden, or Donald Trump — Aleteia does not endorse any political candidate for any office — and these thoughts are my own. This is a sincere attempt to say, essentially, “you can’t always get what you want,” and that our disappointments are answered in the Cross of Christ. I am not “endorsing” her to be anything but saying, “maybe you should think about something less arduous than the presidency.” It seems pretty clear to me, but if people continue to misconstrue my meaning, I will take it as a lesson in humility, and that I’ve written it poorly. – ES]
Dear Mrs. Clinton,
I’m writing to you as a woman who has unwisely “kept working” through several bouts of pneumonia, and who is anticipating an x-ray later today to determine whether her hacking cough, low-grade fever, and hairy-feeling lungs signal yet another episode.
Please rest. Next month, I’ll turn 58 and you’ll turn 69. Neither of us are “old” by modern standards, but we are senior citizens, and if I hear today that I have pneumonia, I will cancel my plans for tomorrow and cut my desk hours a bit, because no matter how much we love our work, we can’t do it well if we are not ourselves well. We cannot do our clear-headed best when we are fatigued and foggy, and you do have the last stages of a presidential campaign, and those arduous debates to get through.
Or, maybe you don’t. You certainly can continue to chase your lifelong dream of becoming the “First Female President,” but should you?
I ask not to be a spoiler, or to clear a path for Donald Trump — I’m no Trumpist and I frankly think that he would fail spectacularly against a Joe Biden, for whom most Democrats (and even some Republicans I know) would gladly pull the lever, come November. (That is by no means an endorsement, just a pragmatic recognition of our sad reality, this election.)
I ask it because it seems to me that after having the 2008 election, which was called “yours to lose” snatched out of your hands, you’re struggling once again, and not only politically this time, but physically. “Listen to your body” is really good advice. For a few years, now, your body seems to have been saying, “I am weary; overwhelmed; challenged; this is the wrong gig.”
You know what it’s also really good to listen to? The cross.
Last week, you spoke about your Christian faith; one important aspect of faith involves placing ourselves before the Cross of Christ and — because we know that if we ask God what he wants us to do, God will always tell us — asking that question. And then, others: “But why? Why am I being led away from what I want, what I’ve worked and planned for? Why am I being made to suffer this (this illness, this indignity, this disappointment, this grief), when all I want is what I think I should have?”
This exercise is not one reserved for the politically ambitious; it is a reality that is constant and common to every one of us, whatever our station: things seem to be going all wrong — dreams and plans falling apart — and then we look at the cross and realize that this is how real life is: sometimes we are denied, and hopes are dashed, and we are left to bemoan the bad thing that has happened. We only realize later — sometimes much later — that what we perceived as a disaster had to be permitted to happen, in order for something glorious and good, and perfectly right for us, to come about.
Think about that while you’re resting and looking at the months ahead, would you? You must be feeling like you’re in Gethsemane at the moment, and then it’s good to remember the hard prayer Christ made there: “Let this cup pass…but your will be done, not mine.”
While you’re thinking, can I offer a few practical considerations as to why you might be better off, at this point, ending your pursuit for the White House?
The first is legacy-connected.
You are in a unique position: winning the presidency could actually limit your legacy. A President Hillary instantly becomes a quantifiable entity — a failure or a success — where as a “What if…” Hillary becomes the stuff of legend and infinite myth. As the world careens through the next eight years, the pundits will ponder, “What would a President Hillary have done?”
Imagining what Hillary would have done as president, “had her health issues not cruelly sidelined her,” will be the ultimate legacy-boost, because the answer will always be the best and noblest one.
That myth-building won’t be completely ephemeral, though: it will actually be raised upon a genuine, and very solid, foundation, one that says whoever finally does become the “First Female President” owes an enormous debt to you — the woman who cracked the ceiling and would have been president, “If only…”.
One needn’t support you to acknowledge that, on paper, you have an impressive curriculum vitae: from Yale-educated lawyer to self-styled “advocate for women and children,” to First Lady of Arkansas, to First Lady of the United States, to the U.S. Senate, to Secretary of State. Yes, “First Female President” seems logical, but perhaps whatever it is you’re battling physically would be better served if you could put away travel and the daily grind of politics for a job that lets you sit down and have plenty of time off. [Edited for clarity. I was NOT suggesting she should be made a Supreme Court Justice, only noting that it’s such a job. – ES]
The second is simply human.
You have two beautiful grandchildren. Imagine having time in your remaining years, to plant a garden with them, and learn about the world, and normal life (and the many aspects of it that have become irrelevant to you in your station) at a peaceful pace. Imagine time to really think, really pray, really indulge in holy leisure, which can be the stuff of deep reflection and spiritual insight. You may discover that your non-stop, 68-year quest for the self-actualization you spoke of as a young woman ends not with worldly power but with something wholly different, and even more valuable.
Finally, the ever-present doubt
If you continue your campaign, and you win, your Presidency will always foment doubt. After decades of watching you embrace the deliberately opaque over the transparent, no matter what occurs during your presidency there will always be questions — from the absurd ones about body doubles to the more serious, like: “Is Hillary unwell this week?” “Is Bill basically running things?” Particularly if there are ongoing health episodes while you govern, that’s what will dog your presidency every single day: doubt in you. The press will do all it can to help, but this doubt will always exist, and it will seep into your legacy. Is that something you can live with?
Rest. Weigh your options. Consider what matters. Pray for guidance, and wisdom in discernment. Frankly, that video of you collapsing moved me to pray for you. I hope you feel better.
Editor’s note: The opinions and ideas expressed in the piece are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Aleteia.