It was appropriate that Clinton was speaking at a women’s conference. Twenty-two years ago, during a moment of political crisis and despair following the collapse of her attempt at health care reform, Clinton revived herself by traveling to Beijing for the United Nations Fourth World Congress on Women where she famously said, “Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights.” She’s always seemed most comfortable when working on behalf of women and girls, which she described on Thursday as the “unfinished business of the 21st century.” With her future suddenly a blank, Clinton says her only plans are to write a book—which will, among other things, explore the role misogyny played in the presidential election—and work to recruit and train young women to run for office.
It’s hard to imagine, now, what it would have been like to have a president who finds her solace in feminism. Clinton, like many American women, has been aghast at the administration’s systematic attacks on women’s rights and health: the expanded global gag rule, the defunding of the United Nations Population Fund, the attempts in the American Health Care Act to jettison mandatory insurance coverage for maternity care and to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood. “The targeting of women, which is what’s going on, is absolutely beyond any political agenda,” she said. “There’s something else happening here.” She didn’t say exactly what that “something” is, but the suggestion is that Trump represents a wave of misogynist rage.
The conservative media is already mocking Clinton for saying that sexism contributed to her defeat, but she’s clearly right. “It is fair to say that certainly misogyny played a role. That just has to be admitted,” she said. Clinton pointed to research on how ambition affects women’s likeability. “With men, success and ambition are correlated with likeability, so the more successful a man is, the more likeable he becomes,” she said. “With a woman, guess what. It’s the exact opposite.”
She reminded us that when she left her job as secretary of state, her approval rating was around 65 percent. Then she decided to seek the highest office in the land, and suddenly, public perception shifted. “Even people who had supported me in the media during my time as secretary of state or even as senator, all of the sudden it’s: Who is she? What does she want?” she said. “I always feel like I’m in Waiting for Godot.”
Hillary Clinton will run for president. Again.
No inside information informs this prediction. Considering the fact that the Clinton Global Initiative has dramatically scaled back its operations and her last November’s concession speech to Trump. Absent in her remarks was any indication, as one might have expected, that she was going gentle into that good night, handing the baton to a new generation or even to a new leader. Instead, Clinton talked more about the future—explicitly including herself in that future—than she did about the past.
“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday, someone will,” she said, adding, “and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.” She then quoted a line of Scripture: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season, we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” And she concluded, tellingly, with this: “So my friends, let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary, let us not lose heart, for there are more seasons to come. And there is more work to do.”
And it’s true that in another era, a candidate Clinton’s age might have been deemed too old for the presidency. But in 2020, Hillary Clinton will be 73, one year younger than the incumbent seeking reelection. Also in another era, her political career might have been seen as having passed its expiration date. She’s twice run for the White House—and lost. But Ronald Reagan didn’t think that way. He ran in 1968, and again in 1976, nearly beating the incumbent Gerald Ford for the GOP nomination, before his ultimate victory in 1980.
At the moment, of course, the idea of another Clinton presidential campaign—what would be the fifth since 1992—seems outlandish, even exhausting. Who’d want to go through all that mess again? But four years is plenty of time for memories to subside. And people throughout the world including myself would like to see her run and win the 2020 Election.