There's nothing mellow about Hillary Clinton. She's the greatest polarizer since Richard Nixon. Her defenders are fierce, her detractors ferocious. It's not because she's a woman that she's "the might have been" as Democrats gather this week for their convention in Denver, it's because of the kind of woman she is.
Golda Meir, Indira Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel never inspired such polarities. None played the "gender" card because the rest of the world is not afflicted with the sexual politics we suffer in America. The so-called "Mommy Wars" -- with stay-at-home mothers and working moms flinging psychological, economic and political polemics at each other -- are not unknown abroad, but women elsewhere are rarely as confrontational as they are here.
Thatcher and Merkel, for two recent examples, came up "naturally" through the political process. Hillary, on the other hand, is an interloper, having used marriage and inherited connections to get where she is. Thatcher and Merkel look comfortable in their skins, at home in their intellects, secure in the values they represent as leaders and only incidentally as women. There's no bifurcation between what they believe and who they are. Husbands were incidental to the process. No one would have appreciated tears if they accompanied their talk of the stresses of a campaign, merely to show how sensitive they are.
Hillary, by contrast, has gotten as far as she has through the public reaction to her stormy relationship with Bill. When he treated her badly, women rallied around her with empathy and sympathy. When he campaigned for her, it was only right that she use whatever worked. Now that he's an albatross around her neck, it only illustrates the paradoxes of Hillary's rise to power.
Much is made over Hillary's having broken new ground for women in politics, but what her candidacy actually demonstrated was that she failed because of her flaws and shortcomings as a candidate, not as a woman candidate. The e-mails from her campaign, published in Atlantic magazine, revealed her as exploiting the most damning female stereotype, that of a woman who could not make up her mind. It wasn't the stereotype, however, that doomed her pursuit of the nomination.
"What is clear from the internal documents is that Clinton's loss derived not from any specific decision she made but from the preponderance of the many she did not make," writes Joshua Green in Atlantic magazine. "Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency."