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Dear Hillary: An Open Letter From A Conflicted Supporter

Pictured: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 26, 2016, in San Francisco. (John Locher/AP)
Pictured: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a rally, Thursday, May 26, 2016, in San Francisco. (John Locher/AP)
This article is more than 3 years old.

Dear Hillary --

I was in the supermarket yesterday and overheard two men in the produce section. “She’s finished,” one said. “Yeah,” agreed the other. “It’s going to be Bernie versus Don. It’s really going to be something. Trump’s going to win.”

I don’t think so.

Still, what a pickle we’re in. Each time our country goes haywire, it feels like the worst. But right now is pretty intense. Everyone’s getting riled up, and commentators are stirring the pot. The New Yorker’s Adam Gopnik predicts that, should Trump win, “there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over.” Andrew Sullivan, writing in New York Magazine, paints an equally cataclysmic picture of our democracy dissolving in the hands of a neo-fascist tyrant.

I wish you would eat a little crow and speak to the legitimate concerns that form part of the larger perception about you.

But back to you. David Brooks, sizing up your likability, has suggested that people would love you more if you had hobbies. I'm sure he means well. Alas, misogyny is a many-headed hydra. Lately, it’s on a tear.

However voters take all of this in, it’s clear that if you’re nominated, you need to win. And right now, your vulnerabilities are scaring people. Commentators dwell on what the FBI will say in September about your email, or how many votes the Libertarian party might draw from folks who don’t feel the love from either party.

A once impossible outcome -- a President Trump -- almost seems possible. Or so many are now saying. I don’t know about you, but I think we’re having a national fit. A wilding, a running amuck. Masses of people are trying to let the world know that they’re completely fed up. I don’t blame them. Wages and benefits for lower paid and part-time workers aren’t keeping pace. Housing is expensive in cities where the jobs are. Commutes are longer. And with the weakening of unions, lower wage workers have less power. Owners make — and keep — bigger profits.

Writing as a psychotherapist, I see that life for many is too fragmented, uncertain and impersonal. Few people feel seen, cared about or well-treated. The writer Amos Elon observed, “The patience of the oppressed has always been the most inexplicable, as well as probably the most important, fact in all history.”

Hillary, your problem isn’t that this anger exists. It’s that people are so frantically deceiving themselves, believing that Trump will actually help them. He costumes himself as the Good Daddy who promises to keep us safe, make us rich and fulfill our every fantasy. His subliminal promise is that if people support him, they too will become more powerful. At the same time, he is a leering misogynist who relentlessly attacks anyone who dares disagree with him. He has cast you as crooked — something we might fairly call a projection. Yet the epithet sticks because you haven’t convinced working people that you can be adequately transparent, or that you’ll put aside your own loyalties to bankers and CEOs and help the struggling middle — like those whose jobs were lost to NAFTA. I share this worry. I wish you would eat a little crow and speak to the legitimate concerns that form part of the larger perception about you.

But in spite of the current narrative, there is hope. Your position is better than it may appear. While people may not trust you completely, many grasp that we’re talking orders of magnitude. Many voters believe that you really do want to make their lives better. You should have the edge with any voter who wants a candidate from the reality-based community. There’s a solid chance this moment will be one we’ll look back on as a nadir.

You should have the edge with any voter who wants a candidate from the reality-based community.

Or, to put it another way: Though we’ve been watching for months, we’re only in the second reel of the 2016 election movie, where all looks bleak and hopeless for the heroine. She’s unlovable, unpopular, dissed by nearly everyone. Worse, she’s facing such a wily enemy and huge obstacles that her mission seems impossible. Meanwhile, an ominous voiceover intones, the whole civilized world hangs in the balance if she does not prevail.

It’s tempting to scream and flee the theater. But there’s a third reel coming, and we would be wise not to leap ahead. This tangled plot holds many more twists and turns. There’s still a good chance you — and we — can dodge the apocalyptic ending some foretell.

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Janna Malamud Smith Cognoscenti contributor
Janna Malamud Smith is a psychotherapist and writer.

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