When you think of Barack Obama running for election eight years ago, surely the word most closely associated with his campaign was "hope"? (“The audacity of hope” is a stirring, emotive rallying cry that wouldn't be out of place in Les Misérables.) And this relative unknown from Chicago was offering hope by the bucketload – hope that the White House would see its first African-American president; hope that Americans would choose a new, inclusive narrative for the nation; hope that the racism that scarred the country would, at least momentarily, lose to a majority that chooses change and progress.
What words spring to mind with Clinton’s campaigns? Misogyny? Emails? Weiner? The FBI? The 18 months of this seemingly eternal election campaign have been stained with Trump and his supporters’ vitriol. And, let’s be honest, even if Trump hadn’t become the Republican nominee, Clinton didn’t seem to be able to spark the fire that set Americans alight eight years ago. (Polls historically show that Clinton is only liked when she’s down and out. It would follow, therefore, that on her way to smash the “highest, hardest glass ceilings”, she’s actually at her least popular.)
Why, I ask you, have you not turned your office into a Star-Spangled den that resembles a Taylor Swift Fourth of July party (without the supermodels)? Where, I demand of you, is your pantsuit??
But why can’t we associate hope with Hilary Clinton? Yes, she’s already lived in the White House once; yes, she’s served in the White House before now; yes, to all those Sanders supporters and many others, she embodies everything that is wrong with the elite, political power of the West.
But. Hang. On. A. Minute.
By the end of this week, a woman could be the president of the United States. In the mud and dirt of Trump and Fox News, this staggering piece of women’s history has been eroded to a side note, an irrelevant detail trampled over by the Frankenstein’s monster of Reagan’s 80s America – a poisonous mix of hyper-narcissistic reality TV celebrity and a deregulated market favouriting the super rich. Instead of watching in awe as a woman has risen to the highest ranks and the triumph of our gender, we’re fixated in horror by the crumbling disintegration of The White Man.
And this is no accident – women’s history is frequently ignored, denied or underplayed. And it’s happening again, in front of our eyes. "Hillary Clinton” comes with an eye-roll and a sigh, as if, somehow, her power, ambition, persistence and experience makes her like the old great-aunt who is obliged to come for Christmas because she’s got nowhere else to go – not the woman who has slogged, fought and battled for 30 long, hard years for women’s rights, finally putting her money where her mouth is and running for the toughest gig around. How does this not inspire hope? Where are the posters demanding “change”, like there were for Obama? How have we forgotten that if Clinton wins, this could be the biggest victory for women in our lifetime? Why, I ask you, have you not turned your office into a Star-Spangled den that resembles a Taylor Swift Fourth of July party (without the supermodels)? Where, I demand of you, is your pantsuit??
We have to be excited about this because this means something – it means that one less thing is off limits to young women and girls considering what sort of life they want; it means that men will have to, whether they like it or not, accept that change has happened, again; it means that a woman’s ambition and success can’t be denied by misogyny, but can flourish; it means that women are great leaders, too; it means that when we look at the power players on the world stage, there is one less male face; it means that on the Super Bowl of world politics, the spotlight is firmly on a woman.
Eight years on, not only have we forgotten to hope, we’ve almost stopped caring. Yes, the world is worried about Trump taking power, but we are tragically unenthused about the tidal wave of women’s history we might witness and should get swept up in. There are only hours left and, on this side of the pond, we’re powerless, left looking at red and blue maps, with the ghosts of referendum past, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, preaching over our trembling shoulders.
But no more.
I will be watching, wearing a pantsuit, holding my breath, hoping history is about to arrive. Because when my granddaughters ask me where I was, what other excuse could I possibly have?