Op-Ed: Who is Hillary Clinton?

Monday, March 7, 2016 - 10:38pm

“Who is Hillary Clinton?” I asked myself as I walked into her Detroit rally Monday night. Like many other Americans, Clinton is not my dream presidential candidate. The former first lady can seem enigmatic at times, with critics charging she’s more connected to wealthy donors than the American people, yet at other times showing flashes of passion.

Since the late ’90s, Clinton has stood in the national spotlight. From her tenure as first lady, to a two-term Senate career, followed by an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008, then a stint as secretary of state, to now being the Democratic frontrunner, the attention has not always been positive. Rather than focusing on her policies, the American public is instead debating: “Can we trust her?” and for plausible reasons. Wracked by two major scandals and accusations of flip-flopping, even Democrats question the former secretary of state’s credentials. Many accuse her of grabbing for power or switching stances depending on the donor. With the prospects looking more and more likely that Hillary will be the Democratic nominee, I attended her rally in hopes of assuaging some of my skepticism on her dedication to the American people.

However, the Hillary I saw on Monday was not the cold politician the media can often make her out to be. She spoke passionately of her dedication to the people, with an emphasis on her work on expanding children’s health insurance, and her history of fighting for minority populations. Unlike Republicans who largely dismissed the problems of Flint in their recent national debate, Clinton proposed how she would address the short- and long-term issues still surrounding the crisis.

Clinton’s speech was people first. In fact, the few mentions of economic policy were connected with lifting minorities by combating systemic racism or promoting equal pay for the sexes. She called to “build bridges instead of walls,” and while she did not say it directly, the theme “Make America Whole Again” was implied throughout.

It’s clear the Clinton campaign has shifted focus. With an advantage over Sen. Bernie Sanders in both Michigan and the country, Hillary’s rhetoric has been focused on combatting the likely Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Instead of attacking Sanders, Clinton jabbed at the male-genitalia ridden Republican debate. A little early perhaps, but with the polls predicting a Clinton-Trump matchup, talk has now began shifting to whether moderate Republicans will switch party lines and vote for her in the general election.

A pretty speech isn’t everything, and charisma can be deceiving (just look at Donald Trump), but Clinton has convinced me of her worthiness. Instead of the fear-ridden connotations behind “Make America Great Again,” Clinton offers hope of a more inclusive and equal future for America.

While Clinton still isn't my favorite candidate, she is someone I can believe in. I went in a skeptic, but now, #imwithher.

Ashley Tjhung can be reached at atjhung@umich.edu.