Had Hillary won, the movement wouldn’t be happening.
The Lord moves in mysterious ways; or, as historian Gordon S. Wood might put it, history is ruled by irony. So it is that the most powerful and fast-acting revolution in women’s liberation in some decades has not only come about under the administration of Groper-in-Chief Donald Trump, but would not be happening now had Hillary Clinton been elected the nation’s first female president.
It’s no secret, though during the campaign you had to accept being labeled a misogynist to speak it, that there are a bunch of women who said #MeToo buried in the basement of Hillary Clinton’s political career. Her path toward that highest and hardest glass ceiling had to run over a fair number of sluts and nuts who would have derailed the first stage rocket she rode to prominence.
Reputation being the fragile thing it is, this was more than history during the 2016 election. As the arc of Clinton’s rise continued through its first stage, to the second stage of her time in the Senate, and on into a third stage approach to the throne (aboard the Secretary of State command module), the discrediting of William Jefferson Clinton’s accusers became a sort of cultural inheritance among Democrats. This treatment of accusers served as a paradigm, defining a proper relationship between powerful men and the women who accuse them of sexual misconduct. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. So, unless there’s a sex tape or a stained dress, STFU.
To break this code and cast off this inheritance would have been at some point – and that right soon – to call Bill Clinton to account. Indeed, it was little more than a month after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke that WJC was being called out in the New York Times, and retroactively thrown under the bus by one-time sycophants. Problem being: as he was With Her, she was with him. There was no way to hold Bill to account without undermining Hill. So, the price of one particular woman breaking that highest and hardest glass ceiling was the continued silence, for eight more years, of women on the whole.
For this reason, Donald Trump ought to go down as one of feminism’s greatest, and certainly most unlikely, heroes. (Putin, that shadowy Mastermind of it all, may be even more unlikely.) It was only Trump’s triumph over Clinton, moving on the country like a bitch, that catalyzed the Women’s March and set the stage for #MeToo. It was the victory of Trump, in the teeth and forehead of his faults, that allowed the political Left in America to resolve the inner contradiction over sexual abuse that support of the Clintons had made mandatory for decades. Suddenly, it was ok to believe Juanita Broaddrick in the pages of the New York Times. Suddenly, 2017 Gloria Steinem was distancing herself from 1998 Gloria Steinem. Suddenly, multiple accusations of sexual assault were enough to disqualify a politician from good standing in the Democratic Party. And none of this could have happened had Hillary won.
Complaining that Hill was not Bill, that we don’t know for sure whether or not she ran a “sluts and nuts” division on his campaigns, or that she had no choice but to stick with him and play the game, all miss the point. It just doesn’t matter what the exact history was, at all. Whatever it was, there’s no way to politically separate HRC from WJC. The destruction of his public reputation would inevitably damage her first-term presidency. There would, therefore, have been a great deal of political will to keep the accusations against Bill Clinton outside the discussion; and such an exemption would have contradicted and deflated the movement.
#MeToo isn’t essentially about sex, but about the abuse of power. To place Bill Clinton above the fray would have been to reinforce the Ancien Régime of gender dynamics the movement challenges. That patriarchal order according to which powerful men gain a de facto right to use their power to coerce, and then conceal, sexual misconduct. To protect Bill Clinton, so as not to undermine Hillary’s presidency, would have chopped the movement off at the knees, implicitly asserting that there are, still, some men powerful enough to get away with it.