Love Her or Hate Her

Maybe it’s the dirty deeds done by her husband. Maybe it’s the botched health care proposal from years ago. Maybe it’s the haughty upstate persona. Maybe it’s the fact that she’s a she. Or maybe it’s just because she’s a New York Yankee fan and you’re not. Whatever the reason is, you hate Hillary.

Maybe it’s the fact she stuck by her man. Maybe it’s the guts she showed to propose universal health care before it was popular. Maybe it’s the strong, independent personality that she exudes. Maybe it’s that she’s not a he. Or maybe it’s because she roots for the Yankees too. Whatever the reason is, you love Hillary.

Love her or hate her, you made up your mind long ago about Hillary Rodham Clinton. The former First Lady, the current New York Senator, and the 2008 Presidential candidate, Mrs. Rodham Clinton is arguably the most well known woman in the world. So her job during the next two years will not be to gain name recognition but rather, to define herself.

During her first campaign stop in Iowa last week, she said all the right things. She showed her honesty ("I take responsibility for having voted to give him that authority."), her partisanship ("The President misled Congress and the country on what he was seeking and what he intended to do."), her independence ("I’m the one running for president."), her toughness ("When you are attacked, you have to deck your opponent."), and her humor (You guys keep telling me to lighten up, be funny. I get a little funny and now I’m being psychoanalyzed.”). And yet despite her strong first showing as a presidential candidate your opinions remain the same. As it probably will.

And that’s the problem. She has become a caricature to you. You know everything about her. You’ve heard her story one too many times — whether you read her bestselling autobiography or not. You turn up the volume when her husband is on television, or you change the channel. There’s no "in-between" with this woman. You love her or you hate her. So the question becomes: are there more lovers or haters out there?

To become the next American President, Mrs. Rodham Clinton is going to have to overcome some mighty folks (and I’m not talking about her husband). In her own party, the list of qualified candidates grows by the day, and recent national polling shows Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson closely chasing her in the polls. (And furthermore, some state-only polls show her trailing these candidates.) And then there’s the potential candidacy of former Vice President Al Gore. The man behind the current award-winning global warming film, "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore is gaining popularity and could surprise Clinton and the other candidates. Although Gore was a weak presidential candidate in 2000, he has since grown leaps and bounds, and should be a formidable candidate.

Then, assuming Mrs. Rodham Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, she’ll have to battle a tough class of Republican candidates. Whether it is John McCain, Mitt Romney, or Rudy Giuliani, the GOP has some serious players this election cycle. The competition from both the left and right has forced Mrs. Rodham Clinton’s hand months before she was prepared to do so. Because of Mr. Obama’s growing following and other candidates’ strong ratings, Mrs. Rodham Clinton came out of the gate early, and came out swinging. Although her large bankroll enables her to campaign hard from the onset, she still would have preferred delaying her announcement. But with this group of candidates, it really doesn’t matter when Mrs. Rodham Clinton kicked off her campaign, because her road ahead is going to be bumpy no matter what.

And maybe what’s harder than the people she has to overcome is the biases, the opinions, and the stereotypes. A woman president? Some men would rather see an elephant change their tire than a woman. And some women would rather a robot fix their computer than another woman. Imagine how much stronger these sexist people must feel about the most important job in the world.

And then there’s you and me, the normal, everyday lovers and haters. Can we actually put aside our aforementioned biases, opinions, and stereotypes and honestly try to get to know her? Can we ignore what we think we know, and take the time to hear her out? Can we stop reliving the past and take her for her word today?

Or would we rather just continue to love her and hate her, and elect one of the men we merely like?