Barring a frightening and horrifying upset, later tonight Hillary Clinton will make history when she becomes the first woman to ever be elected president of the United States. And yet, as momentous an occasion as this should be for women around the world, Ms. Clinton would begin her term in the Oval Office with her unpopularity ratings at near-record levels.
All of which leads to the question: What's wrong with Brand Hillary?
Ms. Clinton is one of the most qualified presidential candidates in recent memory – and her credentials are that much more impressive compared to those of her opponent. After her time as first lady – in the state of Arkansas, and in the White House – Ms. Clinton served her country as a U.S. Senator and as secretary of state.
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For the past 30 years, Ms. Clinton tried to carve out her identity in the political world, but she has not been able to break through in a way that inspires fervent support and popularity.
Think about her political past. While her husband, Bill Clinton, was president, her brand was defined by her connection to the man in the Oval Office. She fought an ugly campaign for the presidential nomination against one of the most popular Democratic candidates in history eight years ago. Even in this campaign, her brand has been tainted by her battle in the primaries with the wildly popular Bernie Sanders. None of which endeared her to the populace.
It also does not help that, during her career, she has been involved in multiple scandals, ranging from Lewinsky to Benghazi, and most recently, her e-mails. But any politician who has been in the game that long has their fair share of scandal.
One of the knocks against Ms. Clinton is her inability to appear likeable to voters. Whereas Barack Obama swept into office on a campaign of hope, relying on his masterful oration and charismatic presence, Ms. Clinton is often criticized for being uncharismatic, sometimes even robotic, which has created a disconnect between her and supporters. She can be seen as representing an old-school Washington versus a fresh, new start.
And then there is the fact that she is a woman. As disheartening as that still is, society and the media still stereotype women and paint them with a negative brush. Ms. Clinton is often challenged on issues and forced to answer questions that would never come up for a male candidate. For example, her health – and being presented as frail, people commenting negatively on her pantsuits and the way she wears her hair – are all issues that rarely dog male candidates.
This seems to be an issue even among her fans. Although an all-in supporter of Ms. Clinton, even Louis CK associated her with a common stereotype. While appearing on Conan O'Brien's talk show last week, the comedian boxed Ms. Clinton into another category that has defined women for centuries: being a mother. He defined her as a 'do-it-all mother,' who takes abuse and keeps going. That's not a problem with Brand Hillary, it's something we need to overcome as a society.
But ultimately, Brand Hillary will be defined by what Ms. Clinton does once she finally sits down behind that big desk in the Oval Office. The legacy of presidents is what they accomplish in office, and whether they leave the country in better shape than they found it.
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Hopefully, once in power, she would have a chance to move beyond the silly circus of the election campaign and build a brand Americans can truly support.
It's a brand that already has strong name recognition, and an identifiable track record. A brand that could be forever transformed, tonight and well into her term based not on being a woman, or the spouse of a former president, but by what she is able to accomplish as commander in chief.
As all eyes shift to the United States on this election day, it is worth identifying and remembering that, for the first time in history, the most powerful human being on the planet could be a woman. A strong, smart, powerful woman.
Brand Hillary is just getting started.