For several months now, I’ve been wanting to love Hillary. She’s already my candidate because of the lesser-of-two-evils-condition of this election, but I’ve felt very conflicted. I don’t resonate with her as a person, but I get instantaneous tears in my eyes when I watch her enter a stage. That woman, right there, that person of my gender, could be our next president. I want this so badly I get a lump in my throat typing it.
. . . But I’m still not able to connect with Hillary. And I’m not alone. I decided to do some soul-searching (and more research) into what makes Hillary less accessible than other politicians, though she is a powerhouse of a lawmaker. Once you look into her approval ratings, what you see is that the nation approves of Hillary more when she’s working in a job than when she’s trying to garner their approval in a campaign. This is strange, but you start to see the pattern all over the place: she frequently delivers stilted, 'shrill' speeches, but when she was a Senator, she amended 67 bills in eight years and served on five senate committees. As Secretary of State, she brought Iran to the negotiating table, improved US-Cuba relations, increased exports to China, and more. These are no small feats, and people liked her while she was accomplishing them. So where is the disconnect between her success and her, well . . . popularity?
The thing that makes Hillary less accessible has a name. In his illuminating article Understanding Hillary: Why the Clinton America Sees Isn’t the Clinton Colleagues Know, Ezra Klein calls this “the Gap:”
There is the Hillary Clinton I watch on the nightly news and that I read described in the press. She is careful, calculated, cautious. Her speeches can sound like executive summaries from a committee report, the product of too many authors, too many voices, and too much fear of offense. . . And then there is the Hillary Clinton described to me by people who have worked with her, people I admire, people who understand Washington in ways I never will.I now see exactly what Klein sees in Hillary. What’s more, I have come to see that the Gap is why I think she will make an incredible President.
As this is legal blog, I’d like to frame things from a lawyering prospective. Clinton is an attorney, as are over half of past presidents. It thus seems fitting to apply the profession to her demeanor. I feel there are really three types of lawyers. There are (1) the orating-suave-extroverted types, (2) the attention-to-detail-introverted-sharp-witted types, and (3) the mediating-community-organizing-consensus-building types. Most lawyer-politicians fit entirely into category (1), or are sometimes a mix between (1) and (2) (read: Bernie Sanders). The category (1) lawyers are the ones that have the most success with campaigning: they are affable, charming, and thrilled to hear themselves speak. However, Hillary is right between lawyers (2) and (3), she has nearly none of the natural orator in her. She, in contrast to nearly all of her peers, is a listener. Though she was a litigator in the past, I think that Hillary’s personality makes her more of a perfect mediator.
She embodies all the qualities of a great mediator (learned in my Mediation course with Steven Rosenberg, here at UC Davis). First, she’s an incredibly active listener embarking on “listening tours” to kick off her last two campaigns and is inclined to use what she hears (e.g. ‘card-table time’ wherein she re-reads all her notes from listening and develops policy). Second, her work-style is collaborative and consensus building. Though this is sometimes to her detriment, it gains her great loyalty and gives her a large network of people from whom she can ask favors and ideas. Third, she is flexible, and fourth she is creative in developing thoughtful initiatives like this one. Finally, Hillary is persistent. It doesn’t take much to see that she has been working toward higher political office -perhaps even toward this very race- since possibly the mid-eighties.
To my mind, these qualities make her a perfect fit for the presidential office. Indeed, Matthew Yglesias is in accord in his Vox article Hillary Clinton is bad at speeches for the exact reasons she'd be a good president:
The very qualities that tend to make Clinton bad at speechwriting — a penchant for the least-common-denominator and a passion for making sure no small thing is forgotten — are qualities that are extremely relevant to effective leadership in a political system that’s built to favor transactional relationships over big ideas.I’m interested in a president who listens, who is consensus building, who is flexible and creative, and who remains persistent despite the great quantity of hate coming her way. I'm enthused by what I now know about Hillary's style of leadership. It is worth noting that all of these Mediator qualities are also seen as traditional female qualities (female leadership strengths tend to be undervalued, BTW; also see an unpacking of the complicated concept of female ‘traits’ in Judith Baer’s book Our Lives Before the Law: Constructing a Feminist Jurisprudence). However, great Mediator traits aren't solely ascribable to females, in fact there are more males in the Alternative Dispute Resolution professions in the US than there are females.
I am thus not persuaded that it’s simply Hillary’s femaleness that informs this mediation-type leadership style; women have been shown to take all kinds of approaches to accomplish mediated results. I think Hillary has simply discovered the method of governance that works for her. I am inspired by that method.
Now that I'm learning about mediation, I'm likely to favor it over the exorbitant cost of litigation. I’m similarly inclined, based on similar learning, to favor a mediating president over a fighter who may cost the country a lot in the long-run.
I am now overwhelmingly on board with scores of other women who support Hillary. I’ll sing that fight song with you every time, Ms. Clinton. There’s that darn lump in my throat again.