As first lady, senator, secretary of state and failed presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton has been one of the defining Democrats of her time. But she now has to do one last thing for the party she has dedicated most of her adult life to. Clinton has to step back and let others take over.
The urge to explain how she could possibly have lost to Donald Trump must be overwhelming. After all, she was defeated by somebody who could hardly be less equipped to serve as president, while Barack Obama called her the “most qualified” candidate ever.
Clinton and her team have offered a lot of explanations for what happened. Some of them point to factors that were beyond her campaign’s influence. Others were self-inflicted wounds — either by Clinton herself or her team.
In the end, none of it matters — not the ill-fated decision to have a private email server, or Russian election interference, or criminal email hacks, or the Comey letter, or the fact that Clinton got millions more votes than Trump. To quote Clinton: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
What does matter now is that every time Clinton speaks out about her loss, she prevents the Democrats from healing and moving forward. She is not — and should not be — the face of the resistance. Instead, every time she makes news, she reminds millions of voters that they also didn’t like the alternative to Trump.
And she helps unite Republicans in a way Trump never could.
What the Democrats need ahead of what is surely the most crucial midterm election in recent memory is to start fresh, present a bold platform and draw distinctions to the GOP. That will never happen if Clinton’s shadow looms over the party.
So the best thing she can do now is stop trying to assign blame for why she lost. This is no longer about her. Instead, it is about winning elections at every level of government. If she must speak in public, it should be in an effort to heal the rift between the progressive and moderate wings of the party.
To some, that might not seem fair. After all, while Trump claims to be the victim of a witch hunt, no other American has been more maligned — sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly — or investigated more than Clinton.
On the other hand, she has made tens of millions in the few short years she was out of government, which ultimately was one of the reasons she failed as a candidate. Now, that money can help ease the pain of a stinging defeat.
Clinton is going to be just fine. Whether the Democrats will be depends in part on her ability to stay out of the headlines.
The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Hillary Clinton caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), Hillary body (US Air Force), sign (Kristopher Harris / Flickr – CC BY 2.0) and donkey caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0).