By MARSHA MERCER
Hillary Clinton will never be just an asterisk of history.
She’s no Michael Dukakis or Walter Mondale, failed Democratic presidential nominees who fell to obscurity.
And yet, one of the many ironies of the 2016 election is that Clinton’s marital status and gender may define her place in history – as former first lady and first woman presidential nominee of a major political party.
She won the popular vote, but because she did not win the White House, she will always be seen as the wife of a president. Because of the Electoral College, she will never have the chance to prove herself as president.
For all her subsequent accomplishments, marrying Bill Clinton was Hillary’s best career move, her ticket to the national stage.
As his wife, she became first lady of Arkansas and the first lady of the United States.
She, an ambitious Yale law graduate surely would have succeeded in life on her own, but we’ll never know if she would have become a U.S. senator, secretary of state and a presidential contender – twice – had she not first risen to prominence in the role of Mrs. In this way, the Hillary Clinton story is more 20th century than 21st.
The Clintons’ marriage, like most relationships, is unfathomable to those on the outside. When her husband was accused of womanizing during his bid for the 1992 Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton proved her loyalty by dutifully standing by her man -- even as she denied she was doing so.
She later showed her strength by enduring the public humiliation of his philandering in the White House.
So it seems a particularly cruel twist of fate that, after she built her own president-ready resume with Senate and State Department posts, her husband may be to blame for Donald Trump’s decision to enter the 2016 presidential race.
Strange as it now seems, both Clintons formerly were friends with Trump, who donated to the Clinton Foundation and played golf with Bill.
Bill Clinton called his pal Trump in May 2015 and encouraged him to play a larger role in Republican politics, The Washington Post reported.
What exactly was said in the private phone conversation isn’t known. A few weeks later, Trump glided down the escalator at Trump Tower and began knocking off GOP presidential contenders, one by one.
And so, Hillary Clinton who in 2008 lost to a Democratic outsider promising change, lost Tuesday to a Republican outsider promising change.
As the 2016 campaign tightened at the end, Clinton relied more and more on President Obama and his popular wife, Michelle, to make the case for her. Days before the election, the president conversationally asked men about their resistance to a woman president.
“I just want to say to the guys out there . . . there’s a reason why we haven’t had a woman president before . . . I want every man out there who’s voting to kind of look inside yourself and ask yourself, if you’re having problems with this stuff, how much of it is that we’re just not used to it?” Obama said at a Clinton rally in Columbus, Ohio.
“So that, like, when a guy is ambitious and out in the public arena and working hard, well, that’s OK. But when a woman suddenly does it, suddenly you’re all like, well, why is she doing that?” he said.
Obama was onto something. Trump won white males’ votes 63 percent to Clinton’s 31 percent, exit polls found.
But Trump also won the votes of white women 53 percent to Clinton’s 43 percent.
When Tim Kaine, Clinton’s running mate, introduced her at her concession speech Wednesday, he said: “She has made history. In a nation that is good at so many things, but that has made it uniquely difficult for women to be elected to federal office, she became the first major party nominee as a woman to be president and last night won the popular vote of Americans for the president.”
Minutes later, Clinton, with her husband standing behind her, said:
“I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but some day someone will, and hopefully sooner than we might think right now.”
Yes, but that woman will not be Hillary Clinton.
(c) 2016 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.