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How Does It Feel?

Slate staffers sort out their complicated emotions around Hillary Clinton’s history-making nomination.

slate hillary feel.

Photo illustration by Slate. Images by Simon Bruty/Getty Images and Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

This week, Hillary Clinton became the first woman in American history to secure a major party’s nomination for president of the United States. Especially as Clinton is a Democrat, the heavily left-leaning staff at Slate might have been expected to exude joy and jubilation at this epoch-defining moment. And we did, sort of. To a degree. Maybe.

But the moment itself has been so attenuated and anti-climactic—because of Clinton’s epic primary battle with fellow history-maker Barack Obama eight years ago; because of all the baggage attached to Clinton after a quarter-century in the spotlight; because Donald Trump—that any exhilaration is tamped down at turns by confusion, exhaustion, sour resignation, and outright fear of the alternative. Perhaps Clinton’s acceptance speech Thursday night at the Democratic National Convention will vaporize some of our gloom and bewilderment. In the meantime, here we are, feeling our feels.
—Jessica Winter, features editor

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It feels a bit depressing to try to celebrate this feat when Clinton’s opponent spews such sexist crap and still has the support of somewhere in the neighborhood of half the country. If her nomination symbolizes how far we’ve come, Donald Trump is an immediate reminder of how far we still have to go. I hope I feel differently come November.
—Susan Matthews, science editor

When you have kids you try to explain things to them in ways that are not terrifying, even if the thing you’re explaining is objectively terrifying. So I’ve explained to my 5-year-old daughter that for a long time women weren’t allowed to be president, and there are still a lot of people who think they shouldn’t be, but the next president is probably going to be a woman named Hillary Clinton, and I’m going to vote for her. It allows me to experience this whole dumb, compromised, largely hopeless political moment as a happy little cartoon of progress for a few minutes.
—Gabriel Roth, senior editor

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It’s heartwarming to know that, finally, in 2016, it’s just as possible for a corrupt, egomaniacal, divisive, scandal-plagued woman to earn her party’s nomination as it is for a corrupt, egomaniacal, divisive, scandal-plagued man. What a country! What a time to be alive!
—Rachael Larimore, senior editor

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Hillary Clinton becoming the first female president is about as underwhelming for me as it possibly could be. For one, I’ve been dreading this election season since before it began, because even before Trump’s nomination was a sure bet, and a nightmare come true, the options looked dismal. This hasn’t changed. I’ve come to accept the fact that this is an election of choosing the lesser of two evils—like many voters, I don’t trust Clinton and her longstanding relationship with Wall Street.

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But the main reason I can’t get excited about the possibility of this historic moment for women (and America, in general), is that Hillary’s nomination just isn’t surprising or particularly revelatory. She’s a Clinton, and look at what else we have to select from. On top of that, a woman as president has always seemed like an inevitability. With Obama, there was excitement, shock, and wonder that he won in 2008: Most people couldn’t have envisioned a black person winning the presidency in our lifetimes. Even now, I can’t envision that happening again in my lifetime. For me, the more radical political moment already happened, eight years ago. I just can’t get excited this time around.
—Aisha Harris, staff writer and Represent host

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Barack Obama was a light that drew me in, and moved me to tears with his progressive policies and his messages of hope and change. Hillary Clinton feels like a consolation prize, a centrist who represents an approximation of my views. I want to be excited for the election of the first female president, and I am excited, insofar as her election would give us reason to believe that we’re moving toward gender equality, however slowly. But the excitement is quite nonspecific to Clinton. Of course I’ll vote for her, but there’s something bothersome in the fact that the highlights of Clinton’s primary campaign came when President Obama or Elizabeth Warren stumped for her. At the risk of sounding like the archetypal liberal who places emotion over reason, Clinton just doesn’t hit those heartstrings like Obama did or like Elizabeth Warren often does. Her appeals to emotion usually miss the mark. Her rhetoric falls flat. That shouldn’t really matter, but it does.
—Matt Miller, science fellow

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I grew up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, so trust me, I’m no blind cheerleader for FEMALE POL POWER! Nevertheless, the older I get, the more the symbolism of “we’ve never had a female president” bothers me. How long do we have to wait for the right woman? Hillary Clinton is a highly qualified, extraordinarily experienced, totally prepared candidate. Right now, my predominant election emotion is fear. If for some reason she doesn’t win in November, it will be because of blatant blunt-force sexism. I’m not sure I could handle that truth.
—June Thomas, culture critic and Outward editor

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Hillary Clinton has long seemed an inevitable president to me and not because of any so-called rigged system. I firmly believe that America’s first female president could not have been a progressive populist like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, an anti-choice woman of color like Gov. Nikki Haley, a brilliant young upstart like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a naïve anti-intellectual like Sarah Palin, or an unscrupulous political outsider like Carly Fiorina.

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To get 270 electoral votes in a nation currently enamored with an avowed misogynist, our first female president will have to be white, pro-choice, the shrewdest player of the political game, and relatively down with the military and business. She’ll have to have the thickest skin, the longest résumé, the most money, and the best friends in high places. She’ll have to be inevitable. Clinton’s climb to breathe the thin air just below the glass ceiling has been slow and steady; that’s one of the reasons why she’s poised at the brink of the presidency. It’s also why it’s taken someone like Michelle Obama to break through my focus on Trump anxiety and get me to stand in awe of—and gratitude for—a woman who’s worked for an impossible thing her entire life and is just about to get it.
—Christina Cauterucci, staff writer

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Eight years ago, I hated Hillary Clinton with all my heart. I knocked on doors, stood on street corners, and made phone calls all so that her rival, Barack Obama, would become president and she would not. Back then, the only “feels” I had for Hillary were anger, frustration, and utter disdain. And yet today, I’m basically with her, as they say. She is not my ideal candidate. Turns out Obama was not my ideal president, either. But I will be happy to vote for her and not just because the other choice is a total dick.

The feels, though, they don’t come often. My Hillary support is lodged firmly in my brain, not my heart. I did once sob on the train watching “History Made,” a video the Clinton campaign put out when she clinched the nomination to remind everyone just how groundbreaking that event truly was. But the barrier-busting women in that video are nothing like me despite our shared gender. If anything, my life has been marked by opportunity at every turn because of them. I am wary of taking this triumph of their sweat and tears as my own. Still, I’m human. Hillary’s a woman, I’m a woman, finally a female president. I’m gonna cry when she wins. Also, as I remember from 2008, it’s incredible to be alive as inane barriers fall and senseless traditions crumble. That will be great.
—Allison Benedikt, news director

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I do not think I came into this race with any strong emotional attachment to Clinton, but watching a clearly brilliant and qualified woman be attacked from both right and left has been deeply irritating. I may have quibbles with some of her positions, but there’s no question she will be a solid, and perhaps even influential, president. As a queer person, I need the protections of the Obama era to be affirmed and entrenched. So, yeah, not so patient with the Hillary hate when the alternative is no laughing matter. It’s a privilege I can’t afford.
—Bryan Lowder, associate editor

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Over the course of this election, my emotions have veered from pride to meh and back again more times than I can count. I haven’t felt the constant thrum of history-making that I did during the run-up to the 2008 election. But the day after Hillary effectively clinched the nomination in June, I was puttering around making breakfast for my baby girl and the top-of-the-hour NPR report made me burst into sudden happy tears. If the fact of Hillary’s presidency feels ho-hum to my daughter someday, that’s a kind of history-making, too.
—Ruth Graham, contributor

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We’ve been talking with our daughters this convention week about how excited and astonished we are to finally have a woman this close to the presidency. That they are interested, but not particularly astonished, seems a happy comment on the difference between the coming generations and our own.
—Dan Kois, culture editor

Every so often when I see a woman accomplish something I get a little jolt of excitement: “Wow, it’s cool that a woman did that.” I got one when Jill Abramson was named editor of the New York Times. I got one watching a WNBA playoff game in a Madison Square Garden packed with screaming fans. These jolts always surprise me. More often, when a woman accomplishes something, I take the news—or at least the fact of her gender—in stride. I’ve been lucky to grow up in a family, country, and time in which women get to do a lot of amazing things and are largely perceived to be very capable.

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On the other hand, it’s outrageous that the United States is one of a dwindling number of countries that’s never been run by a woman. And it would be a big fucking deal to have a woman in the Oval Office. So I had expected this campaign season would be full of such jolts as Hillary unlocked new and unprecedented levels of female accomplishment. And yet my emotional response to her candidacy, primary victory, and nomination has so far been rather flat. Hillary has been in our lives for so long, and this candidacy has been expected for so long, and she is such a workmanlike and compromised candidate, that the moment when she officially became the nominee on Tuesday did not give me any particular thrill.

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I suspect I will melt in November, though, if she actually wins this thing. For one thing, what I admire most about her is her sheer endurance, toughness, and indefatigability—getting over the top, after decades of working for it, would be quite a thing. I also love the idea that the first president my sons remember would be a woman—the quotidian normalcy of seeing her in that role would change how all of our brains are wired. Which probably explains the one electric jolt I’ve felt so far. During the primary, I explained the options to one of them and asked what he would choose. He said: “Vote for the girl.”
—Julia Turner, editor in chief

I like and admire Hillary and think she’d be a great president. But I’m terrified by polls showing Trump pulling even with, and even ahead of, Clinton. I fear that America’s sexism (among other -isms) will put an incompetent charlatan in the White House instead of a supremely qualified former secretary of state. So basically my heart wants to swell with pride but keeps getting constrained by the fact that Republicans nominated an ignorant, volatile would-be dictator, and that millions of people plan on voting for him.
—L.V. Anderson, associate editor

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I am so freaking excited to finally have a female president, but I’m significantly less excited that it’s going to be Hillary Clinton. So many people hate her for all the wrong reasons—being an ambitious woman, staying with Bill, keeping the Rodham on her name for so long, not acting just right as a candidate—that I frequently find myself defending her. And yet, I have a lot of reservations about her myself. She voted for the Iraq war and generally seems hawkish (granted, being a woman in politics doesn’t make it easy to be seen as at all soft on defense), supported some disastrous criminal justice policies in the ’90s, took way too long to come around on gay marriage, played some shady race politics in the 2008 primary, and generally has compromised on liberal values and goals more than I’d like.

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She’s not my ideal candidate, so it’s been really hard to get revved up for her candidacy, but nevertheless, I think she’s eminently qualified for the presidency and can’t wait to see her in the Oval Office. Representation matters, and having a woman in the most powerful role in America is something to be excited about, even if it’s not the perfect woman.
—Abby McIntyre, copy editor

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I am struggling to distill my contradictory feels into a single feel. I feel like it is about damn time we had a female president! Men don’t seem to know what they are doing these days. That said, I would hate to take Hillary for granted. I strongly support her and think she is capable and gracious and special and intelligent and motivated. I think her banged-up, but enduring, partnership with Bill is beautiful. I think she wants what’s best for the country, and I am proud that she is a woman, like me and like many of my friends and colleagues who deserve to see themselves and their interests reflected in the highest echelons of power. I fear that America would not elect a woman were she not running against a pile of dogshit in a stupid hat.

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I am befuddled by the fevered luminosity of Hillary hate. I am exhausted by the gender “conversation” when it turns toxic and exhilarated by it when it veers giddy, goofy, and triumphant. (Which seems hypocritical, maybe?) I think Hillary herself comes off as a try-hard, but mostly because we hold her to an impossible double standard—she has hidden reserves of Obama-grade cool. I feel like the question is rigged, because if we don’t deliver the presidency unto this specific woman, we are putting the country in a basket and pushing it off into the ocean to be devoured by sharks.
—Katy Waldman, words correspondent

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