“This campaign was never about you”: A former Hillary Clinton staffer on the candidate’s powerful legacy

Unfinished business.
Unfinished business.
Image: AP Photo/Matt Rourke
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Dear Hillary,

Well, it’s over.

After forty years of nonstop hard work, you deserve to take a day off or two. Maybe find a beach somewhere and order a drink with a slice of fruit wedged on its rim. I see you already took the dogs for a relaxing walk in the woods. That’s good too.

Self-pity isn’t something you do. You know it’s an exercise in vanity. All those years when they tried to break you down, when they said mean names behind your back, you never shed a tear. You never let the schoolyard bullies get to you. You had a mission. You wanted to help people.

So you set out to make this world better. We all know your story. From the Children’s Defense Fund to New York senator to secretary of state—you committed yourself to this country and her citizens. And how did we thank you? With half-truths and outright lies.

I knew it was over around 10:00 pm Tuesday night, although it took me until the next morning to accept it. I was at the Javits Center in New York, staring over the railing at the stage cut in the shape of the US map. Two of my colleagues asked if I thought we still had a chance. They’re great people and I felt bad so I gave them a Minnesota white lie and told them we still had a path forward. Time moved in slow motion. We all wanted you to stand up on that stage Tuesday night as a symbol for women everywhere. Instead, you now represent unfinished business.

You see, this campaign was never about you. It was about a set of ideas that you stood for. It was about love and acceptance. It was about our mothers and sisters and daughters. About health care, civil rights, and the economic prosperity of our country. It was about electing our first woman president.

The irony, then, is that this election became about you entirely. The good and the bad. It became about the damn emails and the sound of your voice. The color of your pantsuit; the speeches to Wall Street.

You won’t be the first woman to lead our country. But don’t for a minute think that means you failed to change the course of history. One day, we will have a woman president. Whoever she is, it will be thanks, in part, to you.

In many ways this sums up your career. You bring the water but cannot drink. You fight not for your own benefit, but for those who lack power. Sometimes you lose. You keep fighting. I imagine you won’t stop now.

But I hope you at least take some time to relax. Rent an RV and see some national parks. Stop at tacky diners and laugh when Bill gets mustard on his shirt. Spend some time with the grandkids. Go fishing.

Leave the tears to us. To your staff, your volunteers, your supporters. We’ll cry, and hug each other, and post our long Facebook messages. We will file out of our Brooklyn office with boxes full of the little things we have acquired over the course of campaign. And most importantly, we’ll take time to heal and listen to each other. But then we’ll get back to work. Back to work on the mission we set out to achieve since the day you declared your candidacy—to create a country that recognizes the value of every person in it; that gives each person a voice.

You have filled our lives with a sense of purpose and belonging. We will protect your legacy. In two years, four years, 20 years—we will safeguard it for future generations. We will spread out across this country as lawyers and advocates and slowly rebuild. In local campaign offices and state government buildings, we will hone our skills and prepare for future elections.

The first week I was on the campaign, I bought one of those H-shaped lapel pins. I kept it in a box and only wore it on two occasions: when you accepted the Democratic nomination for president in July, and on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I put it back in the box.

It will come out again soon, when the time is right.