Now that it is safe to assume that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president, Americans will be taking an even more intense look at the woman who could soon occupy the White House. Never mind that after more than 20 years in the national public eye, nearly everything has already been said about her. She has been an equally adored and hated public figure for years. And while she, like anyone attempting to play such an important role in the political arena, should undergo close examination, it is unfortunate that much of the recent criticism she’s received from her past is heavily unwarranted.
Donald Trump has called her an enabler for her husband’s infidelities in the 1990s. Black Lives Matter protesters have confronted her and blamed her for Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, which established the federal "three-strikes" provision mandating life sentences for felons who have two prior convictions. The Bernie Sanders camp has condemned her for Clinton-era trade policies like the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it helped ship thousands of jobs out of the United States.
While all of these may seem like fair critiques, there is one major problem. In not one of these cases did Clinton have official authority as a policy maker. Essentially, her potential presidential decision making is being judged by evaluating actions for which she had no responsibility. In all three of the aforementioned cases, Clinton’s only role was that of First Lady. She may have been there and she may have provided spousal support. However, is it fair to blame her for the things that people now dislike about her husband? Would a disassociation from him during her time in the White House have been a more appealing option for her current critics?
Christianity teaches that people are to be held responsible for their own sins.
Christianity teaches that people are to be held responsible for their own sins. In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told, “Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.” While there are places in Scripture where generational consequences of people’s behavior are witnessed, ultimately the Christian message is about individual redemption. Every person pays a personal cost for their decisions, yet each person has an individual opportunity for salvation. This is the promise and hope for every human being regardless of their economic, social or theological pedigree. It guarantees that people are neither hopelessly cursed nor perpetually blessed because of their heritage. For this, we all should be grateful.
Hillary Clinton has enough of her own potential vulnerabilities for which she can be challenged, including her vote in favor of the Iraq war, her connections with big business and her alleged corruption. She should be further scrutinized about these issues. However, neither she nor any other candidate should be held accountable for the actions of a spouse. Whether she is ultimately chosen or rejected by the American electorate, she should at least be given the opportunity to be judged on her own merit, not that of Bill Clinton.
It is fair to take candidates to task for what they’ve done. Let’s do this. Yet, we must elevate the political discourse beyond accusations of association and attacks about personal familial affairs. American democracy and voters deserve better.