Gritty Clinton can teach us a lot

By Rong Xiaoqing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/10/26 21:43:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Hillary Clinton 2020? Many people might cup their cheeks with their palms when they see these words, and start screaming. Yes, like the ghostly figure in "The Scream" - the famous Edvard Munch painting, this is not only because of her, but also him. The presidential election in 2016 may have been one of the most dramatic in the history of the US. But it was exhausting and ugly and voters were tired by the end. Who wants to see the show rewind with exactly the same protagonists?

Nevertheless, this possibility has been circulating online and elsewhere since the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The intensity of the speculation has fluctuated - It reached a high point recently when President Trump said in a provocative tweet: "I was recently asked if Crooked Hillary Clinton is going to run in 2020? My answer was, 'I hope so!'"

There are reasons for such murmuring. Unlike most previous presidential candidates who lost and slipped into oblivion, Clinton made it clear that she had no intention of leaving politics. She did take some time off to lick her wounds, practicing yogic breath, walking the dogs, and crying over Kate McKinnon's finale on Saturday Night Life as her impersonator. And she didn't hide any of this behavior in her latest memoir What Happened.

But she only stayed away from the spotlight for a few weeks. Then came back, speaking at various events, commenting on all kinds of issues, and sharing her thoughts with the media. Since the book's release in September, her public schedule has been more intense.

Not long after the book's publication, Clinton said on CBS's Sunday Morning: "I am not done with politics because I literally believe that our country's future is at stake."

Will there be another run?

Clinton herself has said repeatedly, and once again after the Trump tweet, that she's finished as a candidate. But she said the same after she lost the Democratic primary to Barack Obama in 2008. "Once you've run for president, you want to be president until the day you die," political commentator James Carville said in a CNN special report - "Almost President: The Agony of Defeat" - that was aired before the election last year.

Many of her opponents seem to be betting on "yes." For example, Fox News that supports Trump, has been allocating almost as much air time to attacking Clinton as before the election, at a time when most media outlets have shifted their focus solely to the sitting president.

But no matter whether Clinton runs again or not, she is teaching us a lesson about resilience and grittiness by simply being around.

Last year, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth published a book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, proclaiming that grit rather than IQ is the key driver of success. The book won many followers in the field of education who have been training children to focus on the valuable trait.

But it has some skeptics. Nicholas Tampio, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, for one, pointed out the examples of grit-fuelled success that Duckworth cited in her book overlooked the harm being gritty brought to its subjects. "There is a time and place for grit. However, praising grit as such makes no sense because it can often lead to stupid or mean behavior," said Tampio in an article in the online magazine Aeon. The opposite of grit, often enough, is thinking, wondering, asking questions, and refusing to push a boulder up a hill."

The argument has some merits. But the problem is that no one can accurately judge just how many times he or she should try before letting go of their original goal. It's just like no one can say for sure whether Clinton would have a chance on a third try just like Ronald Reagan did in 1980, maybe, not even herself.

But Clinton seems to have a better idea. "I think I'm in a position where my voice will actually be magnified because I am not running, and there's a very good basis, as we watch Trump's support shrink, that people will say, 'Well, what she said was right and now where do we go from here?'" She told BBC Radio after the question of Clinton for 2020 was triggered again by Trump's sarcastic tweet.

This comment suggests a new variety of grittiness. It may not simply mean sticking to the same goal, and trying doggedly to climb to a height that one may not be able to reach. It is more about sticking to the same belief and trying to push it forward with whatever means are realistically available. Only such a belief can help you stay strong, passionate and active, even in the darkest hour.

The author is a New York-based journalist.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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