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Hillary haters, get over it

By Dahleen Glanton Chicago Tribune

On the heels of Independence Day, the FBI gave America a belated 240th birthday present: Hillary Clinton won’t be going to prison over Emailgate.

Haters, get over it.

The anti-Hillary crowd has been poking us with that stick during her entire presidential campaign, casting doubt on her viability, planting innuendo about her character and working nonstop to make us think that they somehow knew something the rest of us didn’t.

On Tuesday, investigators announced that Clinton did nothing criminally wrong by using her personal email account while handling classified information as secretary of state. It removed a potentially damaging legal barrier from the campaign trail and cleared a pile of rubbish from her path to the White House. And it happened just in the nick of time.

Think of it this way: A President Hillary Clinton is the only thing standing in the way of a President Donald Trump.

This isn’t necessarily the gift that everyone had hoped for. And it didn’t come wrapped in a tidy, cheerful package. In fact, it was handed over to us in a rather messy heap. No one expects every American to be excited about it. But over time, many of us likely will come to appreciate it.

The email scandal was supposed to be the smoking gun in the Republicans’ two-year Benghazi probe. As it turned out, the conspiracy theories cracked wide open under the microscope and exposed the Benghazi inquest for exactly what it was: an $8 million, taxpayer-funded Republican campaign to derail Clinton’s presidential prospects.

As hard as they tried, congressional Republicans couldn’t come up with a strand of proof that Clinton had been derelict in her duties as secretary of state concerning the 2012 attacks in Libya that killed four Americans. There was nothing in their 800-page report issued last week that proved she engaged in professional misconduct.

Still, the Republican smear campaign has caused major collateral damage, most notably among Democrats. Some in her own party have bought into Trump’s “crooked Hillary” hype and have done their fair share of spreading the venom.

Republicans aren’t going to necessarily jump on the Clinton bandwagon, even though Trump is driving them in a direction they never wanted to go. But Clinton doesn’t really need them to get to the White House. She does, however, need widespread support from Democrats and independents.

So far, former Bernie Sanders supporters can’t seem to muster any enthusiasm for Clinton, the person most likely to be at the top of the Democratic ticket in November. Whether you love her or despise her, it’s time to come to terms with reality: Hillary Clinton is the only viable candidate we’ve got in November.

The next president of the United States isn’t going to be Libertarian Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein. A vote for either one of them is nothing less than a vote for Trump.

So in the words of Queen Elsa, it’s time to let it go.

Sanders supporters fought a good fight. But in the end, he just couldn’t convince enough Democrats that he could ever get his pie-in-the sky agenda through our polarized Congress. The rest of us Democrats were seeking someone with experience, a proven track record and enough political stamina to trample Trump in the general election.

Trump has made attacks on Clinton’s character the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. And though Sanders supporters insist that they despise Trump, some of the most vile criticism of Clinton has come from them.

A friend told me the other day that while she can’t vote for Sanders in November, she would never “ruin my life’s integrity” by voting for Hillary Clinton. She detests Clinton’s “lack of character, her lies, her cold manipulations, her obvious phony demeanor.”

This particular friend is both smart and politically savvy, but she has convinced herself that her single vote for a third-party candidate won’t make any difference in the November election. The problem with that rationale is that she’s not the only person thinking that way. There could be lots of votes thrown away on candidates who can’t win, and the majority of those ballots would hurt Clinton.

Those of us who actually like Clinton and believe that she is the most qualified presidential candidate America’s had in a long time are tired of the smear tactics. But that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t have to answer tough questions.

No one understands the challenges that lie ahead better than Clinton. On a recent stop in Chicago, she acknowledged that after “25 years worth of wild accusations,” she’s got to earn voters’ trust. It’s time we give her a chance.

Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.

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