She' s back!

A vote for Bill was a vote for Hillary. And whatever you may have heard, that is what a lot of people wanted.

Hillary Clinton, the most powerful woman in the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt, has been handed a second term as First Lady, and she returns to Washington with more clout than ever. The Republican candidate Bob Dole lost this election, in large part, because he failed to close a gender gap Hillary Clinton had worked hard to open. In many states Dole won as much of the male vote as Clinton, but the President swept the female vote and the First Lady was a key factor in his success.

In opinion polls taken throughout October and November, the First Lady's approval rating amongst women was consistently higher than that of her husband. Bill Clinton could not have won without the female vote and Hillary helped to lead it home. It would be simplistic to say that this was because she is a woman: the principal reason is that she is a force in the White House and will continue to be so.

There is no doubt that when Hillary Clinton talks, Bill listens. Republicans and some portions of the US media have always resented that, just as they resent her grace under fire. The problem for them is that she projects something that many men find unsettling. Call it a lack of need. She also demonstrates an ease with power that many find arrogant and off-putting.

Hillary Clinton is not malleable and that tends to irritate political operatives used to a compliant First Lady. "Hillary pounds the piano too loudly," said the former president Richard Nixon, speaking for a generation of older American men. "You want a wife who's intelligent but not too intelligent."

Fortunately for them both, Bill Clinton has rarely shown any signs that he supports the Nixon school of thought. He gave Hillary her head when he first won the White House, allocating her the tough task of reforming health care. Her efforts were clumsy and foundered on intransigent opposition from Republicans and the medical establishment. Now he may be ready to give her another chance. He has nothing to lose and he could help cement his place in history by giving his wife room to establish hers.

In a rational world Mrs Clinton, a talented lawyer with a keen intellect, might be rewarded with an official position in the new White House. That will not happen. She remains at the centre of two inquiries into the Whitewater scandal and still risks an indictment on charges that she deceived Congress. Even if that were not the case, the First Lady would probably decide to stay just where she has been for the past four years. Her office in the west wing of the White House has become the official headquarters of the president's unofficial chief of staff and it will be a policy powerhouse for the next four years.

That much is acknowledged by senior members of the President's staff including the key Hillary-ally Harold Ickes, deputy chief of the White House staff. "She is not reluctant to make her views known," he says. "She can talk to any of the senior staff. The First Lady doesn't need to have a title or attend meetings. She has direct access to the President."

Hillary Clinton has stayed true to a wider range of liberal policies than her husband. At her insistence the President pushed for legislation that helped to support families and working mothers. Without her influence on domestic policy it would have been easy for the Republican-dominated Congress to push Bill Clinton even further to the right. That would have lost him many votes among the nation's women, who demonstrate repeatedly in polls that they care far more about social issues than male voters.

"Hillary is a constant reminder that we need to care for disenfranchised people in our country - for those who are on welfare to children who need a hand," says Ohio Congressman Robert Hagan, a liberal Democrat. "If I want some things done, I lobby Mrs Clinton first."

With an ear that may be more open than her husband's to the Democrats' core constituency, Mrs Clinton can expect more Congressmen such as Hagan to seek her support. If they win her endorsement they can anticipate substantial influence with the President, and his senior staff think that's right. "There is no reason why that should not take place," says Ickes. "She is a person in her own right, her own standing, who has worked hard to develop expertise in areas like the family, health care, Medicaid and the role of women. Her voice will be heard."

There is another set of reasons for Hillary's influence. She seems to have far more emotional strength than her husband and when she speaks there appears to be much more conviction. Throughout the dark days of her husband's alleged infidelities, the Whitewater scandal, the Travelgate allegations and deaths in her family, she has maintained an apparent inner calm that many insiders say gives the President a backbone he might otherwise lack. When he made his victory speech in Arkansas on Tuesday night, his wife appeared to be the one with the real inner strength to carry the fight for four more years.

For somebody who had to learn the job under combat conditions Hillary Clinton has done remarkably well. "Despite the enormous effort of the media to denounce her, her popularity has risen," says the feminist author Susan Faludi. "People like her for taking a stand. It's the Washington media who feel threatened by that." Along with every big money vested interest that has tried to dismantle what's left of America's welfare system. They know Hillary Clinton stands firm against them when her husband might buckle, and for that she earns their eternal hatred.

As she heads back to the White House for four more years, Hillary Clinton is probably thinking of this, maybe holding another one of those invisible conversations in her head with Eleanor Roosevelt that won her such flak from America's right wing. There is no doubt she will be wondering how to keep going, doing a job where she must be supportive but not too assertive yet knowing that the first quality often requires the second.

In 1992 Hillary was criticised for saying, "Buy one, get one free" in describing Bill and herself as a team. The American public never believed her subsequent retraction and, in voting for the Clintons again, they know the slogan still holds true. Those who voted for Bill Clinton probably know his wife is one of his best assets. In the next four years they will get a chance to see just how good she can be.

Hillary Clinton will see the 1996 election as a vindication and one that gives her an opportunity to develop her influence in the way she thinks best. Maybe Al Gore should start to worry. With Hillary's sway over the women's vote he may not be the obvious choice for the year 2000 after alln

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

    £27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas