People have many thoughts on Chelsea Clinton running for office and joining what has been described as the Clinton “political dynasty.” Many, many, many, many thoughts. But despite the latest trend condemning Chelsea Clinton’s still-hypothetical run for office, I don’t really care if she does. Why? Let me count the ways.
First and foremost, Clinton herself has already said a million, billion, trillion, gazillion times that she’s not planning to run for political office. I understand the private skepticism when she says it. I get the fleeting “eh, we’ll see what she proclaims in a few years” thought. But Chelsea Clinton’s a grown woman and a private citizen. People can harp on her all day, and she can still do whatever she wants. If that means running for office, cool. If that means continuing her current duties with the Clinton Foundation and teaching, awesome. Quite frankly, if her work activates the hardcore Hillary Clinton fans and keeps them politically and civically engaged, more power to her. But attacking Clinton over a future she says isn’t in the cards seems more like a liberal media circle-jerk and less like a sincere plea.
This doesn’t mean Chelsea Clinton is exempt from criticism — it just means we should be focusing on things that she’s actually doing as a high-profile figure instead of a theoretical move that she’s already said she’s not going to make. Clinton seems to fall into a catch-22: If she does nothing, she’s resting on her family laurels and falling back on her privilege. If she does something, she’s doing too much. If someone can give me a definitive answer on what she’s supposed to be doing instead of what she’s not supposed to be doing that doesn’t involve telling her to zip up her Patagonia sweatshirt and move along to the woods of Chappaqua with her mom, I’m all ears.
Second, while everyone’s quick to lose it over the thought of a Clinton “dynasty,” I don’t see these op-ed writers tearing their hair out and calling for the apocalypse over Representative Joe Kennedy III (yep, grandson of Bobby Kennedy), a guy who’s made his ambitions to continue his family’s political legacy pretty damn clear. Similarly, people basically laughed at Donald Trump Jr.’s rumblings about running for New York governor, and I can’t seem to find these anti-dynasty people doing the sign of the cross as Jeb Bush’s son George P. Bush continues to make waves.
But wait, doesn’t it seem like these three people have something in common, particularly a certain something that Chelsea Clinton doesn’t have? That’s right: They’re all dudes. While Joe Kennedy gets the journalism version of a cheek-pinching in a New York Times profile that discusses his “bright orange hair that sometimes curls into a forelock, blue-green eyes and pale freckles,” T.A. Frank refers to the work of Clinton in his Vanity Fair profile as “taking in spoonfuls of plain oatmeal that, periodically, conceal a toenail clipping.”
Moreover, pitting Clinton against someone like George W. Bush’s daughter Barbara Bush, whose “quiet” work is praised by Frank, furthers the dated, sexist idea that women can only be useful if they’re seen and not heard. The same goes for how Clinton is viewed compared to Ivanka Trump, an actual person in a government position: Clinton is put down for making her positions clear, while Ivanka Trump is praised for keeping quiet and is presumed to be a “moderating influence” even as her father wreaks all sorts of havoc.
Frank also claims that, “To find fault with the former First Daughter is to invite the wrath of thousands.” It’s not that plenty of people like myself are incapable of finding fault with her; I’m just quicker to find fault in journalists who continue to waste column inches creating an unnecessary and time-sucking debate in an era where we don’t have time for this crap. At this point, if the thing keeping you awake as journalist in the Trump era is a potential Chelsea Clinton run, I question how much you learned from the coverage of the 2016 election.
So, if journalists shouldn’t be fretting about the Chelsea Clinton, what should they be doing instead? Let’s start with getting on the cases of people who are actually in public office. During the past two weeks of the mass Chelsea Clinton hysteria, Donald Trump is deporting people (including DREAMers who were allegedly not going to bed deported), still saying the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border get built despite backing off of funding demands, playing chicken with Canada, looking at legalize drilling and mining at U.S. national monuments, potentially sparking a bigger conflict with North Korea and facing increased scrutiny that he or his team colluded with Russia during the election. Ivanka Trump is trying to create a “women entrepreneurship” fund that is rife with potential conflicts of interest. Republicans are floating a bill that doesn’t make insurers cover essential benefits, trying to suppress voters, looking at rolling back Dodd-Frank and other laws put in place after the recession, attempting to outlaw abortion and gutting net neutrality, to name a few things.
The bottom line? Chelsea Clinton isn’t trying to make it illegal for me to do what I want with my body, leading us into conflict after conflict with other countries or claiming that global warming is a hoax. But other people are. So pardon me for shrugging my shoulders at the vitriol of articles dedicated to yammering on about the apocalypse that will ensue because of a purely hypothetical Chelsea Clinton run.
If the day comes when Chelsea Clinton says, “Ha, JK, I’m running for office!” then by all means go to town on why that’s a good or bad idea and whether she was dishonest and tried to deceive us all. If she makes that bed, she can certainly lie in it. But for the time being, I won’t be calling my representatives begging them to tell Chelsea Clinton not to run for office. I’ve got a few other grievances on my plate.
Lily Herman is a New York-based writer and editor. Her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, TIME, Newsweek, Fast Company, and Mashable. All opinions are her own.