“At the very end of “Hillary,” an intimate and revealing four-part Hulu documentary series that tracks Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, Mandy Grunwald, the campaign’s communications adviser, sums up Mrs. Clinton’s career: “As long as she has been in public life there have been these ups and downs. ‘Be our champion, go away.’ ‘Be our path-breaker, go away.’”
Mrs. Clinton may be the woman at whom Americans have most regularly hurled these whiplash-inducing demands, but she is far from the only one who was told she had to mold herself into what the public (or a boss, or a partner, or a parent) said they wanted, only to wind up rejected and scorned for her efforts. In the wake of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s exit from the presidential race — the last of several smart, qualified Democratic women with any reasonable chance of clinching the 2020 nomination — “Hillary” feels both raw and resonant. It’s an unusually authentic portrayal of someone so often accused of being inauthentic.
And yet before she even says it onscreen, the tenor of Ms. Grunwald’s comment reverberates through the series, indicting all of us and suggesting we may have learned all the wrong lessons from 2016.
As “Hillary” thoroughly documents, the voting public demanded Mrs. Clinton conform, and then complained about her insincerity when she did. She spent decades tarred as a radical feminist, her attempt (and Republican-induced failure) to establish universal health care taken as a demonstration that she was far too left-wing. After some time spent licking her wounds and performing the role of the party-hosting agreeable first lady, she set about creating the groundbreaking Children’s Health Insurance Program. By the time the center-left caught up with her two decades later, she was cast as an establishment moderate.”