Hillary Clinton as Tragic Figure - Pacific Standard

Hillary Clinton as Tragic Figure

Playwrights function quite differently from pundits, but Jon Robin Baitz manages to fill both roles quite nicely, as his most recent entry at The Huffington Post demonstrates.
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Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the American Library Association's annual conference on June 27th, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. Her speech was sponsored by Simon & Schuster.

Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the American Library Association's annual conference on June 27th, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. Her speech was sponsored by Simon & Schuster.

Even if, like so many of us, you’re sick of the endless analysis of the Democratic primary election campaign, Baitz’s piece is worth a look. That’s because he observes the race through the eyes of a dramatist, rather than those of a strategist.

Baitz is perhaps best known as creator of the ABC drama Brothers & Sisters, which, since his departure earlier this season, has slid slowly into soap opera. His plays, including The Film Society, A Fair Country and The Paris Letter, grapple with important ethical issues in a way that is reminiscent of Arthur Miller.

In The Huffington Post, Baitz (who supports Barack Obama) makes it clear he views the Hillary Clinton campaign as a tragedy — “an object lesson in failed promise.” His thesis could also serve as the outline of a drama: An incredibly impressive woman who is clearly capable of running for president in a manner that respects the voters, her fellow candidates and herself instead chooses a different, darker path and pays the price.

Baitz concludes: “Those of us who look at the Clintons and see the full dimensions of the failure of their promise to America will also feel some sense of loss when she withdraws. She shied away from greatness, so as to hold on to power. Character is fate.”

Indeed, and perhaps it takes a great playwright to cut through all the chatter and see that clearly.

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