Courting the votes of minority residents in Michigan, where Hillary Clinton and her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, will face off Tuesday, the former secretary of State delved into an uncomfortable and rarely acknowledged subject – her husband’s affair.
Comparing former President Bill Clinton to the Biblical story of the prodigal son, Mrs. Clinton related the story of how she came to forgive him to a mostly black congregation at the Holy Ghost Cathedral, a modest church in a run-down neighborhood.
She was introduced by Bishop Corletta J. Vaughn, who said the former first lady taught women how to "take a licking and keep on ticking.”
“I’m talking [about Clinton] as a wife and a mother,” Ms. Vaughn said. “She taught so many of us as women how to stand in the face of adversity."
Perhaps for the first time in her campaign, Clinton took center stage to talk – though never in explicit terms – about the scandal that rocked her husband’s presidency in the 1990s.
“What has always guided me and supported me has been my faith, has been my belief in the saving graces, and the salvation that faith brings," she said, alluding to her faith as a long-time Methodist. "And in those difficult times in my life, I have often been struck by a particular passage from Scripture.”
She goes on to recount to the story of the Prodigal Son, who returns home after disappointing his father, having "been out there having a pretty good time committing every sin that you could list.”
“When someone has disappointed you, has often disappointed themselves, it is human nature to say: 'You’re not wanted. We know what you’ve been doing. Go sleep in the bed you made,'" Clinton continued.
"But this isn’t what the father did in this parable,” she said.
Instead, she explains, the father dressed in his finest clothes, had the cooks prepare a feast, and went out to greet his son with an embrace.
It was this parable that reminded her to “practice the discipline of gratitude every day,” she said. “There is much to be grateful for even when it doesn’t feel or look like it.”
In Michigan and in the South, Clinton is overwhelmingly popular among black voters. On Sunday, she visited three different black churches. And it seems to be paying off – among this population, she has, so far, a 55-point-lead over Sen. Sanders, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Sunday.
But while Vaughn and her congregation admire how Clinton handled her partner’s infidelity, it is precisely this episode in her life that irks many feminist would-be supporters, who also cite Hillary's defense of Bill as several women were accusing him of sexual assault.
As Ashe Schow of the Washington Examiner explains, Clinton’s history of standing by her husband renders her to be less than the feminist champion she claims to be.
If we take a ride back 20 years to the 1990s, Hillary was involved in the most orchestrated and vicious victim-blaming campaigns against women in recent history. She spent years defending husband Bill from accusations that he raped, sexually assaulted or groped women. And even after he admitted publicly that he cheated on her, she stood by him."
Still, some are charmed by the Clintons’ relationship – especially after Hillary was able to forgive Bill for his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Meghan Daum writes in The Los Angeles Times:
The Clinton marriage is — pardon me while I duck for cover — kind of great, even romantic in its own way. Maybe not in a romantic love kind of way (though who knows?), but in the sense of a true partnership that transcends the common conventions of most marriages. ...
Her choice to stay never struck me as a sign of weakness or compromise. It struck me as the choice of a woman deciding that the value of her relationship with her husband was greater than or equal to the humiliations and setbacks caused by a philandering nature she was probably aware of from the get-go.”
Clinton, her husband, and her daughter Chelsea have all been campaigning in Michigan the past few days.
"I, my husband, my daughter, we will stay with you and do everything we can to fix these problems that you are experiencing," she told her supporters in the Great Lakes State, addressing the water-poisoned city of Flint and the dismal education conditions in Detroit.