Time to Even the Score

William Congreve was one of those fortunate playwrights whose prose becomes a byword. “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned” comes from Act III, Scene VIII of his play The Mourning Bride.

This quote has become a contemporary, if trite, proverb of a rejected woman who is ferociously vindictive. But the dirty little secret of this election which no one will speak of, is that we are all actors in a terrible extrapolation of this maxim being played out on the American political stage. Every wife who has devoted her life to helping her husband knows this. Every woman who has ever been a victim of sexual abuse or unwanted advances knows this. Even women who have only been wounded by scurrilous comments about their looks understand this in a real and personal way -- not to mention a wife who has been repeatedly cheated on by her husband for other, more attractive women. Is it a surprise to any of us that these have been the memes continually thrust upon women voters this election cycle?

Not too long ago, news anchor Roger Mudd asked Ted Kennedy why he wanted to be president. “Well, ah, well ahh,” the Massachusetts senator stumbled and bumbled and like the Lusitania, sunk his candidacy in that one historic moment. So you’ve got to wonder what’s driving Mrs. Clinton and what heartfelt answer she might have for Mudd, or all of us for that matter.

So, let’s ask just that: Why does Mrs. Clinton want to be president? By all accounts this is a deeply private person who deplores the media and perhaps even the public to whom she claims to want to serve. What is the compelling force behind all this vitriol? Men might be confused. But women know. Women get it and they are about to use their franchise to stick it to those men, to even the score. 

It is continually rammed down our throats that this is the ugliest election America has ever witnessed. Marquess of Queensberry rules have been put aside as we ashamedly admit to being voyeurs to the most disgusting and dirty of all presidential elections. Any cursory view of American history proves this patently false. In Whistlestop: My Favorite Stories from Presidential Campaign History, John Dickerson waxes eloquent about the revolting election of 1800. You want a real eye opener to bitter and vindictive campaigns, read that one, but make sure you have a good strong drink next to you when you do.

The point is -- this isn’t the ugliest presidential campaign in American history. This is an attack on American women and their most private, insecure thoughts about themselves and their relationships with men. If you were the head of Central Casting, you couldn’t choose a better foil for this theater of the absurd than Donald Trump. Isn’t it supremely ironic that this feeding into the worst parts of a female psych emanates from – wait for it-- a female candidate? 

So here it is, folks. Hillary Clinton can and must and it seems more and more likely will get even with her husband for humiliating her in front of the nation for his legendary Oval Office exploits. It is a vow any woman with a shred of dignity would make. The only problem is that female American voters have been dragged along in this very private, perhaps self-righteous crusade. And in doing so, by voting for Mrs. Clinton, we may right a personal wrong at our own peril.

Because, you see, The Mourning Bride, in which William Congreve wrote those famous words, wasn’t just any play.

It was a tragedy.