OK, I admit it: I can be a slow learner.
For most of Hillary Clinton's stubborn slog against long odds, here's how I viewed it: A self-absorbed act by a sore loser. A reckless bid to reap political gain by cracking open every fissure of gender, race and class. A breathtakingly hypocritical twisting of election rules and results, reminiscent of Bush-Florida-2000.
It was all that, viewed from one angle. But when life is the most interesting, it's also the most complicated.
Belatedly, I now see the other angle, the one from which Clinton was showered with plaudits, cheers and hugs.
I don't favor this viewpoint, but I now see it's legitimate.
For my late-breaking understanding, I thank Jon Stewart. And Gail Collins.
Comedy Central's The Daily Show, which Stewart hosts, often pulls together video-clip montages that skewer media groupthink. The other night, the target was sexist riffs against Hillary Clinton.
As I watched this compilation of venomous idiocies, most but not all from Fox News, my jaw scraped the ceramic tile. In my little bubble, I tended to write off complaints from Clinton supporters about rampant sexism in the media as the typical blame-the-messenger whining of a losing politician.
About that bubble: Except on election nights, I never watch cable news. This boycott costs me little in the way of insight, and spares me hours of rumor-mongering and shallow bloviation. I follow the campaign in newspapers, in magazines like the New Yorker and the Economist, and on Web sites like RealClearPolitics. There, examples of sexist rhetoric have been few - unless you regard all criticism of Hillary Clinton as de facto sexism, a view that imprisons logic and throws away the key.
So, watching The Daily Show montage, all that snickering, labored, sexist claptrap hit me as a noisome revelation. Of course, if I'd spent decades having such crap heaved at me in the workplace, I'd be more than annoyed. I'd be enraged, as many women were.
The cure for such cable toxins begins with the mute button. Instead of watching idiots natter, read the words of people who actually know how to think.
Like Collins, the New York Times columnist. As I read her column Saturday explaining why Clinton had refused to shut down her campaign, light dawned in my dim brain: "Clinton has seemed haunted by the image of the 'nice girl' who gives up the fight because she's afraid the boys will be angry if they don't get their way. She told people she would never, ever say: 'I'm the girl, I give up.' She would never let her daughter, or anybody else's daughter, think that she quit because things got too tough."
I have a daughter, who, after being an Obamaniac for a while, now reveres Hillary Clinton. Collins expressed why, in words even I could get.
So, I stand to applaud Sen. Clinton, belatedly and in frank admission of insufficient understanding. She deserves credit for persevering through rank sexism she did not deserve to make a stand that will long resonate for millions of our daughters.
Now, I'll obliterate whatever cheap grace I just earned by concluding with two points:
First, though Clinton was targeted by sexists, she didn't lose because of that. She lost because Obama was a candidate of equal appeal who ran a better race, with fewer errors and less arrogance. The engines of his victory were well-educated liberals and the idealistic young. Is either group a bastion of sexism?
Second, she should not be Obama's running mate. Some think picking her is the only way he can win. I think it's the only way he can lose. She is anathema to many of the independents whom Obama can pull into his column, particularly if John McCain continues the painful ineptitude of his last TV speech.
That group of swing voters will prove far larger than the number of Clintonistas who will follow through on current vows to snub Obama.
That prediction, to some, smacks of sexism: Oh, those emotional women, they'll come to their senses.
Actually, we're talking quintessential male behavior here: overreaction to painful defeat, producing fierce vows of renunciation that evaporate over time. Think: Eagles fan.
Clinton surely deserves a role commensurate with her talents and place in history.
This isn't my idea, but it strikes me as the perfect solution: Supreme Court Justice Hillary Rodham Clinton. Defender of rights. Scourge of Antonin Scalia. Fox News' nightmare.