Not feeling Hillary? I wasn't, either

Story highlights

  • Angela Rye: Hillary Clinton brings her flaws to the election but also her set of strengths
  • Donald Trump is unfit and unqualified to become president, Rye says

Angela Rye is a CNN political commentator, NPR political analyst and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, a political advocacy firm in Washington. She is also a former Congressional Black Caucus executive director and general counsel. You can follow her on Twitter @angela_rye and on Instagram @angelarye. The views expressed are her own.

(CNN)I have been adamantly opposed to Donald Trump's candidacy from the first time he glided down the escalator at Trump Tower and descended into the pits of the worst parts of rhetoric against humankind by calling Mexican immigrants drug dealers and rapists. It is because of that moment -- and so many thereafter -- that I never believed this reality star had a legitimate chance or frankly that he was serious about running for president.

Angela Rye
But then came the deadline for candidates to file the Federal Election Commission's financial disclosure form -- he filed. "Oh no ... he is serious about running," I thought. Still, the American people -- including GOP primary voters -- wouldn't take him seriously, would they? America in 2016 after two terms of the first black President is no place for birtherism and Trump's brand of bigotry, is it?
I believed Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," which so obviously left out large swaths of Americans who make this country amazing every single day, could not possibly resonate. But it did. His base nostalgically reflected back to the good ole days of the 1950s (which, of course, also preceded integration) that weren't so good for many Americans.
    And Trump began winning debates. He was on a roll and won primary after primary. I tried to do my part in highlighting just how dangerous a Trump presidency would be for our great, but challenged country. Nevertheless, 13.3 million votes later, Trump became the GOP nominee. So, I dug in. I focused all of my energy on showing the American people what I thought was obvious: his lack of preparation, his childish behavior, his treacherous relationship with the truth and his blatant phobia for anything "other."
    I did not think I needed to address my lack of enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton because I believed getting everyone to see how much of a nonoption Trump was would ensure her victory. Again, I made a grave mistake. Enthusiasm to be for something or someone in an election is quite literally the difference between a win and loss. We see it in polls: There is a difference in numbers between registered voters (where Clinton has historically performed much better) and likely voters (where Trump tightens her lead or bests Clinton).
    There are two reasons I haven't written this piece before now. One is that I have not been particularly excited about this election. The second reason is that I didn't believe that Clinton could mean what Barack Obama means to me -- flaws and all. The fact is that Hillary Rodham Clinton is no Barack Hussein Obama.
    But while it's true that Clinton brings her own flaws to this election, she also brings her own set of strengths and qualifications to the table. In fact, as Obama has noted, "There has never been a man or a woman more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States."
    But some of y'all just are not feeling Hillz.
    "Why is she so shady?" I have friends who say things like: "Hillary just seems shady." But my response to that is simple: Clinton is guarded. Yes, she can come across as defensive and combative. Frankly, though, I do not know a single human being who could endure the level of scrutiny she has without having some kind of wall up. Her demeanor means it can be hard for her to connect emotionally, but that guarded persona is not the one most recognizable to those who really know Clinton. It is easy for people to misinterpret guarded for shady. Our gut feelings can be wrong -- and many times are.
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    "#NeverForget. She did President Obama dirty." There are people who say that they might have supported her, but they are disillusioned by the way she treated Obama in 2008. My response? The President not only moved on, but he nominated her as secretary of state. He invited her into his inner circle to assist in making critical decisions for his administration. And now the President, Vice President Joe Biden and first lady Michelle Obama are campaigning for her.
    "Who is she calling super-predator?" Still, many others are troubled by Clinton using the term "super predator" in describing children who committed crime during a 1990s speech (a terrible word choice widely interpreted as speaking about black people). I have no intention of ever defending this statement -- it is one of the most ignorant statements I have ever heard. We should acknowledge, however, that she has apologized for using the term (unlike her opponent, who has demonstrated an inability to apologize for running with birtherism until two weeks ago). She acknowledged that "we haven't done right by them" in her apology and has a lifelong record of advocacy for communities of color. And if you believe in lifelong commitments to causes like I do, you should respect her time working for the Children's Defense Fund, her efforts to register voters of color, and her hiring of diverse staff as first lady, in the US Senate, and at the State Department. Additionally, I can personally attest to the efforts of her Senate office as I worked with them on protecting Title III Part B funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities when I worked at the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.
    "Somebody get her WhatsApp -- stat." And of course, those damn emails. As a former Capitol Hill staffer, advising bosses is something I took (and still take) very seriously. As a lawyer, I know ethics rules can be complicated. It is incumbent upon staff members not only to keep their very busy bosses apprised of what is right but also to ensure the optics are right to preserve public trust. Undoubtedly using a private server was ill-advised, but I firmly believe she was trying to protect her personal life from any further public display. (Thirty years is a lot of time, particularly when you consider the shame and humiliation she also has had to endure.) She has admitted it was a terrible mistake. One that has been heavily politicized and a distraction the campaign has struggled to address appropriately for months.
    As I watched Monday night's debate, it became abundantly clear to me there never was a binary choice, that there is no choice at all. The debate made me an advocate. I watched someone who is presidential. I watched someone who is decisive, clear, poised and brilliant. I saw, for the first time, the candidate that most of my former bosses adore so much they have spent the last several months on the campaign trail as surrogates. I saw Hillary Clinton present and deliver the very best version of herself to the American people. The debate was a defining moment for me. My mandate was clear: I must do all I can to ensure Hillary Clinton is elected on Election Day.
    I am all in now. We know Drake said: "Better late than never, but never late is better."
    I am definitely late, but I am also all in. And after Monday's debate, I am all in with an enthusiasm I did not have at the beginning of this campaign. I am all in because I want our 45 to be just as distinct, historic and brilliant as our 44. I am all in because she is a fighter for the little guy (and girl) -- and her record says so. I am all in because she has policy proposals that best serve the interests of constituencies I am a part of, namely women, people of color and young people. I am all in because while Hillary Clinton does not have it all right, these constituencies will have a seat at the table and where our voices matter. And I am all in because it is clearer than ever that unless all of us show up to be counted on Election Day, an enthusiasm gap over a decisive, clear, poised and brilliant candidate could leave the door open for someone unfit and unqualified. #dealmeinHillz #ImwithHER