Katie Hill, then a Democratic Party candidate from California’s 25th Congressional district, in 2018.

Former congresswoman,Katie Hill, a Democrat from California may have been down but not gone. In the eyes of the world, her political career had ended as a first-time junior congresswoman in the fall of 2019, just after ten months of taking oath of office. A promising political career was short lived for the 32-year-old freshman, because a conservative news website RedState ran the story that contained explicit images of Hill and a young female campaign staffer named Morgan.There were other allegations that she had a sexual relationship with one of her congressional staff Graham Kelley. That led the House to open an ethics committee investigation. If true, such a conduct by a member of the Congress was in violation of the oath of office in the #Metoo movement era prohibiting members from having sexual relations with congressional staffers. It became a law in January 2018.In an emotional goodbye speech to her colleagues and critics,her response at the time was she will rise again. In the speech, she only once mentioned that she has made a mistake.“I am leaving,” she said on the House floor, “but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in boardrooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body, and, worst of all, in the Oval Office.”The impassioned speech on the House floor quickly went viral. That promise of her rising again is beginning to materialize in a new book in the form of a Memoir. The New York Times’ Book briefing section for March had Katie’s book listed as a suggested reading. The short description said, “Katie Hill, an openly bi-sexual woman and former congresswoman who resigned last year after nude photographs of her were published online, is writing a book. ‘She Will Rise,’ part memoir, part gender-equity battle plan, is expected to publish in August.” Grand central publishing is bringing it out on August 18. “The date is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.”

On International Women’s Day, March 8, women around the globe will be highlighting their social, cultural, economic, and political achievements. My choice to write about Katie Hill does not negate the severity of the mistakes she had made while campaigning for her congressional seat. In light of the International Women’s Day, Hill’s story is important, as it is a story of survival and empowerment. Through a series of television interviews, on some of the most watched television morning talk shows such as Good Morning America (GMA) and The View (hosted by women), Katie Hill has joined hands with women across the world to promote gender equality in all domains. She is mainly debunking the myth that just because you have fallen from a promising and lucrative political career doesn’t necessarily mean that your life is over and done with. In her interviews and speaking engagements about women empowerment, Hill has been talking about her new life in Washington DC since her resignation. An advance from her upcoming book is enabling her to make a new beginning.

This past December, after a family tragedy of her younger brother dying from a drug overdose (at her mother’s house in California), she had an epiphany. She realized that instead of giving up, she still can do a lot with her life. What happened in Washington should not discourage her to move past her previous mistakes and start anew. In a recent interview given to the New York Magazine, Katie Hill said, her last congressional paycheck was deposited on December 1. After that she had no time to waste as she needed finances to support herself. She was not going to waste time sitting around in her mother’s house in the West Coast moping and feeling sorry for herself. She became determined not to waste any time in launching her comeback. “Hill is simultaneously writing a book, appearing regularly on TV, taking paid speaking gigs about women’s empowerment, and starting a political PAC with money from her war chest.”She came back to Washington DC and got a new apartment for the first time in her life. Now she is mainly focusing on helping other young women who want to pursue politics. She is also fighting for women’s rights as it is still very necessary considering how much the women have achieved since they were allowed to vote. Women getting equal opportunities in today’s world, and to have full equality with men has not yet fully materialized.

To GMA’s George Stephanopoulos, Katie Hill revealed that in her book, she will recount the “struggles and ultimately the scandals” that pushed the freshman representative to resign from Congress late last year. She still maintains that her photos were taken without her knowledge and released online without her consent. Immediately after the ethics committee decided to open a probe, Hill then released another statement admitting to an inappropriate relationship with Morgan. “I had to admit that, yes, I had this relationship with a campaign staffer,” Hill told. “So, you know, I’ve admitted to that. And once you’ve admitted to that one thing, then it brings everything else into question.”

Once the book comes out, her revelations will possibly inspire other women who are in difficult situations, not to give up on their dream when life throws you a curve ball. For a Congressional seat from California, Hill contested as an openly bi-sexual candidate, the second one ever to serve the House of Representatives. Those who voted to elect her had no problem with her sexual orientation. They liked her campaign promises as to what she can do for the Californians. Many could relate to her; especially those from the LGBT community, they saw one of them in her. Coming from a typical suburban working class background, daughter of a policeman and a nurse, Katie Hill reminded people of the girl next door. They trusted a self-assured vibrant young woman to carry their message and issues to Washington DC as their congresswoman. In her young life, Katie Hill has gone through some of the same difficulties like millions in America — depression, sexual abuse, divorce of her parents,her mother’s remarriage soon after the divorce, her brother’s drug use, and her own suicidal thoughts. But with sheer tenacity and will to persist against all odds Hill became involved in politics where people including her own family thought she did not have a fighting chance in becoming successful. Nonetheless, she had believed in herself in making a difference through active politics and won the congressional seat in her district. But every dream Katie Hill had dreamt was soon shattered when she found herself at the center of a scandal.

In America, such stories are very common when male members are involved. There are not too many sex scandals surrounding women in politics. Majority of American public are not comfortable with bi-sexuality and Katie believes her case was simply sensualized just because she is a woman. According to Katie, as a revenge ploy, her nude photos were put on the internet by her estranged husband without her consent when she was involved in a Ménage à Troiswith him and Morgan. But that was not what ended her political career. The rumorthat she had an affair with Graham Kelley led to her resignation despite Nancy Pelosi and others urging her to stay on and to fight it. She said at the time that she was forced out of Congress “by a sexist double standard” because of who she is – a bi-sexual woman but married to a man.She went all in with the promise of women empowerment and to many she represented the future women politicians in America.

Hill also spoke out against what she described as a “Double standard between the salacious, sexualized coverage of the allegations against her as a woman, and that of the many high-ranking men accused of abusing their own power. We have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in boardrooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body and, worst of all, in the Oval Office,” she said, calling out Donald Trump directly as a man who has been accused of sexual assault and rape.” Katie Hill also said she cast her final vote, in favor of an impeachment inquiry, “on behalf of the women of the United States of America. We will not stand down. We will not be broken.”

Instead of hiding under covers, in the midst of a professional and very personal crisis, Hill now is fighting back to rebuild her life in a positive way. Whatever mistakes she had made in the past, she is not going to let that define her life from now on. She believes, some mistakes on her part cannot simply take away what she had set out to do, and what she still aspires to do, which is to fight for the rights of other women. What Hill told Stephanopoulos about her apparent suicide attempt after she had resigned is very profound. Going through with it would have proven that the dramatic turn of events in her life had destroyed her completely. She could not let that happen to her. She also did not want to put her family in a heartbreaking situation of losing two children in such a short period, one to drug overdose, and another to suicide. I congratulate Katie Hill for making the right decision when she was close to committing suicide and for wanting to live.

From then on, she seemed to have realized very fast that she has more to offer in terms of service and there is interest in her from the media. In America, one can make a comeback and being applauded for it. She is simply monopolizing on that. It really does not matter what prompted her to carry on. She has chosen to stay involved by offering her service to others.Many who watched her campaign closely agree that “she is an unbelievable political talent and has that quality that people don’t believe negative things about her.”

F Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: “There are no second acts in American lives.” ButFitzgerald clearly never met some of the disgraced politicians like Bill Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, Newt Gingrich and Mark Sanford. On the list, one also can add, VA’s Lt Governor Justin Fairfax who remains in office despite sexual allegations earlier last year. He also plans to run for Governor in 2021 saying Virginians are behind him, especially, the African Americans. Most Americans believe in a person getting a second chance after a fall from grace. And sometimes shunned politicians can get back in the game, if not re-elected. Katie Hill has paid heavily because of the mistakes she has made after entering politics. People make all kinds of blunders and they learn from it and move forward.As a politician, she was inexperienced, and did not weigh the consequences of her indiscretions.Why should a 32 year- old woman’s life to service end because of some stupid and careless choices? From what I have witnessed over the years, in America, one can make a comeback if someone has passion, dignity, self-love, empathy and the ability to forgive one for all the mistakes. Katie Hill is being used as an example and celebrated for it. I also applaud her for trying to turn things around, and for bringing some of the everyday problems of American society into focus. She does not really owe anyone any explanation, giving an apology was sufficient. But she has chosen to do so as she feels obligated to serve the public interest. Whether Katie Hill is promoting her new life to bring redemption to herself or to help other women in achieving their goals remains to be seen.Hill made it clear in one of her interviews that she “wants women to take away from her book is that they can own their mistakes and get back up, no matter how difficult their experience.”

Zeenat Khan writes from Maryland, USA


SIGN UP FOR COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWS LETTER


 

Comments are closed.