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Thursday, December 14, 2017

NEW YORK — A new zeitgeist is coming to town, touching down all over the country: New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Madison, Wisconsin, and even my friends in Virginia — Ol’ Virginny, they call the rolling landscape and stronghold of the South.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton gleamed as she spoke and emerged the winner in the final presidential debate. Armed with actual knowledge, the savvy Clinton put the game away. She left her opponent to skulk and dwell in darkness.

As a harbinger, first lady Michelle Obama is now breathing new life into morale and cohesion among women. She has proved the cut of Clinton’s jib. Let’s just say Donald Trump may be the best feminist organizer since Gloria Steinem founded Ms. Magazine. Thanks to him, the ancient Greek word “misogynist” made it big.

Trump’s shabby treatment of women is now public and, for all we know, criminal. Violence against women is sadly familiar, too, in the workplace, in the home and out in the streets. “Domestic” violence is too good a word. Powerful rich men with media celebrity on their side — Bill Cosby comes to mind — have violated countless women as the spoils of their status. And, yes, they often get away it.

Speaking for womanhood across the land, we’re with her in a more profound, passionate way than most male pundits grasp. For them, a president of the same gender is just what they get, time after time. Few are dancing a jig on the page at the prospect of the first woman president, as they did when the first black president was elected. Just sayin’. In fact, if the American electorate were all white men — “one man, one vote” — Trump would likely be the victor. Thanks, guys.

This is no ordinary time. Clues are everywhere. A clever word inspired by author Rebecca Solnit, “Mansplaining,” just made “Jeopardy!” So there. Jane Austen’s flawless novel, “Sense and Sensibility,” is onstage at the august Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington. And, yes, it was the first time Austen ever appeared there. She (almost) upstaged the Bard. “Will and Jane” is the Folger exhibition title, a cozy wink as if they shared a cup of tea together despite their 200-year age gap.

But it’s time. That simple sweet feeling is written on the wind — don’t you feel it, too? Zeitgeist is a wonderful German word for the spirit of history. Time for the flower of her generation, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to return to the White House in her own right.

President Barack Obama, as well as he’s done lately, can only marvel at the power his former political rival, Clinton, has amassed at her hands. Remarkably, his wife, Michelle, has found and lifted her voice after time spent weeding the White House garden vegetables — and on other inarguable causes.

Yet Michelle Obama, who stayed on the sidelines of the burning issues of her husband’s presidency, broke her silence. She said Trump’s bragging about sexually molesting women shook her to her core. When you have two teenage daughters, that’s even more galvanizing. The popular first lady is speaking out and you can see it in her eyes: She’s not playing. It’s personal.

Here in New York, I had an invitation to speak on another New York senator who ran for president. At 44, he tied Thomas Jefferson, a dozen years older, but settled for vice president. President Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton schemed against him, with Hamilton an even more vicious enemy.

The name was Aaron Burr, ma’am. An elegant character, he cut Hamilton down in their famous duel on a July morning in 1804. They had rowed across the Hudson River to reach a “field of honor.”

A real friend to womankind, Burr adored his older wife, Theodosia, and his daughter, Theodosia. He educated her in a revolutionary way, allowing her to learn subjects he studied at Princeton.

Burr loved the work of English Enlightenment thinker, Mary Wollstonecraft, a “Vindication” of women’s rights. He called it “a work of genius.” He was the only one of the Revolutionary generations to champion women’s equality and the right to vote.

And so we seek the historical moment Burr glimpsed, leaning forward into the future. Counting the days.

To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.

Photo: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, U.S., May 16, 2016.  REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein