25 May 2016

Clinton's negatives: who, not what

Shortly before I read a summary of a State Department report criticizing former Secretary of State Clinton for her use of a private e-mail server, I saw David Brooks' oddly blind attempt to explain why the presumptive Democratic nominee for President seems so unpopular. Brooks is one of the New York Times' house conservatives, but I suspect that he can't yet bring himself to vote for Donald Trump this November. His column presumes that Clinton's unpopularity is more difficult to explain than Trump's. The difficulty, apparently, is his, since the best he can come up with is that she turns people off because they perceive her as an impersonal workaholic:

People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief. ...Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic. Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don’t inform their most fundamental decisions.... At least in her public persona, Clinton gives off an exclusively professional vibe: industrious, calculated, goal-oriented, distrustful. It’s hard from the outside to have a sense of her as a person; she is a role.

Ironically, Brooks has actually described Clinton's strength. What popularity she has depends on the role she fills in the eyes of admirers, most obviously the role of feminist trailblazer.  If anything, people's willingness to identify Clinton with that role is her best protection against attacks that have absolutely nothing to do with any conception of Clinton as an impersonal workaholic. Clintonites have garbed their idol in symbolic armor that proofs them more than it proofs her from criticism of Clinton the person rather than Clinton the historic role-player. Many Clintonites, I suspect, are convinced that Clinton is only being attacked for what she is -- a woman politician if not the presumptive first woman President -- rather than for who she is. If so, their attitude is like those blinkered superpatriots who claimed that the U.S was attacked in 2001 for who we were, not for what we did. The claim amounted to a presumption of innocence for the U.S., and likewise Clintonites who claim that Clinton hatred is founded entirely on misogyny, from Trumpets or Bernie Bros, effectively presume their heroine innocent of everything. Worse yet, they seem to presume that every accusation against her is a partisan or misogynist lie.

There certainly are stupid and unfair reasons to oppose Hillary Clinton. My favorite of these is a recurring complaint about the sound of her voice, and even that set off a feminist overreaction that made it misogynist to describe a female politician "shouting." But the biggest lie of this political season is that there are no good reasons to oppose Clinton, but only misogynist lies and distortions. This lie can only be sustained only by refusing to see Clinton for who she is, and creating a myth of what she is in place of the actual person. Does that mean she's so awful that we had all better vote for Trump? I won't go that far. I'd rather see more people take up the NeitherTrumpNorHillary hashtag, though I fear it won't amount to much unless all those who do so rally around one candidate. More people might vote against both presumptive candidates if they didn't fear or despise one or the other so much. The sad part of the 2016 story is that most voters will still fear or despise one more than the other, and see the other as their only protection from the hated one, when the truth is that there's a surplus of reasons to at least despise both enough to demand an alternative at last, and as fast as possible, of our decrepit Bipolarchy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Normally, I'd agree - it you don't like either candidate, don't vote. I really think this time the "establishment" needs a good, hard smack in the face. tRump is the smack the repugnicans need and, since the DNC seems even more willing than the RNC to make it impossible for the "non-establishment" candidate to get their nomination, then tRump is also the smack in the face the DNC requires.