Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hillary, Sexism, OJ, and an Apology to the Right Wing

I'm the sort of person who tries to find sense in other viewpoints. But this Associated Press article has me at a complete loss.

I can understand why people might deem Hillary Clinton the superior candidate, though I, myself, happen not to. I can understand that many women had hoped to see a co-genderist in office, though I, myself, would flee to Denmark if Joseph Leiberman, my co-chosen-people-ist, ever took the nation's helm. I even think I understand - insofar as I'm willing to go to that scary place - how Hillary managed to inflate to heights of entitlement not seen since pre-Revolutionary France. And I'm feminist enough to bristle when Senator Clinton is condescendingly referred to by her first name. And sexist enough to have inadvertently done so myself, just above. Yet honest enough to leave the gaffe for all to see.

But the article linked above, wherein the reporter writes that "Her loss was painful for women who have encountered sex discrimination themselves," as if it were a foregone conclusion that gender was her undoing, left me completely sputtering.

Hillary Clinton - who entered each campaign event with her face screaming "Well HELLO, everybody, it's ME! Yes, it's really ME! It's ME and I'm HERE!!", who from day one in the campaign used "when I'm president...." phraseology in a way that clearly went above and beyond cliched candidate-speak, who openly scorned as a smooth-talking airhead an opponent who many found impressive and who declined to volley back the disrespect, and who has generally seemed so delusional in her demonic refusal to acknowledge defeat that I'd hate to imagine the distractions she'd create with our military should her reelection seem in question in 2012 - is someone who can easily be expected to cry "sexists!" That makes sense to me. What other explanation is there? She was obviously supposed to be the next frigging president! It was her's, dammit! No candidate could have fairly beaten her; not even a superior one!

But is it truly possible that women who are not Senator Clinton actually share this view?? I haven't felt so woozy since African Americans backed OJ Simpson - and I'll hasten to note that I was one of the few white people at the time who knew how police treated black people in Los Angeles (I toured there in 1989 with an all-black band, and was surprised to see my normally nonchalant bandmates waiting anxiously for lights to change before entering crosswalks. It was explained to me. I gulped. Hard.).

Racism exists. Sexism exists. But this was obviously neither. A candidate who many people, right or wrong, saw as a divisive, reflexively pandering and triangulating old-school politician lost to someone fresher and more composed, who offered a message that galvanized millions (including scads of women). Her prohibitive lead vanished as she was out-campaigned by an opponent who may indeed turn out to be all talk, but who's the first politician in a very long time to say the sorts of things many listeners had been waiting desperately to hear, and who repeatedly demonstrated a coolly disciplined ability to rise above the take-no-prisoners sort of politics which went nova during the first Clinton administration and supernova in the Cheney administration. She was, in other words, beaten fair and square.

I don't expect Senator Clinton to ever accept this. Since it's unthinkable that she could possibly be deprived of her birthright by anything as ludicrous as a candidate whose fresh approach feels like tonic for an irritated electorate, it must be something else. Something insidious; something sinister! And I'm seized with a recognition that this delusional, paranoid disconnection and hyper-inflated, mega-annoying sense of entitlement are precisely what the right wing has lambasted all along. And I'd thought the anti-Hillary rhetoric was just empty vitriol from partisan haters!

So I'd like to take this moment to apologize to the red states. You guys were right. You warned us, and we failed to take you seriously. Sorry. Now, if you'll just apologize for assuming the rest of us were unpatriotic for opposing the Iraq war, we can hopefully all shake hands and blend ourselves back into a nice shade of violet.

UPDATE: Read Dahlia Lithwick's analysis of the split between bitter female Clinton supporters and perplexed female Obama supporters. She ascribes it to a generational difference. Not sure that's entirely right, but it's an interesting read, in any case.


Jon said...

It's amazing and disturbing that of all the post-mortems on her campaign in the mainstream press, none have mentioned Iraq. But without Iraq and the fact that while her rhetoric is (now) anti-war her votes have not been, there would not have been an opening for Obama. She did it to herself.

Still, we have an African-American as the Democratic candidate this year. Just stop and think about that. An African-American is the Democratic candidate. I know sexism exists and it's pernicious and terrible, but thinking that it somehow trumps racism as a cancer on our society is just wrong. I have more hope for the future of this country than I ever did before.

Andrew Sullivan (ugh) said, and I paraphrase "The day we inaugurate President Obama is the day much of the damage that's been done to our country's reputation over the last eight years magically goes away." So true, and so exciting.

Jim Leff said...

I don't know which side wins the sexism/racism pain trophy, and I don't see much reason to consider melanin levels or presence of innie/outie genitalia at all in selecting my leaders, either way. And IMO, a victory for Obama would be a giant step for a black man, and a small step for black mankind.

But I sure agree on Iraq. I remember the lead-up, I remember being well aware of how the neo-cons had spent the previous decade pressuring and building steam for an Iraq invasion, and how obviously opportunistic was their seizure (and milking!) of 9-11 sentiment. I remember millions of Americans taking to the streets to protest. Yet Sen Clinton insists she hadn't had the right information to vote correctly at the time. She didn't know what we all knew.

*I* certainly had enough at the time, as did much of the world, and her sign-on was a transparent attempt to build strong hawkish national security cred. That was the moment when I, along with many other people, resolved never to vote for her (and her lack of Y chromosome had nothing to do with that decision, either!).

My conviction was reinforced when, a few months ago, she was asked what she would do in the event of another terrorist attack. Her immediate, resolutely bellowing reply? "I would ATTACK!" Yup. That's what we need....more sloppy, random lashings out in the Middle East. More mindless playing along with the provocation. More aiding of the bad guy's efforts to radicalize the Moslems in the street and completely alienate them from any Western sympathy or identification.

Yes, the relief will be palpable (will there be huge parties?) at a change in power...ANY change of power, including to McCain. But I refuse to be wildly stoked up on Obama. Until he proves otherwise, he's just what McCain and Clinton say: an especially smooth-talking politician. But for God's sake, at least we FINALLY have someone at least SAYING things that make sense! Since no one's actually DONE anything sensible for decades, I'll settle for pretty words, thank you very much, and for a maturely respectful attitude toward voters and toward the oppposition.

Barry said...

Sure there was sexisim directed against HC, but the few times BO ever complained about
mistreatment by press, etc. -- as she, Bill and her camp are now -- they start calling him
a wimp, "this is nothing cpmpared to what the Republicans will do, I'm vetted, I can take it, etc., etc."

A lot of woman are sorely disappointed, but being a woman isn't always the enlightened choice (see Margaret Thatcher).
And those who say they would rather vote Republican aren't true feminists (see Scalia, etc.).

I also get pissed with Bill for his indignant ranting about the Vanity Fair article, didn't he once lie big time about getting laid (or was it blown?).

Until this campaign I liked (not loved) the Clintons. They are conservative Democrats, who had the
right message to end the Reagan era. But now don't their supporters get pissed about being forced to defend Hillary's delusional denial about
staying in until the bitter end, faux math and dissing Obama's chances? Didn't they get tired of defending Bill against Kenneth Starr? It was a Republican witchhunt but he made it possible. Sure he did some good things but his personal irresponsibility ruined a lot of opportunities for progressive change.

Big Fella said...

Hillary Clinton's blinding ambition is what was her ultimate downfall in the road to the nomination. Her focus on saying anything, doing anything to grab the prize was so reminiscent of George W. Bush's singular "I am the decider-in-chief and will never change my decision" mindset, and that was very scary.

Jon said...

I don't think you and I disagree. I'm not 100% behind Obama when it comes to policy. I have no idea how he'll do as president, although if he's as capable at governing as he is at politics I'm hopeful. He is saying the right things anyway.

But regardless of that, it's still a historic moment for this country.

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