James Leroy Wilson's one-man magazine.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hating Hillary

There are bigots and sexists. And then there are those who try not to be bigoted or sexist, but do dislike some people of various groups, particularly groups spokespersons who in their words and deeds reflect poorly on the group they're trying to defend and advance. Then the old racist or sexist slurs may rise to the surface, not against average members of a particular group, but against its supposed "leaders."

What if Alan Dershowitz was a serious candidate for President?

He'd be a target of more vicious attacks than Joe Lieberman ever received. Some of it would approach anti-Semitism, and some of it would cross the line. Dershowitz is Jewish, and he's in your face about it. Lieberaman is Jewish, but he's not in your face.

What if Al Sharpton was a serious candidate for President?

He'd similarly be a target of more vicious attacks than what Barack Obama has received. Some of it would approach racism, and some of it would cross the line. Sharpton is black, and he's in your face. Obama is black but he's not in your face.

Vicious and obnoxious people are more likely to be treated viciously, in politics and everywhere else in life. Al Gore was smeared for being a prissy aristocrat and prick; George Bush may also be a prissy aristocrat and prick, but he didn't seem like it on the campaign trail in 2000. That makes a lot of difference.

And so Hillary Clinton has been the target of sexist attacks, but these attacks that wouldn't be as nasty toward, say, Elizabeth Dole if she had been a contender.

Some minority and female figures rise above identity-group politics, whereas others base their whole career on it - that is, are "in your face" about it and provoke, in many people, the very backlash that causes their defeats. Hillary Clinton had nothing to offer the Democratic Party but a big name, an obnoxious personality, a vote to invade Iraq, and the fact that she's a woman. According to a certain kind of logic, this makes her gender "fair game" in a way it isn't for several other public figures.

And no, Hillary's qualities would not be praised if they came from a man. She's actually very similar in style - such as condescending tones and hectoring, finger-wagging moralism - to Al Gore. Gore won the nomination in 2000 because he was the incumbent VP, and lost the general election because Bush seemed more likable (at least back then). All kinds of personalities may be able to win a Senate seat, but few play well nationally.

I agree with Marie Cocco that sexist smears have no more place in politics than other bigoted smears. But this does not mean that attacking Clinton in crude terms is the same as a hatred for women. No more than making fat jokes about a certain person indicates that one hates fat people.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:18 PM CDT

    If I were one of two fat people in a room and you made a joke about the other fat person, I would be offended.
    If you (or anyone) have a criticism with merit you don't need to use racist, sexist or homophobic slurs to get your point across.