Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Honor Killing

This election season has been less candidate selection than a vast Rorschach test on the nation's political psyche. That Golden Boy Barry would be a popular favorite is no great surprise, given the electorate's predilection for candidates who make them feel good and seem personable. I don't think his long term prospects are that good, but that's the subject of another post.

The great mystery to me (and not just me and not just as affects the election) is why the deep, irrational, violent reaction to Hillary from so much of the left? I can understand why the right would loathe all things Clinton. There are clear political advantages to the right to preventing effective leaders from rising on the left. There is the revenge factor on someone who has repeatedly defeated them and who is more beloved by the American people than Saint Ronnie. There is the fact that HRC has promised to battle them over health care again, which Krugman has rightly identified as the foundation stone of a revitalized left.

I need to return to the key paragraphs of Stanley Fish's NYT essay on Hillary hatred:
Still, sexism doesn’t seem an adequate explanation of the Hillary-hating phenomenon if only because so much of the venom in the comments is directed at the Clintons as a team. The idea is that nothing but evil can emanate from them; they are a moral blot on the nation’s escutcheon, a canker-sore on the body politic, and they must be removed (perhaps by any means necessary). No doubt sexism is a component of such sentiments–a number of women respondents accused her of riding on her husband’s coat-tails and lambasted her for not leaving him–but sexism doesn’t really account for an anger that sometimes borders on the homicidal...

Underlying this surrender of the franchise to those least qualified to exercise it is the complaint (rarely overtly stated) that the Clintons have had the bad taste to undergo the assassination of their characters in public and have thereby made us its unwilling spectators. This is of course the old ploy of blaming the victim, and Ava Mae Lewis (16) is at least explicit about it. After deploring the “wild accusations” and “rabid hate”, she declares herself “disappointed that the Clintons force us to make this final and public rejection.”...

In other words, by being the targets of unwarranted attacks — that is their crime, being innocent–the Clintons are putting us in the uncomfortable position of voting against them for reasons we would rather not own up to. How dare they? Given the fierceness of the opposition to her candidacy, why doesn’t Hillary do the decent thing and withdraw? “What bothers me about Hillary is that she must know this, yet she apparently thinks so much of herself, or wants to be president so badly, that she’s willing to risk compromising the Democrats’ chances of winning in November to stay in the race” (Matthew, 440). How inconsiderate of her both to want to be president and to persist in her quest in the face of calumny.

Why is she putting us through this? Why is she making us a part of the smearing and shaming of her? Even more than with Big Dog, there is a maniacal obsession with punishing Hillary Clinton for having been the victim of the right wing's and the MSM's misogynistic assaults. Two particular points of ire stand out.

One is her ability to accept and forgive her husband for his infidelity. I know it upset me at the time, when I was recently married and pretty insecure about it all, not to mention we were going through some relationship issues of our own. Dammit, woman, stand up for yourself! Teach that lying so-and-so a lesson for dissing you! A decade further on, with a bunch of marital water under the bridge, I have come to respect what it must have taken for Hillary to not follow conventional wisdom (or bow to public pressure) and go on to create something new from the detritus of that betrayal. On a personal level, I know it is a lot harder to mend than to abandon, and she and Bill showed more fortitude than most people.

The second is her AUMF vote, or, more precisely, her refusal to be badgered into some half-assed apology to people who hate her anyway. She made a decision that was defensible for a number of reasons, some of which had to do with the ways in which the executive and the legislative branches needed to properly interact. That Bush betrayed everyone afterwards, taking a simple diplomatic bargaining chip and gambling it into an entire war, does not invalidate the original decision. What infuriates her detractors is that she won't grovel for having made a bad decision. I look at this and respect the stance while decrying the decision. Kerry and Edwards both pandered to try to get anti-war votes, trying to have it both ways. That HRC will not be shamed into recanting is the flash point.

As I was puzzling over this combination and reflecting on Fish's words, something came to mind. At some level, the brutal attacks on Hillary have nothing to do with her acts and deeds. It all has to do with the detractors' feelings of shame over what she has done or refused to do. She should have withdrawn from public life rather than insist that her life is her own to do with as she likes and deems right. She will not be a "good girl" and capitulate to the blustering alpha-males in the room.

What we're watching is little more than a political honor killing of a woman who has refused to allow our shame over how she has been treated dictate her decisions.



Anonymous said...

I have images in my head of how I have seen Senator Clinton over the years. She is with a disabled child and listening to their parents battles of health insurance coverage. She is traveling around the world as a spokesman for human rights. She is fighting for National Guardsman to have health coverage and benefits. She is making sure firefighters get taken care of. She always, always seems to be fighting the good fight. In the face of all odds, in the face of criticism, in the face of failures, she drudges on. She always picks her self up and keeps fighting back.

I wonder if it is her fighting spirit that people dislike? I'm not sure. When I say I am supporting Hillary Clinton, sometimes the reaction is, "You are? Why?"

I am always stunned by that response. Do I have to explain it? Because she wants people to have health care coverage, because she wants the government to work for the people, because she is willing to go to the mat, to fight the good fight. Because she really cares about people and wants to fix things that she can. Because she is the most inspirational person in this century. Should I go on, I ask?

"Well, I don't really like her," people will respond. "But, I didn't know she did all that."

Hillary Clinton is tough. I was against the war too. But I also wasn't a Senator in 2002, when you being called a traitor if you weren't supporting the "war on terror." It's easy to sit in the peanut gallery and judge people. But I'm glad she didn't apologize. Bush is the one that lied, not her.

Hillary Clinton will always be a true American hero. One day, people will look back and understand that. We are watching an historical figure in our very own times. I'm honored to say I admire Hillary Clinton and I always will.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Just wow. I've been reading you for just a few weeks now and have been repeatedly blown away by both the breadth and nuance of your commentary, and your refusal to pull any punches. Well done.

lori said...


I too have only been reading you for a few weeks and wonder how I missed you for so long.

Unlike Mr. Fish, I think that sheer misogyny drives about 90% of the Clinton animosity. I think guys are pissed at Bill as well for going along with Hillary's wonkiness. Doesn't he know the WH belongs to guys?

I am stunned, absolutely stunned, by the level of hatred coming from the left for Clinton and it is driven by the men in the blogosphere - they don't know Clinton's actual record and they don't care. Watch how the narcissism drives the coverage - the degree to which people proudly turn their nose up at her.

The right has always been tremendously narcissistic and that drives Republicans appeal with less than wealthy Americans. Hillary is provocative for people inclined in that direction - perhaps because she's the real thing. And Obama, who is incredibly narcissistic, has figured out how to tap into this whole thing. Obama makes people feel wonderful because he is so wonderful and if you're wonderful like him, you become more wonderful around him. It's really gross.

And there's Hillary - not terribly interested in how wonderful anyone is but ready to go to work and do the job well. How boring! How ordinary! And she's a girl! Icky!

I also think this (the Unskilled and Unaware Self-Assessment) explains a lot of it - even with the well-educated bloggers. They just think they're smarter and more experienced than the really are. Hell, they spend all day blogging. What the heck does Hillary actually DO?

Anonymous said...

I second the commenter who wants to know where you've been all our lives. Second day in a row I'm linking to and blockquoting you.

Amazing work you're doing over here.

Unknown said...


I'm afraid to tack on, after the powerful eloquence of that post, but I'm going to try. I think the hatred of both Bill and Hillary comes from a total misogynist terror of a true marriage of equals. She wouldn't be cast out of the public eye, and he wouldn't have done it to her. The fact that they respect each other, and that they've proven to all of us that their relationship isn't built on what we think of as The Ideal sexual, romantic love - it reminds us that women are people, and that people get to be different, and that just scares the living hell out of so many people.

Anonymous said...

Anglachel, I really don't know how to get it through the minds of these Obamabots that Hillary Clinton is not the enemy. I don't even get why they think she is so unlikeable. But your analysis does make some sense of all the hatred. I've told several of my male friends who use her husband's infidelity as an excuse to hate her that this is pure sexism plain and simple. Why does this woman continually get the blame for her husband's mistakes? It makes me so frustrated that there are a lot of times when I think it is best for Hillary to lose just so that Barack and Michelle can finally understand what it is like to be Hillary. And the attacks and criticism have already started and he's not even the nominee yet! I agree that his long term prospects are not good. I can already tell that he is going to have a ton of problems going against McCain which is why I am praying that Hillary can pull off a TX and OH win.
I'm looking forward to your analysis of TX and OH if you have the time. I would feel better if you said Hillary will win TX and OH :) I trust you more than any news network these days.
I also hope you have to time to finish your three part essay set.

Anonymous said...

well, misogyny and sexism is the else can you explain how a woman, one of the most accomplished humans of this century, whose only concerns have been to help those less fortunate, be characterized with the unshakeable "cold and calculating" label? alright, I'm not religious, but you only have to look as far as one of the most powerful religious documents, the bible - and there's Eve - forever defining women as vessels of evil. --thank you Anglachel for all your wisdom. Ellen

Anonymous said...

This is the personification of shame. To watch a decent, brave human being being savaged for years without lifting a finger results in shame. They are desperately trying to shove her and her magnificent husband out of the public eye because they remind them of one of our most shameful episodes. This is not about the Clintons. This is about the cowardice, laziness, and shame of those who do not want to face what was done in our own country. Honor killings indeed. That says it all. It is not about the victim, it is about the weakness of those who stood by and watched it happen and were to afraid to do anything. They are still too afraid to do anything therefore they want her gone and now. The more virulent they are, the more ashamed they are. The same thing is going on with Iraq.

Anonymous said...

The American public becomes increasingly shallow, with a shorter attention span and less tolerance than ever for nuance. Witness how fast musical acts come and go now; how there is an insatiable demand for something newer and fresher almost every day. So people want a fresh candidate and political narrative, too; not the ambiguity and nuance which the Clintons present . They can't "believe" in Hillary Clinton like they can believe in Obama--for a few months, anyway; until he disappoints them and they have to look for pastures new.

I think that the hatred of Hillary is of course in some sense misogynstic, but I think it's much broader and deeper than that. Kay Hutchinson or Condoleeza Rice or Dianne Feinstein would not get a quarter of the venom directed toward Ms. Clinton. Her husband was loathed by the right, but also by the fringe of the Democratic Party; those that also hated Gore and Kerry. The Right still hates Hillary, and the Left thinks she is the one remnant of a the ancien regime, and if she is swept away, there will be a bright new day. Hillary doesn't offer "hope" to most of the public (just the ones who really need some concrete hope); she is a known quantity, with all the personal or ideological flaws which come with being known. There is a desperate wish for magic, faith in the unknown. That's why Obama is likely to be elected. After him will probably come some right-wing faith healer. It is said that the decline of a civiliztion is attended by a lapse into zealotry and superstition. Yes, we can.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot going on here.

There is a heaping helping of gender bias and misogyny, but no more than most women encounter.

I think seven years away from the Clinton years, a lot of progressives aren't nearly as nostalgic as was initially anticipated. Sure, the 90s was a drastic improvement over the Reagan Bush years, but it wasn't actually all peaches and cream, especially for those on the wrong side of the economic divide.

When we saw Hillary not only vote for AUMF but speak enthusiastically for it (when we all knew what was REALLY AT STAKE, and that it didn't add up) it was a reminder of the not-nearly-as-good-as-folk-like-to-remember days.

While you can say that Kerry an Edwards pandered, I can say that they owned their mistake and moved on.

The fact is that most of us regular folk are just plain tired of the back and forth.

Call us naive(and we are....often) but we actually believe it can be different.

I think one more thing that cannot be overstated is that while the media has done what the media is prone to do, and the campaign supporters (ON BOTH SIDES) have been as typically snarky and generally mean-spirited as people on the net tend to be, The negativity of the Clinton Campaign has far outstripped that of the Obama campaign itself.

That has not gone unnoticed by the masses.

I think those of us who are relentlessly plugged in and have followed this campaign since the confetti was swept up in January, 2005 lose sight that other folk are merely taking a peek now and then. The slash and burn typical campaign of the Clintons ultimately has only reinforced a lot of the negative images that have been placed upon her. she COULD have reintroduced herself to us in 2006 as the Hillary that exists when the cameras go off...but no such luck.

Its a shame, too.

I would have much rather have seen THAT campaign.

lori said...

Wow, William, what a staggering dishonest post you just made. Hillary speak enthusiastically about AUMF? Liar. What Hillary spoke in measured terms about was the need to disarm Hussein, and thus provided Hans Blix (the UN weapon inspector tasked with disarming Hussein) with the military authorization he felt was necessary to get unfettered inspections.

You have summed up what many us find so vexing about the Obama supporters in the party - truth and actual history don't seem to matter to you. In your world, Hillary loved the war and that's that. I bet you've never read her speech. I bet you don't know the degree to which the progressive foreign policy community in DC was trying to find ways to avert Bush's desire for war, and felt the only way to do so was by actually disarming the guy. But that doesn't matter to you. Attempting to do something to actually stop the war is irrelevent to the Obama fanboys. Go ahead - read Hans Blix' book. Or maybe you dont' think Blix knew what he needed to complete the job....

As for the negativity of the campaign, it is Obama supporters that have forced sites like Digby's Hullabaloo to shut down comments because of the obscene abuse they heaped on her, though she has not endorsed Clinton by a long shot. Taylor Marsh and Ben Smith have had to shut down comments because of the ugliness of Obama supporters as well - one more piece of reality that doesn't jive with your fanciful world view. Lastly, it's a pro-Obama site, Daily Kos, that has begun suspending Clinton supporters, not for misbehaving, but for simply posting critical diaries about Barry. No pro-Clinton site has dumped the Obama supporters.

The fact of the matter is that Obama is running the dirtiest and the most misogynistic campaign I have ever seen from Democrat and he has turned normally decent progressive into misogynistic, vulgar thugs - as best demonstrated by the blogs that have shut down comments.

No campaign that creates the level of hate that Obama has is positive. This is nasty campaign run by a nasty human being who has no intention of governing as a progressive.

Now go ahead, quit buying Obama rhetoric and actually read up on the AUMF. Clearly, you have no idea what Clinton actually said. Obama's campaign tells a lot of lies.

Anonymous said...

Well, actually, Lori, you directed your anger at the wrong person and the wrong post; as you will see if you scroll up.

Anonymous said...

anglachel - would you please post - it is so inspiring to hear younger people talk about why they support Hillary - amazing video project:

thank you, Ellen

Anonymous said...

I am going to presume that Lori was speaking to me.

First Off:
Disarm Hussein?

He didnt HAVE anything. If it was obvious to me as a random Capital Hill Staffer at the time that all the talk of WMD was a bunch of hooey, I cant quite see how it was that she didn't see it.

I will allow that to say she was enthusiastic about it gives the wrong impression, But I will insist to my grave that she made that vote primarily for political reasons, just like all the other Democrats who caved to the Administration.

Now on to the meat of your comment.

You Said:

In your world, Hillary loved the war and that's that. I bet you've never read her speech. I bet you don't know the degree to which the progressive foreign policy community in DC was trying to find ways to avert Bush's desire for war, and felt the only way to do so was by actually disarming the guy.

My response:
In 2002 I worked for the Congress. I didn't have to READ her speech. I sat and watched EACH AND EVERY SENATOR make their speeches during that period. I know EXACTLY what she said. And i know exactly what it cost me. The progressive foreign Policy community was Railing to anyone that would listen that There was no THERE there. That there was no reason to go and disarm Saddam because HE DIDNT HAVE ANY WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION! The people in OFFICE (with a few exceptions) were too busy reading the tea leaves of the moment to fight that battle too hard. To say nothing of the fact that Senator Clinton admitted that she hadn't even read the NIE and relied on the administration briefing even as they insisted on telling the public that there was a link between Saddam and 9/11. I found it telling at the time that of the 23 No votes for AUMF there was not one Senator who harbored any kind of aspirations for national office.

As for the other claims of negativity and misogyny, I made a point of vocalizing the negativity of the vast majority of supporters on BOTH sides.

I make a point of making my comments without the snarky nicknames that both sides employ.

I find the general tone of debate of this campaign between the large bases of supporters rather immature and symptomatic of a larger issue on the internet in general.

As for the charge that "The fact of the matter is that Obama is running the dirtiest and the most misogynistic campaign I have ever seen from Democrat" Well...ok.

Farbeit for me to disavow you of that. Unlike most people in this discussion, I leave claims of victimization to they that feel victimized.

The true tragedy in this conversation is that, were I inclined to go back and forth with you over which campaign was insensitive on issues of race and gender, we would find that you would be all too eager to explain away my claims and all too quick to justify your own.

Rather than waste your time and mine, I will merely state that you heard YOUR dogwhistles, and I heard Mine.

The Truth of the matter is...your Dogwhistles, some of which were quite valid, came primarily from the random folk online and in the media....I am really only taking issue with the ones from the Campaign itself.

Holding Campaigns responsible for the idiocy that emerges on message boards and blogs isn't a habit I really want to get into.