Why is the most admired woman in the U.S. the most hated one?
This question has been asked regularly since 1992, when as the wife of a candidate for president she announced on TV that she preferred to pursue her career instead of baking cookies at home. After that, Hillary Clinton was a first lady, a senator and a secretary of state as well twice a presidential candidate. Today, another generation of talking heads is analyzing the same question: Why is the most admired woman in the U.S. also the most hated one?
The answers repeat themselves: She is cold, distant, cut off from ordinary people, personifies the establishment. Too ambitious and arrogant, she thinks that the Clintons are more privileged, she lacks her husband’s charisma. She cannot be trusted.
But if you analyze the hate aimed at Hillary Clinton more closely — and for a quarter of a century there has been quite a lot of analysis — the answer seems much simpler. No, not because she is a woman. America cannot stand Hillary Clinton because she is a woman that does not know where she belongs. And such woman in the U.S., the motherland of political correctness, apparently is still two steps behind a man.
Of course Hillary has some flaws, politely speaking. Already in the ’90s she was connected to certain scandals such as Whitewater, which nearly ended her husband’s presidential career. It’s hard to blame Hillary for Bill’s zippergate scandal, but some feminists hold it against her for not kicking that unfaithful one in his ass.
The former first lady is also charged with having connections to Wall Street — she earned $3 million making speeches to bankers and another $17 million has gone to support her campaign — which makes her independence and plans for financial reform look doubtful. Republicans keep reminding us that she used her private email while she served as secretary of state. Lastly, she is being accused of changing her mind according to poll results — see such issues as gun control, gay marriage or the war in Iraq — because her only aim is to become the first female president. At any cost.
Except that similar sins and peccadillos — the luck of transparency, dodgy sponsors, being a world-view streamer — have bound other politicians too. Maybe except for Bernie Sanders, but everyone agrees that the ”socialist” senator from Vermont is unelectable.
There are many good reasons not to like Hillary Clinton as there are plenty of good reasons not to like other politicians. But only in her case, the reason for hating her is for the most part ordinary, barely concealed sexism.
Much of Clinton’s difficulty in this campaign stems from a single, unalterable fact, according to Dana Milbank of The Washington Post: She is a woman. Clinton’s “likeability” problem also has something to do with her lack of a Y chromosome. It’s a direct consequence of the imperative that she must demonstrate her toughness. Men can be tough and warm at the same time — think Ronald Reagan — but for women, it’s a trade-off.
Toughness is a stereotypically male attribute; it is men who need to be aggressive and pertinacious, it’s their job to protect a woman, the family and the country. If a woman wants to be successful in politics, she needs to prove that she is tougher than her male competitors, that she will not let others push her around and that she will not serve sandwiches. But if she is tough and hard-boiled, she stops being womanlike; she becomes a Tartar, a butch or an ordinary bitch. A man who defends his opinions is assertive; a woman – aggressive. And indeed nobody likes an aggressive woman. On the other hand, nobody wants weak leaders. So either way is no good.
One would think that there is no such thing as excessive ambition when you want to govern the free world, but not everyone does. The Democratic presidential candidate apparently is ”pathologically” and ”obsessively” ambitious; she already spent already eight years in the White House and four as the secretary of state so what MORE does she want? Plus she is egotistic and ruthless in reaching the top.
”Irrational ambition is Hillary Clinton’s flaw,” journalist Anne Applebaum affirmed eight years ago, adding, ”Hillary Clinton wants so badly to win that she will try anything.”
”She’s like some hellish housewife who has seen something that she really, really wants and won’t stop nagging you about it until finally you say, fine, take it, be the damn president, just leave me alone.” This from Leon Wieseltier from the leftist magazine, The New Republic.
A woman, as opposed to a man, cannot apparently achieve something herself; she needs to ”beg for it” from the masters of creation, who will in the end, for some peace of mind, act favorably and give it to her. Ambition — especially open ambition, and not caring if you offend men’s feelings, acting because you would like to achieve success, but lacking talent, diligence and determination — is also not womanlike.
I saw Hillary Clinton on “Meet the Press” just last week. Every time Tim Russert* would take her to task on one issue or another, she’d come right back at him with some sort of smart answer. “She needs to learn that sometimes you need to just accept your place; it’s not polite to always act like you know things. Ever heard of letting others take the lead, Sen. Clinton? If you’re going to become the first woman in the Oval Office, you should start thinking about acting a little more ladylike,” summed up the satirical website The Onion in the article, ”Hillary Clinton Is Too Ambitious To Be The First Female President.”
Intellect and logic are also man’s domain, but are female emotions. Except that showing emotion is proof of weakness; obviously men don’t cry. Eight years ago, when she lost in New Hampshire and her voice broke and her eyes misted over, commentators said that she made a spectacle of herself, that she showed weakness, ”that she used her feminine side” and if one failure made her cry, how would she ever talk to Putin.
Laughter isn’t much better. Clinton does not laugh as a normal person (read: man) does; she either ”cackles” or ”squawks,” or her laughter is ”bad.” Bad as in old, ugly, like a mean witch who frightens small kids. And when she smiles, it’s a ”manic” or ”artificial” smile.
She also should not raise her voice. Bernie Sanders, when gesturing expressively and screaming into the microphone, shows that he is ”full of passion” and ”authentic.” Hillary is ”vociferous” and unnecessarily ”sharp,” and her tone sounds ”unpleasantly shrill.” Rightist commentator Pat Buchanan said that when Hillary raises her voice, “it reaches a point … that every husband in America … has heard at one time or another.”
(Buchanan himself admitted that this was a sexist comment, but added ”it’s true.”) And his colleague Tucker Carlson from Fox News summed up by saying, ”Could you actually live in this country for eight years having to listen to her voice?”
The question about how to survive another eight years looking at Donald Trump’s comb-over does not bother anyone.
Even worse is not showing emotions. It’s not womanlike. Therefore, when she actually isn’t a weakling who is falling apart or a squawking witch, Clinton is a “cold” and ”calculating” cyborg, which does not have any feelings, which keeps people at a distance and is not likeable.
Whatever she does, she gets a minus.
Double standards are also visible when it comes to age. ”Grandma Hillary wants to become one of the oldest world leaders in the history,” reports the right-leaning website, Freebeacon.com.
She is 68 years old; six years younger than Bernie Sanders, four years younger than John McCain when he ran for president in 2008, and two years younger than Ronald Reagan, when he became president. However, it is Clinton who is too old. Conservative blogger and journalist Michelle Malkin shared her opinion with viewers that ”Hillary is looking like 92 years old,” and that ”it’s going to scare away a lot of those independent voters that are on the fence.”
Right-leaning radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh asked whether country obsessed with youth and beauty wants ”to stare at an aging woman?”
An aging man, he added, is another story, since age confers authority, seriousness and achievement. Limbaugh, if somebody wants to know, is fat, bald and his face reminds of one of an angry hamster. He is 65 years old.
On the other hand, when Clinton tries to be more youthful, opening social media accounts or talking about Beyonce (failing to say her name correctly), she is ”desperate” and in general ”pathetic.” Either way, not good.
Hillary’s attitude toward her husband’s unfaithfulness? Bill humiliated her twice; first he betrayed her, second he lied to her. For weeks the entire United States discussed every detail of the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky, including the famous stained dress and cigar. She survived it all. Was it thanks to Christian mercy, faith in the sacrament of marriage and her child’s well-being or maybe because of political ambition? Common opinion indicates the second one. There are those who blame Hillary for Bill’s betrayals. On the Internet where the haters do not have to control themselves, they wrote: “If Hilary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”
“How can this dumb bitty [sic] even think she can be president?? She couldn’t even be the first lady and take care of Bill…” asked another writer.
Her most serious opponent isn’t much better. ”She’s not a victim, she was an enabler. Some of these women have been destroyed, and Hillary worked with him,” said Donald Trump.
Her political agenda also causes Hillary trouble. For the right, she is the warring feminist and a Marxist, ”Lady Macbeth from Arkansas,” who murders unborn children and wants to take away Americans’ firearms. For the left, she is a centrist opportunist equally responsible for her husband’s ”third way,” the neoliberal “compromise” which was another nail in the coffin for the welfare society. Clinton’s mantra that she is a ”progressive who likes to get things done” does not convince the idealists.
If she wants to win the primary elections she should move to the left toward the socialist Sanders who dazzles the crowds. But to defeat Trump, she needs to gain the trust of more moderate voters. All candidates face this dilemma; in the primaries, one needs to take care of the base, in the elections, one has to seduce the independents. But in her case, it is one of many expectations that are impossible to fulfill.
”How long would you make it if people treated you the way you treat Hillary Clinton?” asked Sady Doyle on the Slate.com website. “Would you not just be furious, by now? Would you not have reached (…) despair? The fact that she’s been dealing with it for decades, and keeps voluntarily subjecting herself to it, and, knowing exactly how bad it will get, and exactly what we’ll do to her, is running for president again, and (here’s the part I love, the part that I find hard to even wrap my head around) actually winning? To me, that is awe-inspiring.”
Eight years ago when she was asked about how she was coping, she replied with a trembling voice: ”It is not easy. But I have so many ideas for this country.”** “Some people think elections are a game: who’s up or who’s down,” Clinton added. “It’s about our country. It’s about our kids’ future.”
We can imagine similar statements by Claire Underwood from the program ”House of Cards,” who at the same time is planning whom to stab in the back. And perhaps Clinton in fact reads Machiavelli before going to sleep, and she plans all her human responses. But I am going to cite Tina Fey and Amy Poehler from a sketch on Saturday Night Live: ”People say that Hillary is a bitch. Let me say something about that: Yeah, she is. And so am I and so is this one. Know what? Bitches get stuff done.”
*Editor’s note: Tim Russert, who hosted “Meet the Press” for 16 years, died in June, 2008. The author may have been confusing the current host Chuck Todd, or Tim Russert’s son, Luke Russert, who appears as a panelist on “Meet the Press” for the late Tim Russert.
**Editor’s note: Although accurately translated, this quote could not be independently verified.
Just as Obama uncorked all the repressed racism when he came to office, so too is Hillary destined to provoke a lot of misogyny back to life. But that’s definitely not the whole story.
I think Thomas Frank has a more accurate take on Hillary which he begins by saying, “Trying to figure out exactly where Hillary Clinton actually stands on political issues can be crazy-making. As a presidential candidate, for example, she says she deplores the revolving door between government and Wall Street because it destroys our “trust in government”— a noble sentiment. When she ran the State Department, however, that door spun on a well-lubricated axis.” (Listen, Liberal, p. 205)
He then follows up that example with several pages of them. And Hillary causes problems for herself when she implies that she hasn’t changed her position on X (or Y or Z) at all. That habit keeps the fact-checkers very busy and makes her look dishonest.
But it also suggests something else, namely, that the issues she was once admired for — especially the issues of women and children — now have a different position within the so-called “New” Democrat party. With the shift in party constituency from working class to professional class, the party is no longer interested in things like equal pay and domestic abuse; rather, the party is much more interested in supporting women CEOs and entrepreneurs, so that Hillary’s big issue on behalf of women in the developing world is one of microloans to turn disadvantaged women into business women. In other words, the ethic has changed: she’s no longer supporting female solidarity but rather, female competition.
She’d have been better off had she been in Bernie’s position, i.e., an Independent until he chose to run under the Democrat banner.