Friday, March 07, 2008

roundtable discussion

Due to some concerns about CHILD PORNOGRAPHY, I have removed the picture of Cal from yesterday's post. (For those of you who didn't get to see it, it was a picture of him sitting on the potty before bathtime, holding a guitar in his lap, covering up his bits.) I don't think it was really a big deal, but since I don't think it was a big deal, I don't think it was a big deal to remove it either if some people felt strongly about it. Who am I to say? I have become completely inured to the site of my child naked, just as I have become inured to the sight of urine in a jar or poop in my mouth.

(Completely different topic now. Cue sound effect of needle being dragged off the record. Bzoop!)

I am going to so regret bringing this up, as some people seem to get very upset when I talk about politics even in the most roundabout way, but I have been thinking this topic over for a few days now I just have to get into it. So, first, full disclosure. I am a registered Democrat. I have felt ever since the field was narrowed down to two that I would be more than happy to vote for either of Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, whoever it should be that gets the nomination. They are both fine and strong candidates in their own right, and I think that few could disagree that their current platforms are very similar on most issues. But ever since Super Tuesday, and in the flurry of media leading up to Super Tuesday, I have wondered this. Why is it that people hate Hillary Clinton so much?

People, of course, have a right to prefer one candidate over another. People have a right (indeed, a duty) to have strong feelings about politics, and it is exciting to see people getting so excited about a general election, especially after the past eight years. But I feel like the reaction that Hillary Clinton evokes in people goes beyond the type of reaction that people usually have for politicians whose policies or approaches they disagree with. I feel like the type of reaction that people have towards Hillary Clinton are much deeper, much more visceral, almost reflexive. You hear people say things like, "I hate her," "She's a bitch," "She's a liar," "She's evil" and the degree of hatred they have for her, seems to outstrip any degree of rationality or logic with which these same people can discuss the reasons behind their feelings. Which, you know, is nothing new--I worried about this before Hillary Clinton even announced that she was running for president, concerned that this polarizing effect on the general public might translate into a negative for her electability.

I also have to say that I think Barack Obama has gotten a pretty sweet ride so far. Who doesn't want to like this guy? He's young, he's charismatic, he's a good speaker, he's a dreamboat. All over the country, people have fallen for him, and hey, why not, he's easy to love. He champions Democratic ideals (again, I must state, many of which are virtually identical to those on Hillary Clinton's platform), and no one can argue that it's a bad thing to finally have someone so new and exciting that young Americans are finally getting interested in the Democratic (and I mean this in the "democracy" sense, not in the bipartisan sense) process. I think Barack Obama is a fine candidate, and I think that if elected, he would make a good leader. I do think that Barack Obama is the "trendier" of the two candidates--I would describe him as the shiny new Prius of candidates, while Hillary Clinton is more like a sturdy family minivan that gets the job done--and that as with any good trend, he has his share of bandwagon jumpers. Which, you know, is fine. I want to see a Democrat in the White House, if it turns out to be Barack Obama, then great.

What really started to worry me was this: when I heard Democrats saying that if Hillary Clinton ended up at the top of the heap--that is to say, if Barack Obama did not end up winning the nomination--that they would either vote for John McCain, or that they would vote for no one at all, thereby basically giving the election away. Essentially, that they would cede the White House to a person whose platform they fundamentally disagree with, just because they hate Hillary Clinton so much. And I'm sorry, but to me, that just defies reason.

Now, it is not my point here to tell you who to vote for. Vote for whoever you want, that's the point. My question is, why do people hate Hillary Clinton so much? Moreover, do people even know why they hate Hillary Clinton so much? There is the verbalizable, logical answer (Whitewater, carpetbagger, Washington slickster, "fake" crying, mudslinger, etcetera), but I also think there is the murky, less understood, subconscious answer. Maybe she reminds people of someone they don't like. Maybe it's latent sexism, as many have suggested. Maybe it's not because she's a woman, but because she's Hillary Clinton, a role so tied up with baggage that people are turned off before they even get a chance to give her a close look. I don't know. But I do feel that the vitriol she inspires far outstrips the reasons that people can give for their hatred. It's kind of strange, honestly. If I were Hillary Clinton, I would have a hard time getting up every morning. But I guess that's why I shouldn't run for president.

I don't necessarily think that a vote for Hillary Clinton is the easy "better" choice, and I might not even get the chance to vote for her in a general election--though if she made it that far, I would, and gladly. Which, honestly, may be better for the party, given the kind of aisle-crossing ipecac syrup-esque response that the very mention of her name inspires. But still, just as a general observer, barely biased from one Democratic candidate to the other, I am still puzzled. It really makes me wonder. Why do people hate Hillary Clinton so much?

(This can be a good discussion, because I really want to hear what everyone thinks. But keep it civil. We are a good group about this in general, I think, but I know talking about politics turns up the heat.)