I don’t usually write much about politics, because there are so many bloggers out there doing it better than I could — including every last one of my co-Shakers. But after last night, I need to talk about Hillary. So I’ll just start by quoting people who do it better than me.
In a post that fanned the flames of my burgeoning crush on him (sorry, Al), Jeff Fecke said about Hillary’s New Hampshire win:
Some will criticize this as misguided identity politics, but they’re wrong. Oh, it’s identity politics — women in New Hampshire and throughout the country recognized that Clinton was being attacked as a woman, and came to her defense. But it’s far from misguided.
And in comments on Liss’s post about why Maureen Dowd needs to shut up even more than usual today, we have this exchange.
It amazes me how strong Hillary has to be to deal with this sexist bullshit day in and day out… Last night I was watching “Hardball” and Tweety and Pat Buchanan were talking about Hillary “breaking down” while Rachel Maddow kept trying to interrupt, sputtering, “but why did no one make a big deal about Romney tearing up on at least three occasions during this campaign?” Seriously, it’s this type of shit that just may make me vote for her. Perhaps that’s what occurred to the women of New Hanpshire as well…
You’ve alluded to one of my concerns about Hillary: we may elect out of empathy a candidate we don’t actually agree with on the issues. She’s arguably the most conservative Democrat in the race judged by her policy positions.
OTOH, Liss has half-convinced me that HRC could advance the feminist cause more just by being president without regard for her policies.
Constant Comment sums up my feelings last night, and Nightshift sums up the debate I’ve been having with myself since Hillary announced her candidacy. Hell, since before she announced her candidacy. Almost two years ago, when I was still writing Pointless, Incessant Barking instead of Shapely Prose, and my blog had about 12 readers, I wrote this:
I’m not saying there aren’t good reasons to dislike her. I’m saying there aren’t good reasons to despise her the way so many do–that shit is directly related to her being a woman who doesn’t know her place. A woman who has the gall to believe she deserves to apply for any job she’s capable of. A woman who knows exactly how smart she is and acts as if that should bloody well count for something. A woman who has not backed down in the face of more than a decade’s worth of brutal public criticism.
We don’t know what to do with a woman like that. We keep telling her what her place is, and the bitch just won’t listen! It makes a lot of people nervous. It makes me unutterably grateful. I hope like hell she gets the nomination, regardless of whether she wins. Sure, if she loses, they’ll say it proves you shouldn’t send a woman to do a man’s job; that’ll smart. But they’ll say that if she wins, too, every single time she makes a human mistake. They’ll say it, one way or another, every step of the way. What I admire so much about her is that she never, ever believes it. The power of that, of her simply staying in the goddamned game, is tremendous. And it’s something this culture needs to see a hell of a lot more of from smart, talented women.
If you click through and read the whole post, you’ll see I actually said, in writing, “I would honestly rather see her go down fighting like mad than see a Democrat get elected.” *cringe* I don’t think that was really true then, and it’s certainly not now, but that’s evidence of how furious I got at all the “Hillary shouldn’t run — she’s not electable!” bullshit that was around before she announced her candidacy — and which continues, in some measure, to this day. Because it is and always has been incredibly difficult to separate legitimate criticism of her policies from the misogyny, conscious or unconscious, that drives so much anti-Hillary sentiment.
Since the race got started, I’ve kept quiet about the part of me that really wants Hillary to go all the way. For starters, I think Edwards and Obama are both terrific candidates — and yes, from a policy perspective, both of them speak more to my personal values. The day after Iowa, I was so pissed off at the way Edwards’s second-place finish was being completely ignored by the MSM, I sent money to his campaign as a symbolic act — the first time I’ve ever done that for anyone. But I am actually still undecided about whom I’ll vote for on Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Tuesday, because the truth is, I would be happy with any one of those three winning — and I’d also be disappointed by any one of those three winning, because it will mean the other two lost.
I would love to vote for a man who’s vowed to stand up to corporations and fight for working people, and who always impresses me as being just about as genuine as politicians can get. I would also love to vote for a black man who has the ability to make me — and a whole ton of other people — feel hope, and a passion for the political process that actually matches our passion for the country that’s been stolen from us by thugs. And I would definitely love to vote for a brilliant woman who’s weathered decades of abuse from her opponents and is still standing, still smiling. I have reasons to vote for all three, and I have reasons not to vote for all three. As many others have remarked, it’s an embarrassment of riches. And that’s an incredible feeling.
But — setting aside that I live in Illinois and thus a vote for anyone but Obama will be just another symbolic act — I have to choose one. And I have not yet decided which one it will be — just like a substantial percentage of voters in New Hampshire hadn’t, as of two days ago. But you know what? If my turn to vote in the primaries had come yesterday? It would have been Hillary. No contest. For exactly the reasons Jeff talks about in his angry woman post, that CC talks about in her comment, that we’ve all been talking about since last night.
Which brings me to the other reason — quite honestly, the main reason — I’ve kept quiet about my love for Hillary: it’s a terribly unfashionable thing to admit around the liberal blogosphere. She’s the most conservative candidate! She sucks up to corporations! We don’t vote with our vaginas! It’s insulting to assume women will vote for her just because she’s a woman! All true, don’t get me wrong. And yet, I’ve still always kind of wanted to vote for her.
And that’s mostly because she’s a woman. And so am I.
As Jeff said, it is indeed identity politics — but it’s not necessarily misguided. The sexist shitstorm that’s been raging around Hillary for the last week (let alone the last year, the last 15 years) just reinforces what I’ve felt in my gut all along: electing a woman president would be a radical, transgressive, transformative act, even if she’s a relatively conservative candidate. Watching the stunned looks on the pundits’ faces last night, hearing all the, “My god! How could we have gotten it so wrong?”s, was like Christmas for me, quite frankly. A good 20 percent of me would like to see Hillary get the nomination solely for the pleasure of watching Tweety lose his goddamned mind. No loftier reason than that.
In fact, Chris Matthews’s Hillary hate, in particular, has been fascinating me — and driving my secret cheers for her — all along. Because it’s not just that he blatantly hates and fears the concept of a woman president; it’s that he seems so utterly baffled by it. You’re telling me, there are people — men-people — who would honestly consider voting for a laydee? No foolin’? You’re serious about this? But… I DON’T GET IT! She hardly smells like English Leather at all! That sense that he’s just totally confused by all this — a woman’s running, and it’s not actually some colossal prank — affects me so much more than his nakedly sexist remarks or his desperate need to refer to every vote cast in America for Water Commissioner, Dogcatcher, or Homecoming Queen as an anti-Hillary vote.
It’s not just that he doesn’t think a woman’s fit to be president; it’s that he — no doubt representing many American men — still can’t even fathom how that could be a real possibility. And that’s the kind of thing that makes me want to pull the lever with my vagina. (Not that there’s a lever anymore, but “fill out the scantron thingy with my vagina” wasn’t as funny.)
At the end of the day, I — like Hillary — am a Chicago girl. Which means, among other things, that I am certainly not shocked and appalled by the very idea of a Democrat who sucks up to corporate interests. It also means I’m equally cynical and pragmatic when it comes to elections. I don’t believe there will ever be such a thing as a candidate who truly represents my values, because anyone who truly represents my values would never go into politics. So I believe in voting for the person who, in my opinion, will do the most good and/or the least harm, and who actually stands a chance of winning.
I haven’t yet decided if I think that’s Hillary, out of the top three. But it damn well might be. And if she gets the nomination — whether I vote for her in the primary or not — I can tell you right now, my overemotional, girly ass is going to blub when I cast a vote for the first woman president. Because, even if it’s not the thing that matters most to me in this election, you’d better believe it fucking matters.
It matters like whoa.