Why do People Hate Hillary?
Written when Hillary was still in the race - by Peter Fuhry
As I have observed, participated, and occasionally recoiled in disgust from this election season, I have been overcome by a growing fascination with Hillary Clinton and the reactions she causes in people from all walks of life.
There are plenty of rational reasons not to like Hillary as a candidate. Her actions as first lady, her voting record as a Senator, her campaigning style, and even the way she dealt with her husband's infidelities are all valid areas in which she can be criticized.
And yet, in the words and actions of my friends, and in the words of many media figures, bloggers, and internet commenters, there is something deeper at work. Sure, rational reasons are trotted out. But I have been on this earth long enough to sense something deeper, an emotional edge behind the reasoning that I have never quite seen in that way. I have had many arguments and discussions, often passionate, about candidates in the six presidential campaign cycles. Never have I seen such emotional vitriol tossed at one candidate - at one person.
Roughly half of those voting in Democratic primaries accross the nation voted for her. And yet I would estimate that perhaps a third of Democrats -maybe more - despise her. Hate her. Can't stand her. And Republicans? The number is probably over 90%.
Not since the days after the attacks of September 11 have Americans from all walks of life come together in support of a cause. That cause is the despising of Hillary Clinton!
For Republicans, the feelings are somewhat understandable. And yet, Republicans are joined by many from the other side of the aisle. Hillary gets attacked from all angles, and the quality of the vitriol from all over the political spectrum, from both sexes, from all races, is remarkable similar in tone. Hillary has united the country in a vast dislike. Why? Where is this coming from?
The first finger I pointed was at the press. Both the conservative press and the mainstream press have been extremely, irrationally hostile to her for 15 years. This was where I first noticed the vitriol. And when I saw that vitriol expressed by people around me, I assumed that these people had accepted certain assumptions about Hillary Clinton that were foisted on them by the Press - assumptions that had been floating around so long that, despite little basis in reality, they began to take on an aura of common knowledge.
And yet, this was difficult for me to believe. Intelligent people, who otherwise exhibited feelings toward the press that ranged from skeptical, to cynical, to downright hostile, seemed to be accepting the Hillary story from them without question. I came to the conclusion that while the press may have helped, it was only because people already had those feelings that they chose to accept what the press was saying. It seemed to me upon further reflection that the pundits in the Press and the people I knew were expressing and feeling the same thing - an instinctive, visceral dislike of Hillary.
And so I arrived back at square one. The Press, it seemed to me, were recievers and amplifiers, but were not the creators of the Hillary mystique, or anti-mystique. I wondered why this was happening. To me, Hillary seemed very much like other professional women I knew. She reminded me of friends my parents have. I found myself feeling sympathy for a politician whose record I don't particularly admire, and I began subconciously, and then outwardly defending her. She seemed like the girl in the schoolyard that everyone makes fun of and piles on and laughs at, and I thought that was wrong and stepped in between her and the angry mob, all the while feeling that the cool kids were making fun of me. The cool kids included my wife and most of my friends. It sucked, but the more it went on, the more entrenched I became. I did not dislike Obama, but after observing his voting and statements during his career in the Senate, I did not put him in the same class as Russ Feingold, or the late Paul Wellstone. Hillary was no better, and probably worse, and for this reason I flirted several times with the idea of voting for Obama. And yet always, there was an outburst of Hillary vitriol that I read or heard, and I went back to supporting Hillary. If she's making this many people flustered like this, I thought, Maybe she is doing something right.
It was a leap of logic, I'll admit. It was, perhaps, a silly reason for voting for someone. And yet, I was not going to go over to the Obama camp. I felt sympathy for the Obama supporters, and yet I felt that it wouldn't be right for me to tacitly accept the Hillary hatred. Obama seemed to become a messainic figure. I even noticed Republicans having positive feelings toward Obama. While this was no doubt partially due to Obama's substantial charisma, I believed that this largely represented the awesome power of the Hillary hatred in full effect. Might this power also cause an Obama supporter to vote for McCain, or Nader, or no one should Hillary win the nomination? I didn't want to see that happen. On the other hand, I wanted the Republicans to have their worst nightmare come true. They deserved it after all, after uniting behind George Bush and his band of corporate grifters as they pillaged the nation.
It was a prickly place to be stuck in. I did not want to see the nation torn apart by this. I did not want to see John McCain end up picking Supreme Court Justices and commanding the armed forces. So I tried once again to understand it. I looked up and down, analyzing words and practices, looking for a unifying cause. My conclusions were not based on hard science. I observed and observed, and arrived at conclusions that felt instinctively right to me. What I found is that different groups have different reasons to dislike her, depending on who they are and where they are coming from. These views are general. They represent stereotypes, and I'm sure that many will be offended by them. I apologize. Please understand that I've been offended by the looks I get and the snide comments I hear when I express support for Hillary Clinton. This has been going on for months and months. So just suck it up and deal with it for a few minutes while I irrationally assess why it is you all can't stand her.
1. Conservative Republicans
This is the easiest one to figure out. Bill Clinton is the guy that beat them repeatedly - frustrating their every effort to bring him down as he raised taxes on the wealthy, promoted gay rights and abortion rights, and eloquently exhibited his populist skills. His wife, Hillary, has been with him the whole time, and has also beat them. She has continued the Clinton machine beyond the term limits of Bill's presidency, frustrating them further. She embodies a feminist power that they have never been comfortable with.
2. Conservative Republican Women
I have observed, in my friends' relationships with their mothers, a certain distaste by the mother toward the daughter's lifestyle, or any woman's lifestyle, if that lifestyle displays a greater degree of freedom, power or influence than the mother had. I surmise that these mothers chose a certain path, away from career and toward the home and support of their husbands' careers, and that seeing their daughter, or any other woman, do something different opens up an uncomfortable possibility - that they may have settled for less than they really wanted. This often manifests itself in a hostility toward and projection of superiority toward the person that has made a different choice. I think some of these feelings come into play when it comes to Hillary.
3. Moderate Republicans that are not particularly religious
My Republican friend, as I call him, has voted for Democrats in the past, but has pledged never to do so again. He feels that Democrats will raise his taxes and give his money to lazy poor people that don't deserve it. His wife is a professional and he believes women are qualified to work and should work if they so desire, and that they should be paid according to their skills. He supports the legality of abortion. He seems to believe that most Black people are dangerous and/or lazy, but he has Black friends and co-workers, and treats them well. He likes McCain. He finds Obama intriguing. He 'absolutely hates' Hillary.
I'm not sure why, but I've thought about it a lot, and if I had to guess, I would say that he was frustrated by Clinton's successes in the nineties. He probably received a tax break when Bush was elected, cementing his political view, but I think he also built up a certain amount of rage over the years at Clinton's ability to deflect attacks and survive politically. I think there is something else here, though, and I think we see this a lot in the press as well. Clinton is a southerner, an obviously smart man, but of humble southern beginnings. I think there is a certain amount of culturism going on. Northeastern intellectuals don't appreciate this guy, this 'Bubba' in their midst. His dalliances with Monica cemented this image of him - he's low class, and yet he has risen above all of us. And once he did that, he kept trying to bring along his low class friends with him. This culturalism toward Bill is transferred to Hillary.
In addition, a lot of men in this group, despite being married successfully, have an adversarial attitude toward women. They are most likely devoted to their wives and families. They may have disagreements with their wives which are frustrating, but for the most part, when the chips are down, they make more money, are physically stronger and more confident and can take control of their situation, both at home and in the workplace. The prospect of Hillary, a strong and intelligent woman, as President, enrages them because it creates a situation where a woman has control over them. They can't undermine it, or control it, and they can't help but feel that a Hillary presidency will have disastrous consequences when it comes to the control they have over their own lives and families.
4. Male Democrats
That last part may also apply to male Democrats, who, in their zeal to support Obama betray an almost casual violence toward Hillary which I have not personally witnessed very much (although my dear friend grumbled 'She should get out of the way' quite menacingly the other night) but is illustrated quite well in this article: http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/04/14/obama_supporters/ . Liberal men feeling these feelings of loss of control face a particular conundrum, as the feeling runs contrary to their professed beliefs in equality and women's rights. I believe that for these people, Obama is a panacea, because, in supporting a black man for President, they avoid the discomfort of having to wrestle with feelings that might be in opposition to their political and rational intent. They love Obama because by supporting the Black guy, they can be sexist without losing their liberal credentials.
Another factor for these male democrats may be that they subconciously see Hillary as a mother figure, and that they have unresolved feelings of conflict with their mothers. In my family, it was my mother that provided the daily discipline and rules. My dad was more the overseer that was brought in when support and additional authority was needed, or for more big-picture issues, but my mom was the one that ran the household, and she was no softie. She was good at being fair. I did, and still do, trust her to make rational decisions. However, a lot of my friends didn't have mothers like that. They have stories of mothers hurting them with irrational, punitive actions during times of stress. Could a Hillary presidency, for these Democrats, feel subconciously like a return to a childhood at the mercy of an emotionally unhinged mother? I think it might be a factor.
5. Female Democrats
This is the group for which I have experienced the most first-hand vitriol toward Hillary. The second paragraph of the 'Male Democrat' section may very well apply here. Many women that I've known, including my own sister, had tumultuous relationships with their mothers. Often, these difficult times were during the teenage years and dissipated with adulthood. But in many cases, the bitterness lingers. Mothers and Daughters are images of each other in many ways, but are different people, and those differences can be hard to work out. They often have trouble trusting each other.
I don't want to generalize about women and how they act. But I have observed friendships between women to be more fraught with ups and downs. Even among my wife's long time friends, I occasionally see distrust bubble to the surface - an anxiety, born perhaps of cliquey behavior in grade school - which suggests that someone who is seemingly a friend might be secretly undermining you and talking behind your back. Does this happen more with women than men? I have to say, yes I believe it does, and I think a lot of women that have been victims of this sort of thing have trouble trusting other women.
They may also be driven, in the same way as Republican women are, by a certain sense of jealousy and doubt of their own choices when comparing themselves to Hillary.
The election of Bill Clinton in 1992 created a wave of hope that progressive ideals would be attained. However, due to Clinton's style of trying to please all players and achieve compromises, this soon gave way to resentment by progressives that Bill didn't really stand up for progressive beliefs . This resentment and disappointment no doubt transfers onto Hillary, and translates into a zeal for Obama that seems to be somewhat out of balance with his actual progressive credentials.
The other important thing to consider is that, beginning in 1968 with the assassination of Robert Kennedy and the failure of Eugene McCarthy to win the nomination, the preferred candidate of the left has failed again and again to secure the nomination. The exception to this is 1972, when McGovern won the nomination but failed spectacularly in his bid to win the Presidency. In 1976, Ted Kennedy didn't run, and Carter got the nomination over Jerry Brown, won, and disappointed many on the left. Kennedy challenged him in 1980 and got tantalizingly close to displacing him but fell short. In 1984, Kennedy didn't run, but Gary Hart captured the imagination of the left and the New Hampshire Primary. Yet Hart fell short of attaining the nomination (remember 'Where's the Beef?') In 1988, Hart imploded due to the 'Monkey Business' scandal, and it was perhaps Jesse Jackson who best carried the liberal mantle, also falling short as Dukakis would go on win the nomination and to fall to Bush, Sr. In 1992, Clinton was not the favorite of the left (that would be Jerry Brown again, who mounted a late and fruitless challenge). In 2000, Bill Bradley fell short to Al Gore, who was considerably less progressive then than he is now. In 2004, Dean led the field before his campaign suddenly imploded and Kerrry emerged. Progressives moved from Dean to Edwards, but it was to no avail, and Kerry, the more establishment candidate, won the nomination.
This year, for the first time, it was Obama, the darling of the left, that overtook Clinton, the more establishment candidate. For a minute there, after Iowa, it seemed like it would be over quickly. However, Clinton has stuck around, won several primaries just when it seemed she was about to fade, and has continued to fight. The Obama supporters worry that their moment will be once again snatched from them, as it was with 2004 when Dean failed to sustain his early momentum. This causes them great anxiety, and they lash out at Clinton, a reasonably average Democratic Senator running a reasonably average Presidential campaign, and painting her as some sort of Rovian, manipulative monster because of her lingering threat to Obama's bid to capture the nomination and end the long period of frustration progressives have felt with the Democratic nominees. Bill Clinton was 'the comeback kid', demonstrating an uncanny ability to take political punches, keep his cool, return fire, and win in the long run. The prospect of Hillary Clinton doing that exact thing is very real, and causes Obama enthusiasts quite a bit of consternation.
7. The Over-arching Reason
What binds all these reasons for hating Hillary together is that we Americans, heck, we humans, instinctively look to find common ground with those around us. When we can find something we can all agree on, it feels nice. After 9/11, for a few weeks there, everyone rallied together as Americans. As horrible as the tragedies of that day were, that part felt darn good. And when we discovered that this goodwill had been manipulated by the Bush administration to further its dubious goals, we were that much more bummed. We yearn, instinctively, for that feeling of togetherness again. And, in the hate of Hillary Clinton, we, or at least 70 or so percent of us, have found that unifying purpose. Sure, if she won the nomination, Democrats would probably hold their nose and vote for her. But what a drag that would be, eh? The best thing would be for all of us, Republicans, Democrats, Men and Women of all races, to come together in our mutual hatred for Hillary. And Barack Obama, with his talk of togetherness and ending the politics of division, is the perfect guy lead us through this cathartic historical moment of union.
I believe that Hillary Clinton is the unfortunate
victim of a perfect storm of negative feelings which have been building
up on all sides in this country for a long time. She is the vortex,
the lens that focuses us as a nation. When she finally falls and
congratulates Barack Obama on gaining the democratic nomination, the nation
will be propelled into a positive new era of good feelings, every ounce
of which we will need to get through the troubling times ahead.
There may be another answer:
White men are scared.
They're scared of black men, poor men, Asians, Indians and all foreigners.
I can see people hating Bill, because he had sex AND actually pulled
Why would people like Randi Rhodes, Bob Perry, Big Eddie, Keith Olbermann,
That's the biggest unanswered question of 2008.
I could make a list of 100 evil things Bush ? Cheney did, but what's
the worst crime
I think the truth is we'll never know because Hillary caught the lightning