Lefty Blogosphere and the Love/Hate of Hillary
Chris Bowers on MyDD recently had a post asking why the Progressive blogosphere does not like Hillary Clinton. Here’s a little bit from Chris:
Now I can explain what this all has to do with Hillary Clinton. As obvious as I thought my last point was, it is probably even more obvious by now that Hillary Clinton is, um, not exactly the most popular Democrat within the blogosphere and the netroots. I can offer loads of anecdotal information to support this, but perhaps the most striking evidence is that despite her large lead in national telephone surveys, she polls around fifth or sixth in our presidential preference polls. The real question we face is to figure out why she is not very popular among this large segment of the progressive activist class.
People will offer lots of reasons for this. In the past, I have done so myself. However, when one understands who actually makes up the blogosphere, a rarely, if ever, discussed reason comes to the fore. Within the progressive activist class, there is also a very real class stratification. While the blogosphere and the netroots may not be “the people” within America or the Democratic party as a whole, within the world of progressive activists, they are definitely “the people,” “the masses,” “the rank and file,” and any other populist term you want to throw out there. I believe the main mark against Hillary Clinton within the blogs and the netroots is the degree to which she is perceived as the uber-representative of the upper, aristocratic classes of the progressive activist world.
My first gut response to it – but we do like her! Thus, his premise is wrong, making his question wrong, making his answer wrong, too. That is soooo off the mark (as many commenters remark), and not even in sync with what Chris wrote before. Why did he say that when traces of the correct answer are in an older post of his in which he provides some good examples, as well as in another post on voters knowledge:
Looking into the internals of these numbers, “independents” and “moderates” have almost always scored noticeably lower on the knowledge scale than liberals, conservatives, Democrats and Republicans. I don’t find this surprising, as it backs up my general thesis that many of the people who consider themselves “independents” or “moderates” do so primarily because they are less politically engaged than the rest of the population and are not even aware of their strong similarities to one coalition or the other.
Not to mention that his post was inspired by this from MysteryPollster:
Either most Democratic identifiers know that Hillary has taken a lot “moderate” or “conservative” positions as a US Senator and tend approve OR (more likely in MP’s opinion) most Democrats simply like Hillary, know her stands on issues only vaguely and do what voters typically do, those who like her tend to project their own ideological identity on to hers. Liberals think she is a liberal, moderates think she is moderate and so on. Either way, the overwhelming majority of those who consider themselves Democrats rate Hillary favorably, and at least a third do so with intensity and liberal Democrats appear to like her better than moderate or conservative Democrats.
The thing is, it is not that we don’t like Hillary, it is that we do not want her to be the next Presidential candidate because we do not want to lose. Again.
Most of us liberal bloggers are also Democratic activists. Yet, apart from the blogosphere (and Kossosphere) we also live in the real world, many of us deep inside the Red territory. We encounter, every day, people who are not Democratic activists, but who vote nonetheless. We have a gut feeling that most of those people will NEVER vote for Hillary and that is the only reason why we are opposed to her nomination.
We like her personally. We know she would be a good President if elected. But we know she has no chance of winning – only people who live in D.C. can ever imagine it happening, but then, they do not live in real America.
To understand why Hillary cannot win, one has to move away from analysis of polls and from political science. One has to look at the psychology of the voter and the sociology of politics in the USA. In the political ecosystem of the country, Hillary is not a person. She is a Symbol. And not a nice symbol either. She is the Devil. The Satan himself. The Vagina Dentata personified. Our old friend Rush Limbaugh made sure that this is so. He started early – in 1992.
The way Hillary was villified is expertly documented in Michael Kelly’s masterful book, The Great Limbaugh Con – the first book I am aware of that looks at framing in American politics, i.e., how both the words and the underlying beliefs differ between conservatives and liberals. BUY THE BOOK!!!!!!
And the villification never ceased. Rush and his multitudes of copycats have been at it ever since. There is a whole chapter on Hillary (and a lot on her in another chapter) in Stephen Ducats’ brilliant book Wimp Factor. You can search inside the book for “Hillary” on Amazon.com to see some examples and whet your appetite. BUY THE BOOK!!!!!!
Once you are finished reading these two books (and Lakoff’s Moral Politics will help you clear your thoughts on this, too – BUY THE BOOK!!!!!!), you will understand why Hillary’s candidacy is not a potential but a certain disaster.
This is how it will play out. No matter what Hillary says, it does not matter one bit. She can speak in English with a Southern accent, or in Chinese, or in Church Latin, or Esperanto – it makes not one iota of difference. Nobody but Democratic activists (who will vote for pretty much anyone with D after the name anyway) is ever going to listen to her, to hear what she says, to understand what she says and to evaluate what she says. As soon as her face shows up on the screen, the Regular American will recoil in fear. All rational brain activity instantly ceases. “The Democrats are running the scary toothy vaginal Devil! Take cover! Quick!”
Chris’ expert analysis of the distinction between activists and the rest of voters just does not jibe with what he wrote in that post. The activists do like Hillary but do not want to run her for the White House because they understand, at least on a gut level, that the uninformed, apathetic voters (too-nicely and diplomatically refered to as “Independents” although their thinking is the least independent of all voters out there as they pay no attention and know nothing) HATE HER GUTS!
Many activists say they do not like her triangulation. Even Molly Ivins makes the same mistake. But really, they mix two disparate things:
One – they fear Hillary’s candidacy because they know she is not going to be treated as a person, as a normal candidate, like Kerry was (and see how that worked!), but as evil incarnate. And not just by the opponents and the chattering classes, but by millions of Joe Blows everywhere. She’ll never get a hearing – not an honest hearing, but hearing period.
Two – they fear any candidate who triangulates because they know there is no such thing as “moving to the right” – it is like a high-wire circus artist leaving the Liberal tower to walk across the wire over to the Republican tower – but there is NO WIRE there, just a chasm to fall into. That is why nobody even considers supporting such sell-outs like Joe-squared (Lieberman and Biden). As they say, facing the choice between a True-Believer Republican and a mushy Republican-Lite, people will always choose the person with obvious convictions, the Real McCoy.
Thus, if Hillary was just any candidate, her triangulation would be troubling. But because she is Hillary, it does not matter what she does – nobody is going to listen long enough to figure out where she stands on any issue at all.
So, is there any scenario in which Hillary can win? Yes, but chances are soooooooooooooooooooo slim, it is not even worth considering.
First, the opposing candidate would have to be Condoleeza Rice. Facing any male candidate, Hillary automatically looses all the femiphobic men among the “Independents” and loses the election.
Second, Karl Rove, Frank Luntz and the rest of the Republican machine would have to be too busy to be able to run Rice’s campaign well – perhaps busy in court, perhaps busy playing cards in some federal prison somewhere.
Third, Condi would have to make a gaffe after gaffe after gaffe.
Fourth, Osama would have to be caught or found dead and the Iraqis enjoying blissful peace, so fear-mongering cannot work as well as before.
Only with all of the above Hillary could win, but not because she won, but because Condi lost. Far too many racist, femiphobic, anti-elitist men on the Right will abstain from voting if Condi is their candidate even if this means preventing horned, hooved, tailed Hillary from ascending the throne. She is a woman, she is black, and she is an elitist academic spoiled rich woman with no husband. The LGF and Freeperland crowds do not like her.
There is no way Condi can buy a ranch and pretend to enjoy fixin’ grits and greens. Nobody can sell her as a person you would want to have beer with. She looks, carries herself, and behaves even more of an elitist than John Kerry.
Back in the primaries, when they were all flipping pancakes every day, Dean looked like a natural, as if he does this at home every day (he may – I don’t know). Kerry looked like he is used to flipping something more expensive on a grill, but definitely had the technique he could apply to pancakes. And Edwards…heck, forget the pancakes, you can imagine him getting all black, oily and dirty trying to fix the engine on his pick-up truck. We know he actually eats grits and greens at Elmo’s Diner here in Carrboro almost every weekend.
Condi cannot even start pretending not to feel like fish out of water in such a situation. And frankly, neither can Hillary.
And this one is from September 2006:
“I certainly hope that Hillary is the candidate,” Falwell said, according to the recording. “She has $300 million so far. But I hope she’s the candidate. Because nothing will energize my [constituency] like Hillary Clinton.”
Cheers and laughter filled the room as Falwell continued: “If Lucifer ran, he wouldn’t.”
At that moment in the recording, Falwell’s voice is drowned out by hoots of approval. But two in attendance, including a Falwell staff member, confirmed that Falwell said that even Lucifer, the fallen angel synonymous with Satan in Christian theology, would not mobilize his followers as much as the New York senator and former first lady would.
One critic who has been observing the conference said Saturday that Falwell’s words offered a rare glimpse into how religious conservative leaders were planning to inflame opposition to the Democrats with below-the-radar messages that are often more scorching than the ones showing up in public.
“He was calling Hillary Clinton a demonic figure and openly arguing that God is a Republican,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “It’s hard to know whether people thought he was joking or serious, but once you start using religious imagery and invoking a politician in this way, it’s not funny. A lot of people who listen to him do think that she’s a dark force of evil in America.”
Lukewarm handwaiving afterwards does not mean that he did not really mean it, nor that his followers do not really believe it. Everyone who has read The Wimp Factor and Great Limbaugh Con understands how Hillary got turned into a Devil, something that has been hammered since 1992 and is now so deeply ingrained in the national psyche, that even those of us who personally like Hillary realize that she cannot possibly win. She is a personification of Evil for just too many Americans.
On the other hand, Sara Robinson reports that rural voters, religious fundamentalists aside, are not as squarely in the Republican field as previously believed. Thus, Democratic candidates this November can make serious inroads by addressing issues important to rural voters. And the same goes for presidential candidates two years from now.