I noticed Rondi had added some election-related application on Facebook, so I clicked through to look at it. The text at the right said something like, “The 2008 election is almost here.” I didn’t do a double-take until a few seconds later–that’s how accustomed I am to the idea that we’re already in the run-up to the election.
The good citizen in me is not looking forward to the coming year. Following politics can be good, wicked fun sometimes, but I mostly do it because I consider it a duty. I will listen to the debates and read up on candidates’ records as legislators and seek out the opinions of commentators whose judgment I find helpful. But I am expecting this to be the least fun election season of my adult life.
A lot of that has to do with Hillary. My sainted aunt, I am so sick of hearing about Hillary. I’m not referring to her relentless spotlight-seeking in and of itself–what else do you expect an ambitious politician with designs on the Oval Office to do? She’s actually become much less grating to watch and listen to over the years. As an old-fashioned celebrity-loving gay guy, I’ve taken some pleasure in watching her develop a more bankable image. Work it, Hills, I say.
Unfortunately, there’s a flip side, which is that everything she says or does is examined to death, by friend and foe alike, for what it might indicate about her emergent Hillaryness. Of course, every politician makes tossed-off comments or clothing choices that get overworked in the media, but with Hillary the enterprise reaches a whole new level. Some sources speculate that Clinton’s newest shade from Clairol suggests her commitment to the reconstruction of Iraq is less than sincere…. I understand that there are reasons for it–she may lack Bill’s charisma, but in her own weird way, she may be just as compelling a figure. A lot of her fans seem to think she’s some kind of saint, and a lot of her detractors seem to hate her more than they do Satan.
[Added on 15 October: Thanks to Eric for the link. He uses the obvious word in this context: "cult [of personality].” The reason I didn’t myself is that I think it really bothers Hillary that that’s what she has. However ruthlessly loyalty may be enforced in the Clinton inner circle, I think that with respect to the electorate, Hillary clearly wants to be the natural, rational choice for thinking people. Not that she’ll refuse the votes of blind partisans, of course.]
You can imagine what I think of her politics. Hillary represents just about everything I detest about arrogant, technocrat-in-group statism. Since she’s such an inveterate triangulator, I’m not sure how many of her overweening policy points she would actually work to push through in their purest illiberal form, but I’d prefer not to find out.
I will say that in one sense I sympathize with her: She clearly wants to be a natural at winning over voters. She works and works and works at it, all to little effect. It must be frustrating to want so much to be good at something for which you have no talent, especially when you’re married to someone who could charm the spots off a leopard. She always reminds me of Tom Cruise, who refuses to settle into being a movie star with a presence a lot of people will pay to see. He struggles mightily to be an Actor, and it doesn’t work because you can always see the gears turning. Same with Hillary. The more “on” she is with her gestures and her speech patterns in technical terms, the more she comes off as an animatronic Anna Lindh doll. It would be nice to see her just cut the crap and be the steely, high-handed bitch she clearly wants to be. (And America needs a steely, high-handed bitch or two, now that Madonna’s been domesticated and run through the Brit-erator.) She would be utterly fabulous at that. But it would obviously cost her the election, so it’s not going to happen.
Instead, we’re going to spend the next year in the spin cycle perfected when Bill was in the White House, only with a senate term and a grown-up Chelsea (“See? At least one person in this family is normal!”) sloshing around in it. Eric has two posts up about Control of the Narrative. While they don’t address the election explicitly, they’re pertinent here. Apropos of something else, he says, “I think media culture and hypersensitivity tend to fuel each other, and the result is a latent hysteria constantly lurking in the background, and ready to break out upon the slightest provocation.” We’re so used to hearing that every bracelet Hillary wears may say something about what’s going on in that calculating head of hers that I think a lot of people have started to buy it without realizing they’re doing it. We’re in for an annoying year.
[Added on 15 October: Thanks to Eric for the other link, too. If you haven't read that post of his, BTW, you really must. The situation he's discussing is absolutely hilarious. Of course, if there were serious threats issued or an injury that drew blood, that's not funny. But the indignant haggling over which type of identity-political aggrievement is warranted on the part of which involved party is like something out of Through the Looking Glass. Eric's final comment: "You'd almost think they were trying to avoid getting on the wrong side of Cotton Mather."]