I was pretty harsh on Hillary yesterday and today she goes and cries. I’m sure there’s a connection.
I’m fascinated by the media’s decision to say that she didn’t cry; her eyes merely filled with tears. (What? They are going to zoom in on her face and, if one of those brimming tears falls, suddenly she’s weak?? ) Somehow too, this made her miraculously human for the reporters in the room. I’m not mocking it. I felt it too. After 35 years of hard work it finally seemed like maybe it was just a little too much. Indeed, I was appalled that some in the media questioned whether the tears were pre-planned. Probably a reflex action from a campaign that has seemed buttoned down and machine-like from the beginning. I suspect she’ll get a five point bounce in the polls. Not to be cynical about her tears, but this is the kind of thing that was missing from her candidacy—the sense of spontaneous humanity that Obama pulls from the air with the greatest of ease.
In a just world, perhaps hard work would be all that matters. Not our world, I’m afraid.
Picking up on yesterday’s post, I’m also struck by the way this stuff is so thoroughly gendered. It is almost absolutely impossible to imagine Obama getting away with tears in reflecting on how hard it is to campaign. Or even the brink of tears. We could forgive Edwards if he got brimming eyes while talking about his wife’s cancer, and probably even if he watered up while talking about a young girl who couldn’t get a liver transplant. But if he started dripping over how hard it is to fight the fight, you can be sure his fight would be over. Hillary, of course, doesn’t have it easy; she’s expected to be hard and tough and a man among men, but she’s also got to be soft, got to reassure us that she hasn’t lost the woman within even while she’s going toe to toe with the bad guys. Tears do it for her.
Men would not be forgiven it, as Ed Muskie wasn’t. Men have to show their humanity in different ways. By playing bass guitar for a rock band at the local bar. By reading books that suggest depth but not weirdness. By hunting for geese in Iowa in below zero wind chill.
It’s hard on everyone.
From maternal instincts, there is something eerie about the amount and kinds of resistance that America is displaying about a Hillary presidency that is rooted in anything but her personality.
Whether it is rooted in Bill backlash, or whether it is rooted in misogyny, who knows, but it is not rooted in enthusiasm for a black candidate, nor is it rooted in the fact that the Clinton presidency was not a popular one, nor an effective one.
Instinct suggests that even together these influences are insufficient to move a public to reject its first woman President whom the nation sees as qualified to be there, and competent enough to do the job.
It may be years before the female political failure could be known, if ever, but something is driving the campaign in 2008 that has little to do with Hillary, or with women.