Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Floodgates Are Now Open

Hillary Clinton cried the other day.

People are suggesting that this display of humanity helped her eke out a win in New Hampshire, either by winning over voters who felt they finally saw the "real" Hillary Clinton and liked what they saw, or by women who felt an affinity for her because they, too, know what it is like to face insurmountable odds in a man's world, or by people who don't like to see a woman cry and blamed her opponents for her outburst.

Except, it wasn't much of an outburst, was it? I mean, she got a bit quiet, she got a bit choked up, I don't think any actual tears formed. It was a very subtle display of emotion. Anything more and people would be suggesting she wasn't mentally tough enough for the job. But this was, well, a perfectly calibrated break in one's defenses.

Many are suggesting that she faked it. Even the woman who asked the original question which caused the tears felt she recovered a little too quickly and too well. However, for the sake of argument, let's just assume, for a moment, she did not. Let's assume that, as she claimed in her victory speech on Tuesday night, that the people of New Hampshire for helping her, "find her voice." How? Or rather, why now? What has happened to Hillary Clinton in the last week that would cause her to publicly cry when someone asks her "how she manages to stay wonderful" when her stoicism has previously prevented her from publicly crying over things like the public humiliation her husband put her through while he was president or the destruction of the World Trade Center towers in her home state?

Maureen Dowd pointed out in her op-ed entitled Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back To The White House?
What was moving her so deeply was her recognition that the country was failing to grasp how much it needs her. In a weirdly narcissistic way, she was crying for us. But it was grimly typical of her that what finally made her break down was the prospect of losing.
So the prospect of losing is what caused her to cry? Even the most rabid Clinton haters may suggest that that displays a level of narcissism they had not previously considered. Was that really it?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Let's consider what she said. She got choked up as she was telling us how much she cares about this country and how she knows what is best for us and it just breaks her heart that we don't appreciate all she's done for us. Frankly, I'm not surprised it worked on so many of New Hampshire's voters. I mean, mothers have been laying guilt trips on their children ever since humans began walking upright and, you would think, this sort of manipulation has remained a part of the human repertoire precisely because it is so effective. Except that while Hillary Clinton may see us all as her children in need of her guidance, she is running for the office of president, not the position of our mom.

So do I think the tears were real? Yeah, sure, but that doesn't make them any less manipulative. Do I think it was wise of Hillary Clinton to cry? Well, it remains to be seen how successful that display turns out to be, but I feel a bit of resentment about it because regardless of how she does, I feel it makes things rougher for future women who run for political office; just watch, in the future, if a female politician shows emotions in a key moment, she will be accused of "pulling a Hillary" (much as Bill Clinton was accused of "wagging the dog" when he launched missile strikes at Al Quaida camps in the Sudan and Afghanistan during the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal). So while Hillary Clinton's campaign may well be groundbreaking, I don't know that she is changing the way the public views women or making it easier by blazing a trail for the next woman who runs for President.

However, I should thank her for one thing. I have been wondering what I would do if Hillary Clinton ends up being the Democratic nominee. I had thought I might look at the Green Party, but now, I am thinking I may just write-in my mom's name.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Monroe Anderson said...

Hillary won't be able to cry her way through every primary so the Clintons may have to come up with a new sympathy-fetcher next time. Maybe she'll discover that Bill is not having sex with another woman--damn to DNA evidence.

7:38 PM, January 10, 2008  

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