Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Destruction of Hillary Clinton by Susan Bordo

In the months after the 2016 Presidential election Hillary Clinton retired for a bit from public life.  She stayed at her home in Chappaqua trying to regroup. It had been a brutal campaign with chants of "lock her up" at Trump rallies and you would think that the Hillary haters would be relieved that they hadn't seen or heard from their nemesis for awhile.  But instead accusations of why is she hiding began to be heard.  She's a sore loser etc.  I remember Jeanine Pirro at Fox for example prowling the grounds near Hillary's home with a nasty smile on her face whispering into her microphone about how there was no sign of Hillary yet.

This is what hatred looks like and it's not a pretty picture.  Hatred can't leave someone alone and the question is why?  Why the Hillary hate dating back to 1992 when she became First Lady?  And how big a factor does Hillary's gender play in all this obsessional rage and what role did it play in 2016? I have searched for a book to answer these questions.  I assumed it had yet to be written but actually Susan Bordo tackled this subject back in 2017 when she published The Destruction of Hillary Clinton and it has turned out to be the book I needed.

Susan Bordo is an English Lit and Women Studies Professor at Kentucky State University.  She is the author of a number of books, one of which, Unbearable Weight, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.  Ms. Bordo makes clear at the beginning of The Destruction of Hillary Clinton that by destruction she does not mean Hillary Clinton the woman who as the author notes is "as resilient as they come".  Instead what Bordo is referring to is that while we have had rough Presidential campaigns before in our history what happened in 2016 was different, "an all-out assault on the character and candidacy of Hillary Clinton".  

As to how we got here Susan Bordo takes us back to 1992 and Bill and Hillary Clinton's arrival on the national stage.  Hillary was a new kind of First Lady.  A Yale Law School graduate, first female partner at her law firm.  She was opinionated, smart and had kept her maiden name while Bill was Governor of Arkansas.  When you first enter public life you can slip up.  Hillary's exasperated comments during Bill's campaign for example about how she wasn't going to sit home and bake cookies was unfortunate.  Ditto for Bill Clinton's remark about how if people elected him they would "get two for the price of one".  Hillary apologized for the cookies remark but for her enemies its never enough.  They have been parsing every word she utters for almost thirty years and I marvel at her strength.  Subjected to the same treatment I would have been a basket case by now.

Susan Bordo writes about all of this and tells us that being from the same generation as Hillary she has always felt a kinship with her which many younger women figuring the battles have all been won, cannot understand.  Bordo quotes Hillary's experience back in the early 1970's taking her law school admission's test as an example of what her generation faced:

We had to go into Harvard to take the test, and we were in a huge room, and there were very few women there, and we sat at these desks waiting for the proctors or whoever to come and all the young men around us started to harrass us.  They started to say, "What do you think you're doing?  If you get into law school, you're going to take my position.  You've got no right to do this.  Why don't you go home and get married". 

The majority of Susan Bordo's book focuses on the 2016 campaign and as Bordo sees it the destruction of Hillary Clinton's campaign was book-ended by two factors.  One was the interference in the general election by FBI Director James Comey pertaining to Hillary's emails which Bordo discusses at length.  The other factor involves Bernie Sanders' supporters

These people in so many ways are my natural colleagues, and most are as upset as I am by Trump's victory.  But they played a big role in the thin edge (not a landslide as Trump would have us believe) that gave Trump the election.  For while Trump supporters hooted and cheered for their candidate, forgiving him every lie, every crime, every bit of disgusting behavior, too many young Democrats made it very clear (in newspaper and internet interviews, in polls and in the mainstream media) that they were only voting for Hillary Clinton as the "lesser of two evils," "holding their noses," tears still streaming down their faces over the primary defeat of the person they felt truly deserved their votes.  Some didn't vote at all."

Susan Bordo is writing here I believe about a small segment of Bernie Sanders' supporters.  Most who voted for Bernie in the primaries had no problem voting for Hillary in tne general and I saw a statistic that bears that out.  But its also true as we head to 2020 that Democrats need to pull together whoever the party nominates be it Biden, Harris, Sanders, Buttigieg etc.  No staying home this time or going third party.

The Destruction of Hillary Clinton was published in April 2017 and alot has happened since then but the book doesn't feel dated.  And if fifty or sixty years from now America has still not elected a woman President people may come back to Susan Bordo's book to learn the reasons why.

9 comments:

  1. Great commentary. I very much agree with the premise of this book. The Bernie or Bust Crowd (not the typical Bernie supporter) as well as Trump supporters are still attacking Hillary in my Facebook feed. It is blind irrational hatred. Such attacks against a major party’s Presidential nominee years after losing an election are unprecedented in the extreme. It is no coincidence that they are directed at the first woman who was nominated by a major party for President. As I think you know, I could go on and on about this :)

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  2. Thanks Brian. I also agree that the problem isn't with Bernie supporters and I was feeling the Bern too during his campaign. He is passionate about issues like healthcare and a liveable wage and I can see why many would vote for him. The problem is with those who if tbeir dream Democratic candidate doesn't get elected will stay home and in 2020 with 22 now running I am worried.

    I closed Susan Bordo's book finally getting some closure to the the elephant in the room regarding the 2016 election which was gender. Now we move on to 2020 and what matters most is sending Trump packing.

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  3. Great review Kathy! I limit my access to media news and politics because it makes me a little crazy. But I felt the vitriol against Clinton was excessive too.

    We'll see what happens next year, but I fear we might get another four years of the pumpkin. :( I work and live among many of his supporters...

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  4. Thanks Ruthiella, I know what you mean about limiting one's news intake. I am trying to do that too because Trump takes up so much space n tje news that one has to tune out. I fear we might get another four years as well. I hope not but here in Florida he's popular and people are fooling themselves. He doesn't have their interests at heart.

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  5. Women always seem to be targets of extreme vitriol. Men may get some mean remarks, but the opportunity to attack a woman seems to attract more nasty, hateful remarks. And, yes, when is it to move on to something current, something with a solution, something that might help the country. Like restoring a sense of justice and integrity in the White House....

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    1. Hi Jenclair, 2016 was a revelation because I thought America was ready for a woman Pres but now I see a large portion of the country really isn't. Agree though, it is time to move on and get someone new in tne Wnite House male or female with integrity.

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  6. Thanks for an excellent review - I don't have the heart or stomach to read this myself, but it does try to explain what I have found baffling...what is there to hate about a smart, capable, compassionate woman who is imminently qualified to lead this county>

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    1. Thanks Jane, I was worried too that reliving the 2016 campaign would be depressing but I experienced a kind of relief after finishing Bordo's book because the elephant in the room regarding what happened two years ago was gender and the media has wanted to talk about everything else but that to explain why Trump won. So having this book made me feel that I'm not crazy to think that gender was key and helps me to move on.

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