Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mean Girls

(Photo Credit: Keith Bedford, Reuters)

[Disclaimer: Roxie's World endorsed Al Gore for president more than a year ago, though the political division here has begun to hope he won't jump into the race because saving the planet might just be more important than running the country. The moms have had a Hillary bumper sticker on the fridge for awhile, but that was a gift from the Official Gay Stalker of Roxie's World and not intended as an endorsement. Recently, however, this sensitive old dog has begun to detect a shifting of the political winds in our household. Goose sent Hillary a check a couple of weeks ago, and Moose has been heard humming that old feminist chestnut, "I Am Woman." Of course, Goose could be pulling a Steven Spielberg and sending money to all the Democratic candidates before making up her mind (Spielberg officially endorsed Clinton this week), but I haven't seen any checks written out to Obama or Edwards around the house. And Moose's humming could just mean she's thinking about weighing in on Hillary's public search for a campaign theme song. (Whatever your position on the race, you should get in on this crucial debate -- if only to assure the campaign doesn't choose a Celine Dion song. Please. Do it for Moose. Click on that link.) Still, I have a hunch the moms' long season of dithering may be coming to an end, so I write this post as the last creature in the household who is officially neutral on the declared Democratic candidates for president.]

A series of polls out this week shows Hillary Clinton with a widening lead over her Democratic rivals for the presidential nomination. (For a round-up of polls, click here.) A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll also shows voters preferring Democrats to Republicans in the presidential race by 52% to 31%. (You read that right, kids. Could it be that after six and a half years of being Bush-whacked voters in this country are COMING TO THEIR SENSES?) Finally, a Wa Po/ABC News poll shows that Clinton owes her 15-point lead among Democrats to her strong support from women, particularly from lower-income, lesser-educated women. Curiously, though, Clinton's support among women who are most like her -- i.e., over 45, college-educated, higher-earning -- is relatively weak. Among that group, her lead over Obama is just 4 percentage points (38% to 34%). That group also ranks her significantly lower than Obama on the question of who is most honest and trustworthy. She was the choice among just 19% of college-educated women, while Obama was the choice for 50%.

Judith Warner in the Times has some interesting thoughts on why Clinton's support among women of her own generational and economic cohort is relatively soft. She speculates that such women are less receptive to Clinton's communitarian language of shared responsibility ("It takes a village. . .") because they tend to be "big believers in the American ethos of individual 'choice' and 'personal responsibility,'" notions that have worked well in their own comfortable lives. Warner also acknowledges that there is a strongly personal dimension to elite women's ambivalence toward the junior senator from New York. She wonders if such women don't resent Hillary because of the largely successful ways in which she's negotiated the challenges and role conflicts they've had to contend with, despite their economic privileges. Warner writes:
Is it possible, now that stay-at-home momdom has become a fixture of the suburbs and when wealthy women have bailed out of the workforce in the face of family pressures, that the image of one who toughed it out – uninterruptedly, and with little or no publicly expressed angst – is less than welcome? . . . .

Could Hillary, the first woman to make partner at an old boy Southern law firm, a working mother who kept it all together – with a lot of household help – feel like a reproach to those who just couldn’t hack it? Does this explain, in part, some of the “who-does-she-think-she-is” rumblings that run through the Hillary-hate?

The moms have been struck for a long time by the harsh, personal tone of the judgments they've heard other women make of Hillary Clinton. A lot of their women friends have strong, principled differences with Clinton on important issues such as the war, but the level of vitriol aimed at Clinton is remarkable. "I hate her," a close friend declared back when Republicans were trying to remove Hillary's husband from office for lying about a sexual indiscretion. Recently this same friend -- affluent, politically liberal, and generally overflowing with empathy -- said she would vote for Clinton if she got the nomination but that she still has deeply mixed feelings about her. She finds her calculating. She is certain that Clinton despises her husband and has stayed in her marriage only to advance her political ambitions. She laughed dismissively when Moose tried to suggest that the heart of any marriage is a mystery to those who are outside of it and that there is a bond between the Clintons that has clearly endured. Somehow, Hillary gets blamed for whatever personal/political bargain the Clintons may have struck in their marriage. She put up with his philandering for all those years and then stuck by him after the humiliation of the Lewinsky affair. She keeps him around now because of his prodigious skills as a fundraiser and tactician and because he'll help siphon African-American votes away from Obama. No one seems to wonder or worry too much about what Bill gets out of staying in the marriage.

Of course Roxie's World does not advocate blind loyalty to members of one's own group, whether the group is based on race, sex, gender, or species. (If you doubt that, read what's been posted here under the label "Mary Cheney.") The reason the moms have dithered so long over who to support in this election is that they have their own qualms over Clinton's position on the war and her misguided allegiance to the politics of the Democratic Losership Council. Our beef is with the knee-jerk and often, if you'll pardon the expression, catty quality of much of the commentary on Clinton, particularly that offered up by women closest to her in age and life experience. (This is why we advocate a constitutional amendment prohibiting New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd from ever writing about Clinton again. We think it's in the best interest of the country, not to mention Dowd's pinched little soul.)

When I was a younger, sprier dog, I tended not to get along well with other female dogs. The moms would joke that, despite their best efforts, they had apparently failed to raise a lesbian. When I met another bitch on the trail, I would immediately assert my dominance to let the interloper know who the alpha female was. Few could effectively challenge my leadership status, which is how I earned the title "Mayor of Sligo Creek Trail." Perhaps Hillary Clinton and I are alike in this respect, and perhaps some of the resentment aimed at her by other women arises from the insecurity of non-alpha females who secretly long to be leaders of the pack. Or perhaps the non-alpha females have a terror in their hearts that no woman will ever be able to succeed in that role. They fear the possibility of her failure so much that they go out of their way to undermine her chances of success. They dream a change in the world, but they blink in that instant when swift action would make the dream real. Take it from a dog, folks: She who blinks first is never the alpha female.

Moose says I need to be careful with my analogies, but I rather like this one. I pointed out to her the magnet that's up on our fridge not far from the Hillary bumper sticker: A 1950s-style woman faces three other women (whose expressions suggest shock and fear) in her pristine kitchen. "You say I'm a BITCH," she complains, "like it's a bad thing!" To which the junior senator from New York and I might add: "Hear me roar."

Oh, and who looks like the alpha dog in this sweet little pack? You decide:

(Photo Credit: Harry Benson, "President William J. Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Little Rock, Arkansas, 1992," featured in "Being There" [through September 3, 2007 at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC])

Update from the Department of I Couldn't Have Said It Better Myself: Please read the fabulous cover story in The Nation by Lakshmi Chaudhry, "What Women See When They See Hillary." It's fair to all sides of the question and worth pondering as the campaign season moves forward. One young feminist is quoted saying, "Being a woman does not get you the automatic support of women. There's no vagina litmus test, people." To which Moose replies, respectfully, "Perhaps there should be. Have you counted the number of vaginas on the Supreme Court recently? Did you not notice that the loss of one vagina on the Court resulted in a 5-4 decision that significantly undermined Roe v. Wade?"

Okay, kids -- Roxie's World has broken the V-barrier. After last week's references to fisting, I think it's fair to say we've entered into a new territory. Fasten your seatbelts!

4 comments:

  1. Well, you've written another brilliant post, Roxie Roo! You know that I've been getting more and more frustrated with the way folks talk about Hillary--not so much our friends, cause we welcome spirited debate and have many a great conversation based on disagreements. What really bugs me is the seemingly relentless sniping of those pundits (all alpha dog wannabees if you ask me). For example, I was beginning to feel more generous toward Maureen Dowd because she's written two fabulous columns recently (and I've followed her, as you know, for a long time and often like what she says). But her Hillary bashing and uncritical reception of Obama really, REALLY have irritated me. So what did she do today after writing two incisive, magnificent columns? She takes some jabs at Hillary because she's disappointed in Obama. Surprise, surprise, his talk about a different kind of politics is just about as substantive as his soaring rhetoric about gays in the red states and worshipping an awesome God in the blue states. When push comes to shove about supporting the marriages of folks like your mothers, he waffles, after leading us to believe he would not. Well, now he's waffling as far as practicing a different kind of politics, as his campaign used a racist innuendo to attack Hillary's support from Indian Americans.

    You know what I think, Rox? I think that it may just be Hillary Clinton who practices a different kind of politics. . .and for many, that may be the biggest surprise of all (and I know Moose endorses this view, by the way).

    Hillary Clinton for President, Rox!
    --Your Goose

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  2. RutgersAlumna2:41 PM EDT

    HI Roxie!

    That Clintons' kiss reminds me of the Al Gore-Tipper Kiss! Do you remember Tipper saying that she and Hillary were the Thelma and Louise of American politics!

    I like this post a lot -- it's on track from start to finish! Enjoyed its distance and finely-honed political perspicacity! ((-:

    Being a woman-identified-woman, I often read firedoglake.com, founded by women lawyers -- with Jane Hamsher in the lead (and some guys who are great too, like Pachacutec's article with its balanced don't play dart games with Hillary's candidacy -- very impressive.

    http://www.firedoglake.com/2007/06/18/tick-tock-tick-tock/

    FDL also supported Nancy Pelosi when she was getting the Hillary treatment, and I was surprised to see that and felt politically empowered by it too.

    Look forward to reading more and more of Roxie's World as the Presidential election heats up.

    RutgersAlumna

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  3. Glad you liked this post, RutgersAlumna! During the '92 campaign, the moms had one of those tee-shirts of Tipper and Hillary looking for all the world like Sisters of Sappho (or, wait, was it Bill and Al looking like Brothers of Boy George?), so I think the Thelma and Louise comparison is apt. We just hope Hillary doesn't end up driving off the edge of a cliff!

    I'll have Moose go check out Fire Dog Lake again. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Oh, and when did you graduate from Rutgers? The moms are curious to know if you were there when they were. Of course, they were grad students, so they were there for a VERY long time. ;-)

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  4. RutgersAlumna6:32 PM EDT

    Hi again, Roxie -- I started out at Rutgers as an undergrad in the sciences, though later changed direction. I stumbled on your blog during the Imus debacle, so finding you was for me one nice thing that came out of that!

    RutgersAlumna

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