Fish is tasty
Since I've taken him to task so often in the past, I feel an obligation to point out when Stanley Fish makes a good point. This is one of those times
His column today is one the various forms of Hillary-hatred, and how it relates to her (gods I hate this word) electability. I'd like to preface this by saying that there's no Hillary-hatred here. She's not my preferred candidate, but I will gladly cast a vote for her in November should she be the nominee. I won't even have the same discomfort I had for John Kerry.
But Hillary-hatred is a thriving industry, especially among conservatives, but also among some who wave the progressive flag. Fish notes that most of it is based in sexism, and he points to comments from his last column as proof.
These Clintonphobes said things like “there’s nothing to like about her”(394) and wrote at length about her clothing, her voice, her laugh, her arrogance, her “countless plastic surgeries” (an inference it would seem from the fact that at 60 she still looks good), her insincerity, her stridency, her ambition, her love of power, and her husband. In their view, the hatred they expressed was not irrational at all, but was provoked by record of crimes and character flaws they are happy to rehearse.
All of these things are superficial, which makes the sexism more obvious. Nothing about her Iraq war vote, or about her connections with corporate lobbyists, or even about the discomfort that comes from the potential of 28 straight years of a president named either Clinton or Bush comes into play here. It's all personal attacks.
But this is where Fish really shines--when he connects these attacks to her electability, and the horrible practice of victim-blaming.
Electability (a concept invoked often) is a code word that masks the fact that the result of such reasoning is to cede the political power to the ranters. Carolyn Kay (456) makes the point when she observes that if you vote against Clinton because you fear the virulence of her most vocal enemies, “you have allowed the right-wing hatemongers to decide who our candidate will be.” Underlying this surrender of the franchise to those least qualified to exercise it is the complaint (rarely overtly stated) that the Clintons have had the bad taste to undergo the assassination of their characters in public and have thereby made us its unwilling spectators. This is of course the old ploy of blaming the victim, and Ava Mae Lewis (16) is at least explicit about it. After deploring the “wild accusations” and “rabid hate”, she declares herself “disappointed that the Clintons force us to make this final and public rejection.”See? It's the Clintons' fault that they've been attacked so viciously and dishonestly, and if they had any decency, they'd vanish from the public sphere so we wouldn't be faced with having to defend them. We howl when a rapist says the victim was asking for it, but we say Hillary Clinton should pull out of the race rather than submit herself to these attacks, and claim it is unseemly that she should seek the highest elected post in the land when so many people are willing to slander her. That's despicable, and people who use that argument should have it thrown back in their faces as such.
In other words, by being the targets of unwarranted attacks — that is their crime, being innocent–the Clintons are putting us in the uncomfortable position of voting against them for reasons we would rather not own up to. How dare they? Given the fierceness of the opposition to her candidacy, why doesn’t Hillary do the decent thing and withdraw? “What bothers me about Hillary is that she must know this, yet she apparently thinks so much of herself, or wants to be president so badly, that she’s willing to risk compromising the Democrats’ chances of winning in November to stay in the race” (Matthew, 440). How inconsiderate of her both to want to be president and to persist in her quest in the face of calumny.
Of the two candidates left, I support Obama now, basically because I trust his judgment slightly more, and it's all about the Iraq War for me. There's not a lot of difference between the two in most other categories, so that's the tiebreaker, and it's an important one. I think the arguments over electability are stupid, because they're little more than mental masturbation. They're both electable, and they'll both do a better job as President than we've seen in recent years. Everything else is fluff.