Tuesday, June 7, 2016

What Choice Have We?

Rebecca Traister has an excellent profile of Hillary Clinton in New York Magazine.  An excerpt:

… There is an Indiana Jones–style, “It had to be snakes” inevitability about the fact that Donald Trump is Clinton’s Republican rival. Of course Hillary Clinton is going to have to run against a man who seems both to embody and have attracted the support of everything male, white, and angry about the ascension of women and black people in America. Trump is the antithesis of Clinton’s pragmatism, her careful nature, her capacious understanding of American civic and government institutions and how to maneuver within them. Of course a woman who wants to land in the Oval Office is going to have to get past an aggressive reality-TV star who has literally talked about his penis in a debate.

For all the hand-wringing about how she will hold up against a bully who has already made it clear he will attack her in the most shameless ways imaginable, Clinton seems extremely pleased about the prospect of running against him. “I’m actually looking forward to it,” she told me. “See, I don’t think it’s as fraught with complexity as some people are suggesting. I think the trap is not to get drawn in on his terms. We saw what happened to those Republicans who tried.”

Clinton says she knows what he’ll say about her — her marriage, her husband. She says she doesn’t care; she can ignore it. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t stand up for everybody else he’s insulting,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you don’t talk about where his policies would take this country, to draw the contrast.”


But if, as in this election, a man who spews hate and vulgarity, with no comprehension of how government works, can become presidentially plausible because he is magnetic while a capable, workaholic woman who knows policy inside and out struggles because she is not magnetic, perhaps we should reevaluate magnetism’s importance. It’s worth asking to what degree charisma, as we have defined it, is a masculine trait. Can a woman appeal to the country in the same way we are used to men doing it? Though those on both the right and the left moan about “woman cards,” it would be impossible, and dishonest, to not recognize gender as a central, defining, complicated, and often invisible force in this election. It is one of the factors that shaped Hillary Clinton, and it is one of the factors that shapes how we respond to her. Whatever your feelings about Clinton herself, this election raises important questions about how we define leadership in this country, how we feel about women who try to claim it, flawed though they may be.

It comes down to what it says about us not just as a country but as a civilization if we are to turn ourselves over to a leader who has no moral foundation other than what’s in it for him, lies with enthusiastic impunity, and treats people who oppose him the same way he treats a piece of chewing gum on his shoe.

It’s beyond common sense, logic, and sanity to wonder what is it about this choice that makes it so hard.  It should be obvious.  The fact that it’s not for some people frankly scares me more than the possibility of electing Donald Trump to any higher position than president of his homeowners’ association.