Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Hillary as a Workaholic

David Brooks takes a stab at explaining why Hillary is so disliked:
I would begin my explanation with this question: Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun? We know what Obama does for fun — golf, basketball, etc. We know, unfortunately, what Trump does for fun.

But when people talk about Clinton, they tend to talk of her exclusively in professional terms. For example, on Nov. 16, 2015, Peter D. Hart conducted a focus group on Clinton. Nearly every assessment had to do with on-the-job performance. She was “multitask-oriented” or “organized” or “deceptive.”

Clinton’s career appears, from the outside, to be all consuming. Her husband is her co-politician. Her daughter works at the Clinton Foundation. Her friendships appear to have been formed at networking gatherings reserved for the extremely successful.

People who work closely with her adore her and say she is warm and caring. But it’s hard from the outside to think of any non-career or pre-career aspect to her life. Except for a few grandma references, she presents herself as a résumé and policy brief.

For example, her campaign recently released a biographical video called “Fighter.” It’s filled with charming and quirky old photos of her fighting for various causes. But then when the video cuts to a current interview with Clinton herself, the lighting is perfect, the setting is perfect, her costume is perfect. She looks less like a human being and more like an avatar from some corporate brand.

Clinton’s unpopularity is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic. Workaholism is a form of emotional self-estrangement. Workaholics are so consumed by their professional activities that their feelings don’t inform their most fundamental decisions. The professional role comes to dominate the personality and encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul. As Martyn Lloyd-Jones once put it, whole cemeteries could be filled with the sad tombstone: “Born a man, died a doctor.”
I think there is much to this, but I don't think it is sufficient. Hillary is not just a workaholic and somewhat joyless person; she is a workaholic and somewhat joyless feminist. And that combination repels many Americans.

The modern social justice movement has the same basic problem as Christianity, which is that its goals for humanity are impossible to meet. Nobody is completely un-sexist, un-racist, un-homophobic, un-transphobic, and anti-capitalist all the time. Some people find these rigorous demands uplifting, just as some people are inspired by the words of Jesus to become monks or missionaries. But for most of us, unreachable moral demands must be softened with warmth and humor. Just as we dislike humorless, scolding preachers, we dislike humorless, scolding fighters for justice. And Hillary strikes many, many Americans as exactly that, a humorless, scolding feminist crusader. Of course some people feel that way about her because they want license to be sexist, racist pigs and resent anyone who tells them otherwise. But that doesn't get you to the 57% of Americans who dislike Hillary. Millions of ordinary, ok people, even people who believe in everything Hillary believes in, are put off by her manner, as if they expect her to scowl at them for going shoe shopping instead of launching a voter registration drive.

Personally I don't think that Hillary is really like that; I think she just lacks the social skills to overcome the stereotype that has clung to her. But between the obvious ambition and the un-humorous feminism, she has a mountain of personal issues to overcome before winning over votes.


Shadow said...

There goes the Protestant Work Ethic (real or imagined). What nonsense Brooks is spouting.

I suspect Hillary's unpopularity is mostly due to two things: People are tired of seeing and hearing her, and, as you say, she hasn't the best social skills. She's been in the public eye for 25 years and has been running for president, in one form or another, for 20 of them. Over the course of those same 20 years we've hooked into the internet, blogs, Facebook, twitter, You Tube, Instagram, etc -- MSM. It's easy to become overexposed, and she's overexposed. I wonder how many people will not vote for her because they do not wish to have her in their living rooms every night for another 4-8 years?

I marvel at all these insiders who know Al Gore, Mitt Romney, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton personally and are wont to tell us how wonderful they are in private. If they could stuff 180 million voters into her living room for an evening, maybe some of that charm might reveal itself. But somehow, even if this were possible, I doubt we would be invited. The presidency is the most public office in the world, and I care how the applicants for the position conduct themselves in public, not in private.

Of course, none of this may matter once voters start thinking of the alternative . . .

G. Verloren said...

America - where we pick our presidents based not on how hard they work and how good they'll be at their job, but on whether we can imagine they have "fun" personal lives and cheery demeanors.

G. Verloren said...

Also, I'm really not ready to write off the deeply ingrained effects of sexism. Less than a century ago women couldn't even vote in this country.

Being a so called "workaholic" is the sort of quality that is often tauted as a virtue in a man, while it has historically been deemed a flaw in women. The supposed faults of being "multitask-oriented", "organized", and "deceptive" (likely reworded as "clever" or "shrewd") are all the sorts of descriptors which are lauded when applied to men in positions of power.

Putting aside the full blown sexists and misogynists for a moment, the average detractor may not specifically dislike Clinton -because- she's a woman, but they absolutely dislike her behaving in the exact same ways as her male counterparts because of the way our society subconsciously parses sex and gender. The old stereotypes persist despite our supposed enlightenment - we still as a society think men are supposed to be confident, aggressive, and assertive, while women are supposed to be meek, passive, and subservient.

People fault Clinton for not being more warm, more emotional, more matronly - or put another way, for not being feminine enough. Yet curiously, no one would ever in your wildest dreams fault Trump or Sanders for not being feminine enough. Quite the opposite - their excessive macho, egotistical posturing is somehow viewed as a virtue, a badge of honor, a mark of their trustworthiness and suitablility to lead. They can be hateful, stubborn, counterproductive, and generally toxic and people will still just nod their heads and smile, because those behaviors are what they expect from men.

Shadow said...

Did any of you see Elizabeth Warren's blistering attack on Trump last night? Her authenticity and passion enthralls -- the way she bears her soul in every word she utters is mesmerizing (at least to me). She does this every time she speaks publicly, even when sitting down in interviews. It's a great skill (if that's the right word), and Clinton doesn't have it. Whenever Clinton attempts passion she comes off as inauthentic, and I come away feeling uncomfortable.

Clinton has the same problem Romney had.

There are Clinton supporters who say Elizabeth Warren will be a great asset for Clinton come this autumn. I'm not convinced. Juxtapose Clinton with Warren, and Clinton does not come off well.

But Clinton should win, unless we are entering an age of cult of personality.