Tuesday, February 09, 2016
The Fruits of Rightwing Demonization
For 24 years now, the right wing in this country has been depending on gender and racial demonization as a way to emotionally bind the public to their program, even though their program is contrary to most people's interests. Put another way, if people voted their economic interests, the GOP would be tiny. But economic interests are secondary to questions of identity stability and even sexual fantasy.
This is not a new insight; Wilhelm Reich analyzed the failure of the German left to prevent the rise of Hitler more than three quarters a century ago. The German Left talked about wages and living standards; the Nazi Party appealed to a sexually repressed population and offered them a domineering, all powerful Father figure. While you can argue about the precise analysis of the unmet emotional needs that the Nazis manipulated, the lessons for the Left are still clear enough. It's stupid to think that it's just the economy.
For forty years, the Right in America said that the problem with American liberalism was that the men were too weak and the women were too strong, or even more bluntly: liberal men were not really men and liberal women were not really women.
And their Exhibit A has been Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton has been their example of what will happen if gender roles and expectations are allowed to slip and change. Men will become like Bill Clinton: irresponsible, verbose, undisciplined boys. And women will become like Hillary: all-powerful, mean, manipulative Mommy witches, who rule by stealth and cunning. Lady MacBeth. The hidden power behind the throne.
Everything nasty in every one of the phony scandals assigned to the Clinton was imputed to Hillary. Even Bill's sexual misconduct was eventually hung on her, who 'enabled' it.
The misogynist Right demanded that she conform to conventional gender roles, and then said that she was faking it when she did. Everything about her was criticized, and then it was said that she was overly conscious of how she looked to others. She was said to be inauthentic and manipulative.
They demonized her. They assigned to her an hidden evil motivation for everything she did. And that demonization narrative was made up of all the fears and insecurities and competitiveness that strong females arouse in the rest of us.
That Hillary Clinton always has hidden, self-serving, and evil motivations has now become the fixed perception of her. The fact that almost all Americans believe this to be true is the greatest triumph of the rightwing demonization machine. It shows in the polls which say that people agree with Hillary, believe that she is superbly prepared to be President, and many plan to vote for her, but they don't trust her. She's just likeable barely enough.
Most of the Left side of the spectrum accepts this characterization of her without question. Most on the Left side don't see that what seems like the fact of her character is in fact a conclusion built upon 40 years of misogynistic accusations. She has been successfully demonized, and the Left accepts it as true. And then, the Left says with the straight face of the duped that they have no gender bias against her; they just like the man better.
(A parallel situation would be for someone to say that they have no racial bias against Barack Obama: they just think that he tries to be too cool, speaks too rhetorically, and is too emotionally guarded in his public interactions. They might as well say that they prefer their President to ride a bike rather than play basketball for recreation.)
There could be no greater repudiation in this election cycle of our right wing overlords than to see our way past their demonization of Hillary Clinton -- to humanize her, see her as a human being doing the best she can in the circumstances that were imposed upon her. When you take away the presumption that she is "always and already guilty", what you can see is a very tough, committed, progressive political leader who would make a great President.