|Photo via the Politics and Elections Portal.|
It was a remarkably limited view, it seemed to me, as if there's only one thing a speech can do—to overwhelm everybody and be the winner—and a kind of unfeminist view, too, with its assumption that if Bill wasn't the powerful winner of the evening then he was a failure.
a note of sub-Lakoffian semiotics here: Bill's speech had a particular rhetorical purpose that isn't maybe appreciated. (By @maddow...)— (((Yastreblyansky))) (@Yastreblyansky) July 27, 2016
Bill's task is to permit himself to be overshadowed by Thursday, to retreat into his First Gentlemanship, and not, tonight, to slay 'em.— (((Yastreblyansky))) (@Yastreblyansky) July 27, 2016
In the long courtship story, he was domesticating himself, and allowing Hillary to emerge as the strong one (strong but sensitive)— (((Yastreblyansky))) (@Yastreblyansky) July 27, 2016
As with the second and third speakers on the high school debate team, his task wasn't to win; that was the job begun by Warren and Sanders on Monday and to be finished by Hillary Clinton tomorrow. On the contrary! His job is to pull out of the enormous space he still occupies in our political consciousness and make room for her. To move into the East Wing (metaphorically; I doubt he'll really do that)."Bill makes emotional appeal" says the chryon. Bill celebrates the strong woman by not being domineering himself.— (((Yastreblyansky))) (@Yastreblyansky) July 27, 2016
@bridgietherease @emptywheel He's really effacing himself without emasculating himself--the emotional one while she's strong and active— (((Yastreblyansky))) (@Yastreblyansky) July 27, 2016
(Incidentally Bridget and Marcy are too young to understand the significance of the makeup reference there—it's not suggesting that Hillary was undesirable, but that she was on the side of the hippies; makeup being an index of bourgeois uptightness. Her not wearing any was a sign that she might not despise him out of class prejudice and that she'd have interesting conversation.)
It's not "about him" any more than Gatsby is about Nick Carraway. It's very carefully establishing his point of view as the observer in the world where Hillary Clinton is the doer. It's humanizing her—for the masses who continue to think of her as some kind of Machiavellian machine—but not softening her.
And it isn't done out of calculation, either. It's Bill's wonderful instinct at play.
I mean, it's clear that last night was the night of the woman, from so many angles, from the grieving but unbowing Mothers of the Movement to the star power of Alicia Keyes and Meryl Streep. It was packed with women's personal stories, women's economic stories, women's foreign policy stories. But the Big Dog found a way to fit himself into the program as the champion of woman, confident enough in his own masculinity that he can cheerfully acknowledge the widespread view that she would have been a better Arkansas governor than he was and is likely to be a better president. It was the most feminist thing ever.
Similar views from Emma Gray at Huffpost and Todd VanDerWerff at Vox.