Wednesday, July 27, 2016

First Feminist

Photo via the Politics and Elections Portal.
Watching the proceedings on MSNBC last night, and after the Big Dog spoke I was interested and puzzled by the way the station's Tough Babes, Rachel and Republican Nicole, dismissed him for that long lingering nostalgic wedding-toast intro taking the audience in some detail from his first cute meet with the candidate to their dumping of Chelsea in the dorm 20-odd years later (he stood at the window concealing his tears while Hillary worked to perfect the environment). "Weak" and "meandering", they thought, though the audience plainly mostly loved it.

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.

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).

(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.

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