Buckle up, buddies: our dreaded Laramie is back in the fucking game.
David Brooks, the New York Times bloviator whose confounding inability to see the essence of things grows exponentially more magnificent as the subject in question begins to diverge from what he sees in the mirror, has now written an op-ed about Hillary Clinton, whose title is, “Why Is Clinton Disliked?”
A screenshot of the top:
First of all, I’d argue that Clinton earned her unpopularity in an even more old-fashioned way than Trump did, a way so old-fashioned it is part of the Biblical creation myth—i.e. she was born a woman, natural servant and helpmeet to man, in a country where the vestiges of couverture existed until the ’60s, a woman’s right to regulate her own reproductive process is consistently endangered, and the very existence of an all-female movie remake still makes men angrily poop their pants.
In other words, it’s hard to imagine why you would look, as David Brooks does here, at the comparable approval ratings of Hillary Clinton (who is imperfect and corruptible but a competent and experienced center-left public servant) and Donald Trump (who is a monstrously bigoted political dilettante with a history of bankruptcy, no platform to speak of, and a success record hinged entirely on his tactic of stoking fear, anger, and violence in the heart of this country) and then throw Occam’s razor straight into my eyeball to conclude that Clinton, who has for her entire life in politics been criticized for being the wrong kind of woman, faces Trump-like approval ratings because of a reason that is mysterious and unknown.
Nonetheless, that is what he does.
There are two paradoxes to her unpopularity. First, she was popular not long ago. As secretary of state she had a 66 percent approval rating. Even as recently as March 2015 her approval rating was at 50 and her disapproval rating was at 39.
It’s only since she launched a multimillion-dollar campaign to impress the American people that she has made herself so strongly disliked.
In the truly beautiful mind of David Brooks, it is “paradoxical” that Hillary Clinton was popular at one point (when she was demonstrating her competence in a position subordinate to a popular male chief executive) and that she is not as popular anymore (when she is trying to snag that 100 percent historically male chief executive position for herself).
The second paradox is that, agree with her or not, she’s dedicated herself to public service. From advocate for children to senator, she has pursued her vocation tirelessly. It’s not the “what” that explains her unpopularity, it’s the “how” — the manner in which she has done it.
But what exactly do so many have against her?
Yeah, if it’s not her tireless work ethic or long record of public service or anything about her political record that David Brooks finds necessary to bring up here, but rather, it’s something powerfully subjective about this whole situation—WHAT COULD THAT THING BE?
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.
“That hoe needs some golf clubs, a basketball, etc,” yawned the blindfolded demon that lives inside David Brooks.
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.”
Brooks then spends the next five paragraphs talking about how Clinton is too professional: that people who know her call her “warm and caring,” but people who don’t know her—confusingly—do not. She is a workaholic, and her professional role “encroaches on the normal intimacies of the soul.” He says it again: she seems “exclusively professional,” which is bad.
Phenomenally, the conclusion David Brooks draws even from this ninth-grade-level critical assessment is not that Clinton’s professional demeanor is off-putting to people because we have been conditioned for centuries to expect warm and familial subservience from women. (As this column itself also does not contain the words “sexism” or “sexist” and points out that Clinton’s personal appeal points have been limited to “a few grandma references,” we would, I guess, not expect David Brooks to be able to recognize his own mistakes.) Rather he concludes that Clinton’s professional demeanor is off-putting to a wide swath of Americans because of the era of social media, which is personalist (OK, MAN) and vulnerable.
That is literally the best idea he’s got.
There’s a larger lesson here, especially for people who have found a career and vocation that feels fulfilling. Even a socially good vocation can swallow you up and make you lose a sense of your own voice. Maybe it’s doubly important that people with fulfilling vocations develop, and be seen to develop, sanctuaries outside them: in play, solitude, family, faith, hobbies and leisure.
“Even successful lives need these sanctuaries—in order to be a real person instead of just a productive one,” Brooks writes. A sanctuary like a garden, or maybe a kitchen. It’s a good reminder for all women: there is no amount of power that will keep a man from listening to his dumbest and most deeply ingrained instincts and asking you to, in so many words, open up.
Images via AP