Clinton’s Predicament, or Why the Hell are We Talking About Bill?

In the midst of arguing that the pressure for Clinton to leave the race is primarily bullying or sexist (link now fixed)–and I’ll admit that I don’t exactly see the argument that it is mostly a gendered phenomenon–Melissa McEwan of Shakesville makes an important bit of snark:

If you’re like me, I know you can’t read an article about Hillary without thinking, “I wonder what Bill thinks about all this!”

It’s one of the stupidest things about the campaign that Hillary’s voice has sometimes been drowned out by Bill’s presence. However important his legacy was to her position in politics, this is her campaign, and it will be her presidency, should she be elected. Bill would be first among her advisers–less than Dick Cheney but more than Al Gore–but she would the leader and the voice for her administration.

So it’s quite sad that the media has all too often treated her campaign as one run by a quasi-corporate entity, ‘the Clintons,’ or that Bill is such a fixture in the headlines.

But aside from the media, y’know who’s worth blaming? Bill himself. Remember back in February when Bill was running around South Carolina dissing black people and the official off-the-record line from the campaign was “oh my god, SHUT. HIM. UP. Please help us-we don’t know how to do it. He is a relentless force of nature.” I don’t think it’s just Obama supporters who see him as having tarnished his reputation (you might try James Fallows–a longtime fan of Bill who is highly disappointed).

In a lot of ways, Hillary’s position coming in to the heart of the campaign was impossible and unfair. Find a way to keep Bill out of the picture and she loses a strong campaigner, and looks defensive–aside from the fact that it would be contrary to her instincts, since they are a political team. Put him in play, and she risks shifting attention to him.

I will say that while this is unfair and impossible, it doesn’t yet add up to a story about misogyny. Three points. First, the talking heads were quite ready to crown Clinton the nominee well before any votes were cast. At one point Obama was a genuine underdog, however long ago that may seem. I think this underscores the point that very few people within the Democratic party have qualms about a female president. Second, whatever the state of play among pundits, Clinton seems to lead the all important category of misogynist Democrats. Third, let’s note that there’s a parallel sense in which Obama has faced an impossible and unfair task. I for one, think that what has been directed at him may well have been uglier than the parallel things directed at her.

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