Hillary needs a new tune

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Hillary Clinton does not know and has never known another way to be.

She can change the song, the genre of music and even the format (digital upgrade or streaming!), but she is still the same person with the same values (no matter how she tries to shift the narrative around and adjust her “tone”) as she always has been.

Her belief that it is her destiny and her time to become president somehow even lead her to a place where she makes her own achievements and qualifications sound like an excuse/defense. And sometimes ill-advised ones: “Before it was called Obamacare it was called Hillarycare!” Yes ,we know you know ALL about the complications and intricacies of this because you tried it as First Lady and failed in a big way – even spawning exhaustive publications about the failure (and her inability to cooperate and make deals that contributed to that failure).

Every statement by an opponent is a defense, along the lines of: “But but but… I was appointed Secretary of State!”

All these protestations and throwing in factoids about herself highlight one of the clear weaknesses of his – and all – her campaigns. She tries in a flat and false way to talk about them like they are about the American people, but they always come off being – or seeming like they are – about her. Meanwhile, the driving force of Bernie Sanders’s campaign IS the system and the people; he may mention his experience when he has to, but that is not driving the narrative of his campaign. An article in Salon states it succinctly: “His (Sanders’s) campaign is about us; it’s not about him.” and “Hillary Clinton’s campaign went south went she started making it about her and her experience.”

I am not really questioning Clinton’s credentials, her qualifications or her readiness. The laundry list of stuff she has done is impressive. I am questioning more the overall tone of what she presents (much like the episode of Friends, when Monica beseeches Chandler, “Sense the tone!”). But she stands for a lot of entrenched interests, the establishment and is, as The Economist put it, “the continuity candidate” in a season of change.

“Mr Sanders’s supporters want to undo the accommodation with business that the Democrats reached under Bill Clinton. But they do not hate their party: most strongly approve of Mr Obama, who is much closer politically to Mrs Clinton than he is to the Bern. That she is not doing better is largely down to her shortcomings as a candidate. Her well-funded campaign is being run by veterans of Mr Obama’s brilliant grass-roots operations and aims to emulate it in seeding and revving up networks of autonomous volunteers; but Mrs Clinton, a continuity candidate when the mood is for change, is not doing much revving. Mr Sanders’s campaign, which in 2015 netted over 2.5m donations, resembles the president’s more closely.”

When people crave change, they don’t care that the promises made are aspirational – they want to believe that the promised change is possible. Clinton’s insistence in the debate last night that the people deserve to know the nuts and bolts details of how changes will be accomplished is well taken – but for most people, it is a lot like how sausage is made. They don’t want to know, won’t look and will just eat what they are fed. Does anyone know how utterly impossible it was to get Obamacare reforms pushed through? And do they know the nitty-gritty of how that worked? Or did they just see that they may have gotten more options with it in the end?

The process of governing is tough – and Hillary is tough enough to do it – but it is not the process or bureaucracy that people want to hear about and is not what she should be campaigning on. She is reasonable and has a plan, but all it sounds like, despite her conversion(s) to different musical styles (following on the awkward analogy above), is a broken record – constantly breaking into song about how we have to work with the system we have.

That is the crux of the problem: the system we have is broken. That is what people are seeing, feeling and reacting to.

Standing up and bragging that you are the 30-year veteran of working within and creating a lot of that broken system is NOT going to help you.

The danger of “good enough”

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I think often about how the struggles we face in life shape how we live it.

I struggled a lot when I was much younger with finding a job and finding my niche. Of course this was depressing, confidence-shaking and worrisome. This has turned me into a workaholic machine, someone who cannot say no or create a good work-life balance (I’m getting there), someone who is always at the edge of paranoid, looking for the “writing on the wall” about corporate instability or shakeups and always prepared for these things. It means that I am always ready, never blindsided and know – thanks to the long struggle – that I am always going to land on my feet.

I am thankful for that. And thankful for where I have landed.

But I also feel thankful now for the struggle. I consider the question frequently now: What if, years ago, I had found an ‘Oh, I guess I can live with this’ existence/job and had gotten stuck where I was? And then never realized the bigger dreams or followed the more interesting and challenging path(s) I followed, such as moving far away and looking for freedom in everything I do?

It is the struggle that propels me forward – both because and in spite of the discomfort.

Women (“…only like me for my mind”)

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I don’t really want to be told by old-guard “feminists” (or anyone for that matter) that my support for anyone other than Hillary Clinton is wrong. Or why it’s wrong. The voices of feminist leaders, such as Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright, trailblazers and leaders in theory and practice, are normally so measured and reasonable. While they have taken on the mantle of speaking for many in the past, which has been appreciated, co-opting the voices and choices of other women now is inappropriate. It is no wonder that women of all ages are angry. The idea that we should be told for whom to vote under any circumstances is egregious and over the line. To be told we betray all women by not voting for Hillary Clinton is feminist apostasy.

In defending Hillary Clinton and her candidacy for president, both women have pulled out the generation card and slammed the younger generation of women in what can only be called a sexist way by claiming that younger women’s support for Bernie Sanders stems from following the path where they might find boys at the other end. Not only does it imply that young women’s only concern is meeting, impressing and gaining the attention of boys – it discounts the well-reasoned support women of all ages have for other candidates. (And couldn’t the same have been argued so long ago when Steinem went to work at the Playboy Club in the service of getting an undercover expose? She was going to bat for true feminist causes but was doing so by “going where the boys are”.) I am not discounting the value of this work, but if looked at only one the surface, which is about how Albright and Steinem looked at young women’s political choices right now, they look about equal.

At a recent Clinton rally, Albright reportedly said, “We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done.”

I think anyone alive today knows that it is not done – not for women’s equality, not for racial equality, not for economic or social justice at all. We know that Roe v Wade is never a done deal. We know that there are still massive strides to take in getting equal pay. We know, in fact, that families – men and women both – are struggling with the consequences and sacrifices they have to make to have families. Women end up struggling more, on the whole, because of the inequalities at work and because of the biology of their having to be the ones to carry and give birth to children. That is not going to change, but society’s approach can.

So no, no one imagines that the work is finished. Yes, we may take for granted the work that has been done – for example, no one demanded that I get him a coffee when I entered the workforce. I took for granted that no one could have such an expectation of a professional woman (or man). An older colleague who worked in a technical capacity since the 1970s schooled me on my obliviousness and ignorance (she and her few female colleagues were often maligned this way or saddled with extra “women’s work” like fetching coffee or something that had no formal place in their work description). Perhaps it is good that people my age and younger grew up completely ignorant of the fact that it was once acceptable to make these kinds of petty demands of you just because you were the female employee in the room. But forgetting may, in fact, lead to complacency – and I suppose this is at the heart of Albright and Steinem’s argument.

But being complacent about how far we still need to travel to get to gender parity is not the same thing as making a conscious, well-informed decision not to support Hillary Clinton.

By not supporting Hillary, are people somehow not supporting all other women (as Albright implies, saying there is a “special place in hell” for women who do not support other women)? Are we obligated to support Hillary just because she is a woman, particularly when she has let her views, her talking points, her votes, her perspectives, shift casually to suit her purposes at any given moment – sometimes in ways that damage equality and grant favor to corporate over human interests?

Other than “Hillary fatigue”, the urge to fight against the sense of inevitability and her attitude as though it’s “her turn” now – I have to ask, “Does she deserve the support?” At this stage, no. If she ultimately gets the nomination, I will support her. She will still be better than whatever the alternatives are. Hillary is not my first choice because Hillary feels insincere, insubstantial and untrustworthy. It is not that she cannot get the job done. It is not because her views change because in fact, if someone’s views change and grow more nuanced, that is one thing. But changing to pander to the rising voices of the day – that’s disingenuous. Her time on the world’s stage has been so long and public that we have a very clear view of just how disingenuous she has been over the course of time.

While I very much support Bernie Sanders’s aims and like the idea of the US moving toward “democratic socialism”, I am a bit burned out on the whole idea that there are not more of Sanders’s ilk among younger politicians. I will vote for Sanders or Clinton, whichever gets the nomination, but the idea that we can be carried forward by the oldest of the Baby Boomers (in fact Sanders was born at the tail-end of the previous generation) is a sad commentary on the state of American progressivism. Clinton is a tired reminder of the old guard, and the Baby Boomers in general need to start handing over the reins already. I feel as though we took many steps forward with Obama in handing over responsibility to a new generation of leaders, but the only reasonable voice we have is an old man. (And the young politicians are snake-like zealots and anxiety-riddled, almost-human robots. Nothing remotely presidential… or sane.)

 

 

 

Les mots du jour

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Today’s words:

  • Swagger
  • Braggadocio
  • Attitude

In other observations, I marvel at what must be the direst of circumstances or worst of tales – something, anything – to explain how individuals escape from what I can only describe as hellish drudgery and endless hamster-on-wheel running only to return willingly.

Remind me to furnish you (any of you) with a firearm with which to kill me if I try to do something similar after I escape.

Decisions

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Sometimes decisions are made for you. Not in the sense that you have no control. More that you turn a decision over and over in your mind and can’t decide. Then push comes to shove, and your decision-making is nearly done for you. In my case, the decision I have long wanted to make appears to be the only right decision. It fills me with peace. Once I accepted this and let go of the nagging doubt, a lot of other pieces that had been up in the air started to fall into place.

Amazon alone: Clear cutting

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For the last couple of days, speculation has been rife that Amazon may dot the American landscape with cookie-cutter, brick-and-mortar stores, much like its weird flagship store in Seattle, Washington. True or not, it seems like a backwards move. (But there are a lot of these everything-old-is-new-again movements afoot; I was surprised to realize on the anniversary of the Challenger explosion that some things were more “modern” and future-oriented then, in 1986, than now – for example, we had an active space shuttle/space exploration program that people were vocal and excited about; we had the Concorde. Those things are considerably muted or non-existent now…).

The Amazon bookstore idea is stupid. I went to the Amazon flagship store in U Village in November soon after it opened (had just read an article about it before coming to town and imagined I would never go there – and why would I want to?). It seems ridiculous and contrary not just to trends and user habits but also to economic sense. In fact, Amazon came into being and thrived, in large part by driving all the Borders and Barnes & Noble stores out of business – and some indie stores too… Essentially, Amazon clear cut the competition, getting it completely out of the way. Then Amazon replants and springs back up as the only one kind of tree – the only tree – in the forest… shrewd but lame?

I hated the store – hated going in only to see the top-selling, most popular crap that would never have interested me anyway, and the “long-tail” stuff I would have searched for on Amazon, I could have done from the comfort of home, right? It still seems like a weird waste of money and space.