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Poisoning the well with ugly

This is the time in the political cycle when we should be examining potential contenders and shaping the field we’ll have to vote for (or against) someday. Every time, we find ourselves in this position of general apathy until we arrive at the election…and suddenly it sinks in that the Republican is a shameless cretin and the Democrat is a political opportunist chosen because he’s less likely to annoy Wall Street, and then we’re stuck. The media, meanwhile, adopt simple-minded tropes that they push over and over again, to the detriment of actual discussion of policy.

We saw it with Obama: on the left, it was all “he’s black!” “Hope!” On the right, it was all “Socialist!” “Urban!” Never mind that he’s actually a conservative-leaning centrist, all too willing to surrender to the right on human rights and economic issues.

Now it’s happening again. Apparently, the front-runner on the Democratic side is Hillary Clinton. I am unenthused, because I’m not a fan of political dynasties, and because I don’t see Clinton as a particularly progressive sort of politician. But will we discuss those issues? Of course not. As Digby explains, it’s all about the ‘old woman’ distraction.

As I have discussed many times before, this was a theme of the 2008 campaign as well, with people from all sides of the political spectrum feeling free to point out that older women are such repulsive creatures they should not even be seen in public much less run for public office.

I don’t expect to see Democrats saying that sort of thing this time unless a sexy dark horse candidate emerges who doesn’t fit the old hag profile. (No Liz Warren for you! She’s over 60 …) But the Republicans are going to have a field day with it. It will be interesting to see how the GOP women react and if they join in the fun. It wouldn’t surprise me. But in the back of their minds they know that they too are going to be old some day — and that this is how the men they associate with will think of them.

I don’t care how old she is, or how wrinkled she is, or whether she is a grandma (has the issue of being a grandparent ever been a concern for a man running for office?). I want to know…will she fight hard to reduce our use of fossil fuels, and will she oppose Keystone XL? Is she going to do something about the obscene levels of income inequality? Will she support public education for all and increase investment in science? Is she the kind of person who recognizes that art makes a tangible contribution to culture, and will promote it?

That’s the stuff I care about in an election. I know the Republicans will make hay about the looks of the candidates, because they’re superficial and stupid twits, and that’s all they know how to do; but I’m going to be disappointed in the Democrats (and I’m always disappointed with them) if they don’t reply with substance, for a change.

I don’t think Clinton is on my side in most of the issues I worry about, but I could be wrong. It’s not easy to find that information, though, when it should be front and center in any discussion of relative merits, because our lousy media doesn’t care. They’re probably hoping a Kardashian promises to run for office, because that would give them the material they need to sell more soap.

Comments

  1. HidariMak says

    To be honest, the idea of “President Hillary” scares me. IIRC it was mentioned in Jeff Sharlet’s book ‘The Family’ that Hillary often sought spiritual guidance from Doug Coe, the head of that Fellowship at the time. And that’s an organization that’s anti-abortion, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-poor, etc.

  2. microraptor says

    The only part of Hillery’s age that concerns me is the age of her political ideas.

    And I find too many of them to be old and dated. But that’s a problem that’s common among politicians of all ages.

  3. mikeyb says

    My basic principle in elections is the TINA policy – there is no alternative. I would love to vote for someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders as two examples. But neither one of them has a hope in hell perhaps of even raising the money to run, much less win. Even if they did win they wouldn’t have a hope in hell of getting much done with the current tea party dominated congress. I have no illusions that if Hillary Clinton were to run and win, she would be any kind of progressive. I would see her as more like a bulkward against evil and insanity, rather than anything that represents change or addressing actual problems. Presidents are as much about what you get, as what you avoid. If McCain would have been elected undoubtedly we would still be in Iraq and planning new wars in Syria, Iran and Ukraine, as well as looking forward to the possibility of President Palin. If Romney had been elected we would be looking forward to elimination of Obamacare, Social Security and Medicare – voucherize and privatize them out of existence. There would also be two more right wingers on the SC. No doubt, Obama has been a disaster from any progressive or even moderate point of view with a couple of minor exceptions, Obamacare with all its flaws is vastly superior to the previous situation, and his albeit political and following the lead of public support for gay rights. At the same time he has quietly (from a media standpoint) completely supported the surveillance state, been the deporter in chief, been very nice to the banksters and Wall Street, etc etc etc. So for now its either voting for slow disaster or complete and utter insanity and destruction. But what can one do in the modern PCA – plutocratic states of America.

  4. peptron says

    Sadly, PZ missed the opportunity of saying that comment instead : “On the left, it was all “he’s black!”. On the right, it was all “he’s black!”.”

    As for American politics, last elections home (Quebec), it really felt like the American way had seeped in…

  5. Christopher says

    Hillary was the anoited one last time around.

    People voted for Obama because he wasn’t Hillary, and was promising to be something different (of course he wound up putting the same ship of fools, including Hillary, in charge of things and continued on with the status quo).

    Hillary can’t run on not being herself. I doubt she’ll make it past the primaries. If she’s smart, she’ll retire and make a mint in speaking fees and peddling her connections to the highest bidder.

  6. says

    Christopher:

    People voted for Obama because he wasn’t Hillary

    The truth of the matter is that no matter how many people felt it was scandalous to have a black man as president, any man is better than a woman.

  7. Endorkened says

    At least a vapid celebrity candidate would be entertaining. That’s about all I hope for from politics at this point. Maybe, if we’re really lucky, enough people will start thinking like me that the system breaks completely.

  8. Infophile says

    @7 Inaji Eeyup. After all, it took 50 years from extending the right to vote to black men before it was extended to women. Civil rights are speeding up though, so it won’t be as long before a female President, most likely, but one can see today that blatant sexism is a lot more acceptable in public than blatant racism*.

    *Dog-whistle racism, however, still seems to be fine in public discourse. And that’s not even getting into all the subtle, structural and subconscious biases.

  9. moarscienceplz says

    (No Liz Warren for you! She’s over 60 …)

    I wish we could clone Elizabeth Warren about 100 times so she could be president plus replace all those Democrats who are too busy osculating corporate rump to actually do something for real human Americans. And once again I say, “Corporations are NOT people!”

  10. mikeyb says

    My fantasy is that Obama in Nov 2016 right after the elections, in a rare feat of compassion declares permanent amnesty and citizenship to all current illegals just on his way out of office. As far as I know he has the authority to do this. It ain’t gonna happen but I’d love to see and hear all the reverberating right wing head explosions that would follow. That would be precious.

  11. Gregory Greenwood says

    Inaji @ 7;

    The truth of the matter is that no matter how many people felt it was scandalous to have a black man as president, any man is better than a woman.

    That is pretty much what is wrong with American (and, to a lesser degree, British) politics in a nutshell. Bigotry ultimately shapes the political landscape, and there is a hierarchy within that bigotry. A black President is more ‘acceptable’ to the good old boys than a woman President. A woman President may be preferable to the political establishment than an out gay President (though this may vary from bigot to bigot). A trans* President is sadly utterly unthinkable to a terrifyingly large number of people, including some who should really know better. A godless President is also a non-starter in the eyes of most people, since most people still act as if the US was founded as a christian nation, rather than as a secular state many of whose founders were deists.

    Ageism is simply another means of smuggling in misogyny by the back door. Being older is an advantage if you are a male candidate – much is made of the value of experience, and male candidates in their early middle age are routinely written off as callow neophites, and yet older women suffer misogynistic character assassination that ignores the issues even more than usual in order to fixate on irrelevancies of appearance. A woman candidate has the deck stacked against her because there is no period when her age is deemed acceptable by the political culture – she goes straight from ‘flighty girl’ or ‘more suited to motherhood than to power’ to ‘too old for politics’ in the eyes of most.

    It is no surprise that we always get the same kinds of people in power, and that they always make the same kinds of mistakes. It has to be changed, not only in the name of social justice, but also to prevent our inflexible political establishment finally succeeding in leading us all off a cliff.

  12. Christopher says

    The truth of the matter is that no matter how many people felt it was scandalous to have a black man as president, any man is better than a woman.

    No, anyone is better than another Clinton.

    Too much baggage. Too entrenched in the current power structure that has been at war with 99.9% of this country’s population for decades now.

    People still hope for change. Hillary has no way to sell change without repudiating everything she has done in her long career.

    Her gender has nothing to do with why she lost the last primary she contested and why she will lose the next one.

  13. says

    Gregory:

    A woman candidate has the deck stacked against her because there is no period when her age is deemed acceptable by the political culture – she goes straight from ‘flighty girl’ or ‘more suited to motherhood than to power’ to ‘too old for politics’ in the eyes of most.

    It’s not just age, either. When Ms. Clinton ran before, there was more press criticizing her choice of campaigning clothes than her stance on issues. Then there’s the old standby of being too emotional.* I’m old enough to remember when Geraldine Ferraro was running as Mondale’s VP, and was pilloried in the press for crying at one point. Of course, by then, she had been pilloried by pretty much everyone, including the catholic church.
     
    *If a woman shows any emotion, well, too emotional, what do expect from a woman? If a woman doesn’t show emotion, she’s a ball-busting b!tch. Naturally, if a male candidate gets tears in his eyes, it’s powerful, moving and wonderful.

  14. says

    Christopher:

    Her gender has nothing to do with why she lost the last primary she contested and why she will lose the next one.

    You really couldn’t be more wrong.

  15. Christopher says

    Really?

    The only people I know who voted for Hillary voted for her specifically because she was a woman.

    Everyone I know who voted against her did so based on the baggage of policies she has tied her name to.

    Exit polls implied a similar response among the electorate as a whole.

    If Hillary wasn’t a woman, she would have done much, much worse than she actually did. Being a woman helped her more than it hindered her.

  16. mikeyb says

    So Christopher, out of principle you’d prefer President Rand Paul or President Ted Cruz? Are you insane?

  17. D Carter says

    I’m no great fan of Hillary, but this old-woman thing is just weird.

    I mean, women live longer on average. It’s not like she’s had bypass surgery. The evidence is that she’s pretty much tough as nails physically given the Secr of State schedule she kept for years. We’re supposed to believe Newt and Christie have longer life expectancies? So I don’t get this.

  18. David Marjanović says

    Sadly, PZ missed the opportunity of saying that comment instead : “On the left, it was all “he’s black!”. On the right, it was all “he’s black!”.”

    You seem not to know what “urban” means, especially when a Republican says it.

    I wish we could clone Elizabeth Warren about 100 times so she could be president plus replace all those Democrats who are too busy osculating corporate rump to actually do something for real human Americans.

    + 1

  19. says

    Agree with PZ on all points about Ms. Clinton. However, we are facing mid-term elections. Progressives often don’t show up to vote, unfortunately. If they did, we might have better representation. I/we are presently working on a couple of campaigns for some fine progressive candidates; one a local commissioner position and the other is a Senate seat. Folks, if you care and can find a politician who is progressive, now is the time to volunteer or at least to become familiar with local issues and candidates.

  20. Christopher says

    So Christopher, out of principle you’d prefer President Rand Paul or President Ted Cruz? Are you insane?

    I seriously doubt that Rand Paul or Ted Cruz will be running in the Democrat primary.

    I have only posited that Hillary will lose the primary race for the same reason she lost the last primary race she contested and that reason has shit all to do with having to X chromosomes.

  21. says

    @mikeyb #4 – That is my basic election principle, too. I would dearly love to be able to cast my vote for someone, but all I’ve been allowed to do for decades is cast my vote against someone else. A vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil, after all.

  22. Ewout says

    and suddenly it sinks in that the Republican is a shameless cretin and the Democrat is a political opportunist chosen because he’s less likely to annoy Wall Street, and then we’re stuck

    The joy of a two party system. I don’t get why so many countries use such a terrible system (full disclosure I’m Dutch, we don’t have districts, thankfully). The outcome is utterly predictable, it always ends up as a two party setup where nobody is really happy with their choice. I’ll take the Dutch dozen parties in parliament, thank you very much. It’s slightly more chaotic but at least my vote means something.

  23. doublereed says

    She always seems pretty ruthless politically, which is a good thing for a democrat. But she also has that strong neoliberalism that just poisons the well for democrats.

    As I’ve said before, it’s interesting how the Republican candidates seem to be younger, while most of the Democrat candidates are older. Republicans seem to be much more obsessed with the ‘image’ of the candidate and I don’t think even average Americans cares that much about image.

  24. doubtthat says

    I am accustomed to the endless barrage of offensive shit coming from Fox and other right wing outlets. Regardless of who the Democratic nominee is, the nonsense will come. Bill Clinton should prove that whiteness and maleness aren’t shields against the right wing conspiracy machine (don’t get me wrong, it was worse with Obama due to race, and Hilary…holy shit, there’s sexism + all the crap they threw at Bill…).

    What’s going to be tough in this next election cycle is that the “Villagers,” as Digby would say, will be thoughtlessly pumping out tired, sexist shit with such a lack of comprehension of the offense they cause, that it will be impossible to even explain to them what they’re doing wrong.

    I think those types — the David Gregorys, David Brooks, Friedmans, Cokie Robertses…– were at least aware enough to know that their musings on race would be met with outrage, therefore that class was mostly (not entirely) silent on the racial tropes that the right was pushing. Somehow that same concern isn’t present in their discussions of women. Obviously, the Washington press corps is mostly white and male, and they either feel more liberty to be shitty towards women or their behavior is so socially ingrained that they don’t even understand how stupid they’re being.

    This is going to be a tough cycle.

  25. says

    How about this for a novel idea: Elect a person who isn’t a millionaire. Elect someone who has a clue what it’s like living on a minimum wage salary. Elect someone who, at least once in their life, has experienced the fear of not knowing if they’ll make rent at the end of the month, or of living without health insurance.

    Fat chance, I know, but if you do that, you’ll have change you can really believe in.

  26. mikeyb says

    Christopher, you’ve provided a nice summary of the first part of the script of talking points for Faux news/right wing talkers should Hillary be the Democratic nominee. They only like her because she is a woman, eeww she looks so old, Bill Clinton Monica Lewinsky, Bengazi Bengazi, Bengazi, repeated thousands of times with billions of Karl Rove, Adelson, hedge funders and Koch bros dollars.

  27. says

    Mikeyb:

    eeww she looks so old

    Well, yeah, it’s crime for a woman to be so much in the public eye and not be eye candy, right?

  28. Christopher says

    Which is another reason to nominate someone other than Hillary: the right wing hate machine already has a script for her. If we nominate an outsider, they have to do some actual work digging up dirt. Their incompentence at doing work results in such farcical objections like the birthers that normal people are turned off by the whole republican machine.

  29. peptron says

    @#20 David Marjanović

    You seem not to know what “urban” means, especially when a Republican says it.

    I stand corrected. I simply took it to mean the same as where I live. Simply being an accusation that the person is out of touch with the regions and only care about the big cities. Which would have fitted with the accusations of Obama being quite New York/Wall Street centric.

  30. says

    LykeX:

    How about this for a novel idea:

    Right now, I’d settle for the novel idea of taking a woman seriously, realizing that women are capable of thinking, critiquing a woman running for president on actual issues held, rather than 1) her age (oh gods, wrinkles!), 2) her emotions or lack thereof, 3) her clothing choices, 4) her hairstyle, 5) her makeup or lack thereof, 6) her husband or lack thereof.

  31. mikeyb says

    @Inaji30 Spot On!

    Ronnie Reagan – You look so dignified even with latent Alzheimer’s riding that white horse, a city set on a hill.

    Hillary Clinton – Why don’t you just retire, give speeches on the importance of girls having proper manners without displaying immodesty, and bake cookies for your coming grandchild.

  32. freemage says

    I supported Obama over Clinton for the reasons that Christopher mentioned–her history of stabbing multiple liberal constituencies in the back. This was actually emphasized during that primary season by her own decision to run as the ‘experienced’ candidate against Obama–she could only make that claim by owning her years as part of her husband’s team, which meant that everyone got reminded about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the failed healthcare reform plan AND the complete abandonment of environmental priorities. The only significant constituency on the Left that really can point to a positive Clinton 1 legacy is the pro-Choice faction–it’s pretty much undeniable that the only reason we didn’t get the late-term abortion ban was because of Bill’s willingness to veto the bill. It’s a fight I’m grateful we won, but I was hoping for so much more.

    Obama lacked that history (though, sadly, as evidence has made clear over time, not that ability). But claiming that sexism does not play any part in opposition to Hillary is just as inane a claim as saying that racism plays no part in the opposition to Obama. Supporters for both even used those very elements against one another in the campaign. (I maintain to this day that if Edwards hadn’t realized he was about to go Gary Hart, with a layer of cancer pathos rarely seen outside of Funky Winkerbean, that the Democrats would’ve patted themselves on the back for letting both a woman AND a black man get so far in the primaries, and then voted for the straight white guy. When Edwards withdrew, it pretty much imploded the ‘normal’ setting.)

    If Hillary loses the nomination, it will likely be because of BOTH factors, rather than either in isolation. Those most likely to not have their vote turned aside by sexism are the same Democrats most likely to resent her policies, making it tough for either group to generate enthusiasm for her. Folks insisting otherwise are failing Nuance 101.

  33. says

    @Inaji #33
    What strikes me is that every one of those points you mention are a catch-22.

    E.g. if she’s young, she’s clearly ditsy and immature, but if she’s old, she’s obviously too frail to be a good president.

    If she’s emotional, she’ll break down at the drop of a hat, but if she isn’t, she’s clearly a cold-hearted ball-buster.

    If her clothes/hair/makeup is too fancy, she’ll look like a model and nobody will take her seriously; but if it isn’t, she’ll look like a boring housewife and nobody will take her seriously.

    If she’s married, obviously her husband will make all the decisions, but if she isn’t, what’s wrong with her? Is she a lesbian?

  34. David Wilford says

    Given that Hillary Clinton came very close to winning the nomination in 2008, it’s reasonable to give her good odds on winning the nomination if she does run again in 2016, even though it’s eight years later. Right now there aren’t any other obvious contenders so she’s the favorite by default right now. Personally, I’d like to see California Governor Jerry Brown run again, if only because it would make me feel a lot younger.

    Anyway, if anyone’s really interested in Hillary’s record, you could do worse than to review her run in 2008. But if you’re not, the shorter Hillary’s record is this: both she and Obama had virtually identical stands on the issues raised during the campaign, and even John Edwards didn’t differ much from either of them. If you wanted actual significant differences, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich were the only candidates who stood out significantly from the crowd.

    Otherwise, I have better things to do than complain about idiot bloggers like Erickson. If John McCain could credibly run for president in 2008, so can Hillary Clinton.

  35. doubtthat says

    @28 LykeX

    In all fairness, both Bill Clinton and Obama grew up under those circumstances. Obviously neither of their presidencies were without problem, but given the range of options over the last 40 years, I think most folks would take Clinton and Obama over the alternatives.

    I do agree with your sentiment, however. I remember reading that when Russ Feingold lost, there was not a single member of the senate who was not a millionaire. What’s most concerning, however, is that a good number of Senators and House Members become rich AFTER entering Congress.

    I don’t know what the options are, though. Elizabeth Warren is definitely speaking to social justice issues, but she’s wealthy, now. John Edwards was the candidate really attacking those issues and he was rich and laden with some, er, problems that were later exposed.

  36. says

    I agree with 90% of this, but age of candidates is actually an issue. Not because age necessarily affects ability or position or whatever, but because older people are more likely to die/become incapacitated over a four/eight year period than younger people. Presidents dying in office is bad–it’s destabilizing, for one, but then the Vice President takes over. How many of our past few Vice Presidents and candidates for that position would you actually want in office? Cheney? Palin? And following that, the former VP, now just P, gets to appoint a new vice president without the check of an election, and that new VP can potentially become the new and completely unelected president, as happened within the lifetimes of some of those reading this.

    Clinton was born in 1947. If she wins in 2016, she’ll be 69–if she wins a second term, she’ll have about a 16% chance of dying of natural causes in office, whereas 59 year old woman would have 28% chance over an eight year term. Now, that’s just running the actuarial tables through a spreadsheet without correcting for class or race, but you get the idea.

    Now I’d never take someone I vehemently disagreed with just because they were younger, but in a primary election where the candidates are more similar, a better than 1 in 4 chance of dying of natural causes in office is going to figure into my calculations.

  37. says

    In times like these, I think back to all those childhood cartoons I watched with stories telling us not to judge a person by their appearance, gender, or race, but by their character. It makes me wonder if Republicans grew up with bizarro TVs tuned to negative numbered channels teaching them that it’s what’s outside that matters most, it’s only cheating if you get caught, and that crime pays.

  38. David Wilford says

    andrew @ 40:

    I’m pretty sure that President Hillary Clinton can avail herself of the same medical care that our U.S. Supreme Court justices currently receive, so unless there’s some underlying medical condition that’s serious enough to cause concern, she’ll be able to do the job into her mid-70s.

  39. says

    Right so, my comment ate a line from the second paragraph:

    “whereas 59 year old woman would have had a <6% chance. McCain, whose VP candidate we all remember and shudder, would have had a 28% chance”

  40. says

    @David @ 42:

    I’m not questioning competence at all, just running %-chance-of-death numbers through a spreadsheet.

  41. David Wilford says

    andrew @ 44:

    Actuarial tables have their uses (I used to be a programmer for turnkey life insurance systems) but only for judging general outcomes of a given group of people to better set insurance rates. They really aren’t a good guide for judging one particular person’s health. If Hillary Clinton’s doctor(s) go on record saying that she’s in good health, she can do the job.

  42. David Wilford says

    Regarding Hillary Clinton’s age, sure, there will be plenty of insulting digs before, during and after the 2016 campaign. But I also know that she is a good campaigner and likely would have won the 2008 nomination and gone on to be President but for a few crucial breaks that didn’t go her way. (I think Clinton was failed by her campaign advisers while Obama’s advisers did a very good job.) So sure, Republicans, make all the grandma jokes you like. I’m sure all the grandmas out there will be happy to hear them and have them in mind when they vote.

  43. says

    They really aren’t a good guide for judging one particular person’s health. If Hillary Clinton’s doctor(s) go on record saying that she’s in good health, she can do the job.

    I was thinking the same thing. I was also wondering if the quoted values take into account things that might improve outcomes, such as having access to high quality health care, preventative care, and lifestyle. I am pretty sure the Clinton family is not wanting for those things. Would the values be different if we only looked at those in a similar socioeconomic bracket.

  44. says

    Oh, goody. I had forgotten that aspect of the 2008 primaries, when the Obama supporters were telling the Clinton supporters that they were racist and the Clinton supporters were telling the Obama supporters that they were sexist. Thanks for reminding me.

    I voted for Obama in the primary because Clinton had a track record of being a right-winger on nearly every count, and at that time he didn’t. Not as extreme right-wing as the Republican Party, but well to the right of the majority of the Democratic Party, which (thanks largely to the influence of the Clintons, through the DLC beginning in the 1980s) is already an increasingly right-wing party. Within days of winning the nomination, Obama demonstrated that he was as bad as Clinton (the FISA telecom immunity vote) — but here’s the thing, he actually managed to get through the primary before being caught in an outright lie. Clinton couldn’t even manage that; remember the whole “dodging bullets” thing she had to walk back?

    Hillary Clinton would make a terrible president for reasons which have nothing to do with her gender and everything to do with her politics. To pretend that we owe her a vote based on her gender is ridiculous and shallow — just as bad as pretending we should judge her based on her age or her clothing. “She’s not perfect, but she’s okay” isn’t even valid, because she’s not okay. She’s a pure corporate shill.

    Those of you who want the Democrats to run a woman for president, and want people to support her on the basis of “she may not be perfect, but she’s good”: find a candidate who is actually good. How about Barbara Lee, or Barbara Boxer? (Or both! Barbara and Barbara!) You know, people who weren’t pushing wholeheartedly for both the Iraq war and the PATRIOT Act? They both have flaws, but I’d actually be much more likely to get out and vote for them than for another Clinton.

  45. mikeyb says

    I’m going out on a limb here guys, hate to spoil the party, but if Hillary Clinton decides to run, the way the current political money machine operates it is virtually certain she will be the nominee, and the choice will be Hillary Clinton or the garden variety Koch bros picked right winger. No good choice really, but still a clear choice.

  46. countryboy says

    Oh hell. When the Right starts in on the old hag thing just point out their favorite country elected Golda Mier repeatedly til she said enough.

  47. David Wilford says

    Oh, and regarding the complaint about Clinton not having her talking points about the issues up for all to read yet, there’s plenty of time for that before Election Day in 2016, no? Presidential campaigns are long enough as it is.

  48. Onamission5 says

    The last time a president elect over the age of 60 died of natural causes while holding office was 1945. Pretty sure medical science has improved since then. Clinton’s age as it relates to her health is not a factor of any significant consequence, let alone her age as it relates to her looks or her station in life.

  49. says

    We’ve forgotten the biggest presidential taboo of them all – a non-Christian president! To say nothing of an atheist/rationalist one. Won’t happen in my lifetime, quite possible never.

  50. says

    @49, mikeyb:

    I’m going out on a limb here guys, hate to spoil the party, but if Hillary Clinton decides to run, the way the current political money machine operates it is virtually certain she will be the nominee, and the choice will be Hillary Clinton or the garden variety Koch bros picked right winger. No good choice really, but still a clear choice.

    In which case we’ll have another low-turnout election which is amazingly close, because nobody is going to turn out to vote for either one who isn’t a rabid party partisan.

    Seriously, the Democrats keep bewailing how turnout is so low, but they keep running these horrifying corporate shills who are, at best, uninspiring and are usually actually revolting. Ever since the DLC started doing “triangulation” and bringing in neoliberals, the Democratic Party’s message to the politically disengaged has become “hey, why not vote for us? We’re exactly what every cynic says politicians are, opportunistic greedy liars, and we’re even transparently so, but why not support that? We promise to make a frowny face and pretend we’re reluctant every time we sell you out.” I’m not sure that that isn’t actually more revolting than the basic Republican honesty of “we hate you and everyone like you and we will gleefully do everything we can to hurt you while claiming that religion justifies it.”

  51. says

    I meant to write “Possibly never”. Hillary is far too hawkish for me, but I’ll console myself if she wins (I’ll vote for her, reluctantly) by being happy that ‘Merica finally has a woman president, so very long overdue.

  52. David Wilford says

    The Vicar @ 54:

    In which case we’ll have another low-turnout election which is amazingly close

    Turnout in 2008 for the Presidential election was 62% of eligible voters, and Obama won handily. Turnout in 2012 was 58% and the election was closer, but Obama still won by a comfortable margin.

    It’s the mid-terms where voter turnout drops dramatically. In 2010 turnout dropped to 39%, and the Democrats lost the House and lost seats in the Senate because their base tends to lose interest in off-Presidential election years. Of course, it doesn’t help that states with Republicans in power have enacted measures that make it harder for poorer people to vote.

  53. twas brillig (stevem) says

    tangent alert: I’m always puzzled by mentions of Hillary’s “baggage”. WHAT? The fact that her husband cheated on her and had an impeached affair with an underling, is now Hillary’s baggage? No mention of the state of the economy during her husbands tenure: Tax the rich, feed the poor, etc. leading to the largest budget excess ever (that Bush quickly reversed). Was she supposed to divorce him immediately, based on the “blue dress”? I know, as a woman she is responsible for everything negative her man does, but all the positive actions are his alone. But then “divorce” would just label her as incapable of commitment, of being resentful, and cajones-busting, for a simple mistake the poor husband did; why can’t she forgive him and continue being faithful, etc. etc. [but impeachment is perfectly appropriate; to boot a man out of a job for doing stuff on his own time, not related to messing up the job he was doin ...]
    .
    The Faux Noisemakers are mirroring the ageism, accusing Clinton of potentially exploiting her future grandmotherhood to lure the voters into voting for her.
    /rant ;-(

  54. Gregory Greenwood says

    Inaji @ 15;

    Agreed on all points – as LykeX says @ 36 it is always damned if you do, damned if you don’t when you are a woman in US politics in particular.

    Show any emotion at all, and you are incapable of making the hard decisions rationally, but show an arbitrarily defined insufficient degree of emotion (with the goal posts moving ever day, if not every hour, naturally) and you are a cold shrew or are ‘trying to be man’.

    If you are considered conventionally attractive, then you can never be taken seriously and undermine the dignity of the office by spending more time on your appearance and trying to be a sex object then on doing the job at hand. If you are not considered conventionally attractive, then you are ‘frumpish’ and lacking in the necessary personal charisma to succeed in the political sphere.

    If you have any known or suspected sexual history, no matter how mundane, outside the most utterly narrow progression from highschool sweetheart -> first boyfriend in a celibate relationsip -> marriage -> preferably sex for procreation only, then you are a ‘fallen woman’ (‘slut’ is too earthy a term for vaunted political circles, dontchaknow) of too ‘low a moral character’ to hold public office. If you have lived such a sexually quiet and uneventful existence, people will whisper that you are an anhedonic prude who has no empathy with how ‘real people’ live their lives, and so is not capable of representing their interests.

    If you are married you are merely an extension of your husband, but if you are unmarreid then there must be some sinister reason that you have been ‘left on the shelf’ (maybe even *gasp!* teh dreaded ghey).

    If you have children, then you will always be a mother first and a leader second, and cannot fully commit to the role. If you don’t have children, then you cannot understand the experience of parents, and are an ‘unnatural’, child-hating woman who refuses to perform her supposedly divinely ordained ‘duty’ to bring forth the next generation.

    If you show any real depth of belief in your values, then you a shrill, shrieking harpy nagging everyone within earshot. If you are cool and measured in your arguments, then you lack conviction and the strength of your beliefs, and so are too weak willed to represent the nation, especially on the world stage.

    If you argue forcefully, you are an angry woman with a chip on her shoulder who resents men. If you are more conciliatory, you are too weak and timid to weild power.

    If you ever mention social justice or woman’s issues, then you area one-note politician who talks only about feminism because you have nothing to say about the ‘real issues’. If you avoid such topics, and especially if you focus on areas that are considered ‘technical’ like economics, then you refuse to acknowledge your womanhood since you are too focussed on trying to force your way into the supposed ‘masculine spheres’ of political endeavour.

    Our society is so rotten through with misogynistic stereotypes that the list could go on practically indefintely. Vested interests have almost unlimited ammunition to use to keep women out of power, and a ready swarm of braying misogynists just waiting for the opportunity to tear down any woman with the temerity to think that she actually possesses the parity of political rights that she is supposed to be guaranteed under law.

  55. Christopher says

    The last time a president elect over the age of 60 died of natural causes while holding office was 1945. Pretty sure medical science has improved since then. Clinton’s age as it relates to her health is not a factor of any significant consequence, let alone her age as it relates to her looks or her station in life.

    In my opinion, there is a possibility of a situation worse than death: severe mental enfeeblement. Look at the second term of Regan, he actually started forgetting that the movies he was in weren’t real life. In such a case, the sycophants have the run of the asylum. While I might vote for someone like Mike Gravel or even Jimmy Carter, who I would surmise wouldn’t make it through their term mentally or physically intact, that is only because I would feel comfortable that they could purge most of the evil out of the crowd riding their coat tails. I know Hillary would have the worst of the worst neolibs in positions of power from day one. With the head chopped off that hydra, we would be as screwed (if not more) than if we had a repub in office.

  56. mikeyb says

    @54. I’m not expressing what I want to happen, but rather reality as I see it. If Hillary Clinton doesn’t run, the next most likely nominee is Joe Biden. Personally all things equal I’d prefer Hillary Clinton to Joe Biden. Personally I’d prefer we lived in a parliamentary democracy with at least a partially informed citizenry, where we had a range of actual choices with candidates with policies which support the middle class and poor instead of rhetorically so (modern democratic party). I say Hillary Clinton as a woman is a very positive thing, how can a woman’s perspective in governance not be a positive terrific thing but at the same time not be the sole reason to vote for her – the corporatist hawkish new democratic Bill Clinton style of politics are definite strong negatives so it is difficult to posit that it will result in any significant progressive change (from experience of all presidents since Reagan it won’t).

    I’d even support a southerner who talked something like this (minus the god stuff):

  57. Al Dente says

    Christopher @31

    Their [right wingers] incompentence at doing work results in such farcical objections like the birthers that normal people are turned off by the whole republican machine.

    You’ve forgotten how the Swiftboaters managed to persuade a lot of people that a decorated combat veteran was a coward and a man who went AWOL from the Air National Guard was a hero.

  58. doubtthat says

    @57 twas brillig (stevem)

    The fact that her husband cheated on her and had an impeached affair with an underling, is now Hillary’s baggage?

    This is my in-house leader for “trope the right cannot get away from and pushes endlessly while the rest of the country scratches its head.”

    There’s always one thing they fixate on as significant — Reverend Wright, the 8573762340234 Bill Clinton “scandals”–filegate, haircutgate, white watergate…

    They’ve already been batting that around on Fox. So bizarre.

  59. Christopher says

    You’ve forgotten how the Swiftboaters managed to persuade a lot of people that a decorated combat veteran was a coward and a man who went AWOL from the Air National Guard was a hero.

    1) Kerry was far from an outsider.

    2) I seriously doubt that anyone who claims they were swayed by the swiftboaters would have voted Democrat-anything under any circumstances.

    Kerry lost because he failed both the “would like to have a beer with” test and the “not a product of washington” test (plus a bit of voter fraud via Diebold thrown in which he was too timid to challenge).

    Zero people were thrilled about Kerry.

    When democrats run on the “I’m not a republican (in name if not policy)” platform, they lose. When they run on the “fuck this shit” platform, they win. This, in short, is why Hillary shouldn’t, and probably won’t, be the nominee.

  60. David Wilford says

    Since I’m a nice guy, I thought I’d give y’all a bit of help here and spend all of a minute looking up an answer to one of your concerns on teh intarwebs. Here’s what Secretary of State Clinton had to say about the Keystone XL pipeline at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club:

    “So as I say, we’ve not yet signed off on it. But we are inclined to do so and we are for several reasons — going back to one of your original questions — we’re either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada. And until we can get our act together as a country and figure out that clean, renewable energy is in both our economic interests and the interests of our planet, I mean, I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone how deeply disappointed the President and I are about our inability to get the kind of legislation through the Senate that the United States was seeking.”

    I’m shocked, shocked to see such triangulation going on in this establishment. For a fact, oil extracted from the Albertan tar sands (bitumen) produces 12% more CO2 emissions than does oil from other sources, including Saudi Arabia. It also pretty much trashes the environment where it’s being produced in northern Alberta. While I understand the frustration about not getting legislation through Congress thanks to the Republican control of the House, the fact is that exploiting the tar sands will do more harm than not exploiting them, and making it merely a question of where the oil comes from is misleading.

  61. robro says

    A few days ago Jon Stewart did a great send up of the media’s handling of “Hillary will be a grandmother” business (Romney has a bus load of grand kids and it was never really mentioned as an issue), and women being emotional (some great footage of famous Republicans weeping…male Republicans!). However, he too did not raise the question of whether Clinton represents a real choice or what sort of choice she might represent…because that’s never a question in American politics.

  62. David Marjanović says

    How about this for a novel idea: Elect a person who isn’t a millionaire.

    Would require overhauling the whole legal framework for campaigns. For instance… where I come from, it’s recognized that We The People have an interest in having multiple functional parties, so after each election for parliament the parties are each paid about 1 € of our taxes for each vote they got; so they have a source of income in addition to their membership fees, meaning they can finance campaigns without relying on donations alone, let alone on the “free speech of corporations”, and never mind the candidates’ own wealth. Has your head exploded yet?

    And following that, the former VP, now just P, gets to appoint a new vice president without the check of an election, and that new VP can potentially become the new and completely unelected president, as happened within the lifetimes of some of those reading this.

    This is one of the most ridiculous parts of the US constitution.

    If you have children, then you will always be a mother first and a leader second, and cannot fully commit to the role. If you don’t have children, then you cannot understand the experience of parents, and are an ‘unnatural’, child-hating woman who refuses to perform her supposedly divinely ordained ‘duty’ to bring forth the next generation.

    In any case, you must have a dog. US presidents always have dogs. Cats in the White House? *picks own skull fragments out of screen*

    we would be as screwed (if not more) than if we had a repub in office

    Not more. Given the current crop of Reptilians, not more.

  63. twas brillig (stevem) says

    robro:

    Yes indeed. One has to note; that Jon’s purpose there was to show how shallow (and hippo critical) the FauxNoise bozos were. It was not a booster for Hillary, just showing how shallow the FauxNoisers are. Like he points out; it’s like they don’t even realize they’re being taped. ;P

  64. david says

    If McCain could run at age 72 in 2008, then Hillary can run at age 68 in 2016. Don’t women live longer than men, on average?

  65. lpetrich says

    Seems like it would be great if the US could have proportional representation like many other countries do. In fact, one could do it state-by-state in the House without a Constitutional amendment.

    But why does everybody seem to act like it’s unthinkable?

  66. lopsided says

    If all they’ve got is mindless sexism, it’s going to piss off more female voters than bigots it sways. Absent a miracle candidate falling from the sky, I don’t see how she loses the Democratic nomination.

    (Last time I was pissed off about her Iraq vote and her neo-con foreign policy. It still troubles me, but there aren’t any alternatives.)

  67. atheistblog says

    After all these year after we learned about Clintons and now Obama, if you still think you could be wrong about them, I say you gotta be smoking some good shit, otherwise would wouldn’t blabber like that PZ Myers, PZM or whatever.

  68. mickll says

    And this is what politics has devolved into, not only in the United States but my native Australia unfortunately.

    Two economic neoliberalist parties shouting at each other over the window dressing!

  69. ck says

    atheistblog,

    If you dislike this place’s host so, there is plenty of internet you could darken instead. You really aren’t legally required to publicly take a shit on every single thread.

  70. ck says

    Hmm. I wonder if anyone could convince Wendy Davis to run if her run at the office of Governor of Texas fails. Her Texas 2013 filibuster was seriously impressive.

  71. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    After all these year after we learned about Clintons and now Obama, if you still think you could be wrong about them, I

    And why should I believe you, rather than PZ, when I look at real politics and see no viable candidates other than rethuglicans and democrats? If you go third party, you are helping the rethugs….

  72. robro says

    david #68

    If McCain could run at age 72 in 2008, then Hillary can run at age 68 in 2016. Don’t women live longer than men, on average?

    Ronald Reagan, the oldest yet, was 69 at his inauguration so he must have been 67/68 when he ran. If it was OK for him, I don’t see how any conservative commentator can make it an issue for Hillary. Of course, I understand that they will, just like they’re making a deal out of the grandparent thing for her but they didn’t for Mitt.

  73. says

    @76, Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    If you go third party, you are helping the rethugs….

    Looking at the Democratic Party at this point in time, if you vote for the Democrats, you’re also helping the Republicans, so there’s no point in not going third party. The Democrats smile and smile and smile and actively enable Republican policy. (Keystone XL? NSA spying? War in Iraq? War in Afghanistan? Austerity? Bailing out the banks? It would be a very slim sheet of paper indeed which could be pushed into the gap between the parties on any of those. Abortion? The Democrats share the Republican hatred for it, they’ve said “nobody likes abortion”, but they admit it’s necessary. The Republicans, meanwhile, failed to try seriously to stop abortion during the period when they had the presidency and Congress, so it’s obviously not as important to them as they tell their base it is. Gay marriage? The courts are going to take care of that eventually, now, anyway.)

  74. Steve Caldwell says

    With this column mentioning the “old” and “ugly” tropes that we expect to be rolled out against Hillary Clinton, it’s worth mentioning the article in the latest issue of the American Atheist’s quarterly magazine. The article talks about David Silverman’s visit to this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and is titled “Many Political Conservatives Favor Church/State Separation.” The author is Pamela Whissel (Editor-in-Chief).

    Here’s the quote in Pamela’s article describing the CPAC community’s culture through the merchandise available at the conference:

    This was the place to get a bumper sticker with the words “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” above pictures of an elephant, a donkey, and Hillary Clinton, respectively.

    If David Silverman and the American Atheists are attempting to discover an undiscovered population of atheists, are CPAC atheists the ones we want to recruit for atheism?

    There are probably more atheists to recruit at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly national convention. And the UU convention is a place where vendors don’t sell bumper stickers attacking a woman based on her appearance.

  75. Steve Caldwell says

    @63 Christopher

    Kerry lost because he failed both the “would like to have a beer with” test and the “not a product of washington” test (plus a bit of voter fraud via Diebold thrown in which he was too timid to challenge).

    Just about every Presidential race since 1960 has been just a grown-up version of a high school class president election. The “cool kid” beats the kid who is less “cool” (Obama beats Romney, Obama beats McCain, Dubya beats Kerry, Dubya beats Gore more or less, Clinton beats Dole, Clinton beats Bush, Bush beats Dukakis, etc).

    The question is who does the GOP have on their bench who can (1) get the GOP nomination, and (2) is perceived to be cooler than Hillary.

  76. says

    i don’t really understand how your electoral system works over there. It seems to strongly force a choice between these two archaic groupings.

    Here in Oz we have a growing number of minor parties and independents, because people are just fed up with the major parties and their lack of meaningful policy. Our compulsory and preference based system encourages it (and the major parties hate it).

  77. rorschach says

    I agree with the sentiment expressed by mikeyb @4, but I have also read No one left to lie to.

    It’s a dilemma for the US and the world. The pool of potentially reasonable candidates for the presidency, ie millionaires with a conscience, awareness of social justice issues and a lack of theocratic tendencies is rather small.

  78. Nakkustoppeli says

    The “old hag” trope is pure sexism, but age is a consideration and I’d prefer not to vote for anybody over 70-75 for President in a country where the President has significant executive legistlative or judicial powers.

    Here in Finland we had Urho Kekkonen (born 1900) as the President 1956-1981. Kekkonen was a former athlete and an avid outdoorsman and in his sixties and early seventies certainly fit for his age. In his prime he was an extremely skillfull and strong willed politician.

    He was a) between 1956 and 1968 able to grab huge (nearly dictatorial) de facto powers to himself basically without changing the constitution b) in his later years more and more senile. So from 1975 onwards his staff could get increasing power with no accountability and by 1981 Kekkonen was totally unfit to carry out his duties. It is known that he had at least memory lapses. His son was able to pressure him sign a paper in which he resigned immediately because he was no longer able to be the president. The next day Kekkonen thought that he was still the ruling President of the Republic.

    Other statesmen may have been able to rule successfully up to their 90s and some have died in their 40s. Still the risks of old age are there and they are worse for men. Whether Hillary Clinton is too old or not I’m not sure. I just wish the Americans could vote for a true progressive, which she’s not. And I wish I could vote for an uncorrupt and skillfull progressive here. For parliamentarians and local council representatives age is not really an issue.

  79. burgundy says

    David Marjanovic @66 – The Clintons had a cat (Socks).

    According to Rush Limbaugh, they also had a dog (Chelsea). It’s not hard to imagine what the Republican anti-Hillary campaign would look like – all that horrifying misogyny was fully on display when Bill was in office*. Add in ageism and the rallying cries of “Socialism!” and “Benghazi!” and boom, non-stop emetics for the whole length of election season.

    *I remember a joke about the “Hillary Clinton basket” at KFC – “two fat thighs, two small breasts, and a left wing.” My father told me that one (thanks, Dad) and he’s pretty much a straight-ticket Democrat, which is a nice illustration of sexism’s allure for even many liberal men.

  80. robertfoster says

    My wife is a woman and she wants a woman in the White House. Period. Well, maybe not period, Palin was out. She’s for Hillary for the simple reason that she’s female. That’s the way most of the women I know feel. I went for Obama for all of the reasons you pointed out, even though I ran afoul of my dear wife at the time. So, if Hillary runs, and she will, I’ll vote for her, despite the fact that I, too, have an aversion for family dynasties. Surely this nation of 330 million can do better. There are times when I lose faith in the whole damn thing.

  81. Nick Gotts says

    Ronald Reagan, the oldest yet, was 69 at his inauguration so he must have been 67/68 when he ran. If it was OK for him – robro@77

    That’s not a good argument, because Reagan, according to his son, was showing early signs of Alzheimer’s diseases even toward the end of his first term – so you can reasonably argue it wasn’t alright for him. Any high political office is demanding and stressful, and the US Presidency perhaps more so than any. With advancing age, there is inevitably increased risk of serious health problems in office – and it’s not easy to persuade someone they should step down, particularly in a condition such as Alzheimer’s, in which judgement of one’s own capabilities is often among the first areas affected. Clinton would be 69 at the start of her first term – not impossibly old, but old enough for it to be a significant concern in my opinion. Elizabeth Warren would be 67, Joe Biden 74, Howard Dean 68, Bernie Sanders 75. At a potential 61 at inauguration, Brian Schweitzer is the youngest of those who have expressed interest and are plausible Democratic candidates according to Wikipedia. Where are the capable and youthful, let alone capable, youthful, progressive and preferably female candidates? None of the others mentioned in the Wikipedia article are much known outside the USA, but maybe American commenters here have suggestions, from among them or elsewhere.

  82. David Marjanović says

    i don’t really understand how your electoral system works over there. It seems to strongly force a choice between these two archaic groupings.

    It does.

    The trick is that the president is both head of state and head of government. The head of state is, naturally enough, elected directly; that means all federal elections boil down to duels, where each of the two candidates with a chance accrues a party behind him*self for support, and then the parties continue to exist through the next election and put up the next candidate.

    * So far.

    The Clintons had a cat (Socks).

    *picks own skull fragments out of screen*

    I feel so young.

  83. twas brillig (stevem) says

    To jump in the “ageism” pool: I have to say that, ever since I was young, I would always remark that a President would appear to age 10 years for every year in office. That after 4 years (in office), he would look MUCH older than just 4 years. I always thought my “youth eyes” were deceiving me and discounted it as just a harmless delusion. After reading this thread, it seems everyone has a similar delusion, maybe not a delusion at all, but a real effect of all the pressure of such a demanding job. That leads to the question of balancing Youth vs. Wisdom.
    I.E. Wisdom is not just Age, but experience of doing all the wrong things to finally understand what NOT to do, not some magical formula giving one always the RIGHT thing to do. And to leave another loose end unraveled: Why is it women live longer than men? If “death in office” is a major concern, a woman of 60 is much less risk than a man of 60; right?
    .
    Grandma’s v grandpa’s:
    I know…
    Grandpa’s are just old guys, sitting on the porch, yelling, “you kids, get off my lawn”, while Grandma’s are just old ladies in the kitchen baking cookies to give to everyone. Grandpa’s don’t care about their grandkids, while grandma’s are obsessed with them. That’s why no one cared about Romny’s grandfatherhood, while EVERYone cares about Hillary’s potential grandmotherhood.
    [stereotypes in, stereotypes out...]

  84. Christopher says

    Oh shit!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016#Democratic_Party

    The democratic party is so fucking fucked. The republican field of possibilities is younger, prettier, and more diverse in race and gender than the democratic field by far. Under the ‘high school student council election equivalence’ theory, the democrats are doomed.

    Fuck.

    Our only hope is that the republican base is more racist and misogynist than they are pragmatic.

    One thing I know for sure, this election cycle is going to be long and miserable.

  85. Singe Drac says

    I agree, national elections are something of a joke. But still vote. First, because you can, and there’s still local elections to be influenced.

  86. unclefrogy says

    I finally read all of this thread and now am depressed. It leads me to the conclusion that it has to get much worse before it gets any better.

    uncle frogy