Saturday, September 29, 2007

There's Something About Hillary

Just days after 9/11 they had a benefit concert for firefighters and policemen at Madison Square Garden. Free tickets were distributed to firehouses and precincts. Newly elected Senator Hillary Clinton came out to greet the audience... and was roundly booed. So much so that she seemed shaken. Minutes later, Bill came out and was applauded wildly. She hadn't established a separate political identity at all from him yet. Why was one of them so popular and the other so unpopular? Sure, Bill is charismatic and emotionally warm... and Hillary does come off as a little stiff and cool. But does that explain the visceral dislike she inspired?

I don't think the reactions to Hillary are all due to her personality. The first lady plays an archetypal role in the national dream life: she is the mother figure. This particular mother had professional accomplishments; she went to work on health care. On a subconscious plane, this raised Hillary into a role she didn't choose. In our minds Hillary came to represent the greatest social transformation of our time: the entry of women and mothers into the work force. This revolution widened the productive resources of our society and has allowed many women to realize their full human potential. That is wonderful and it has been much celebrated. But it also created a lot of suppressed anger and resentment.

Freudians would call it projection. A lot of the good feelings, but mainly the bad feelings about absent mothers are overlayed on her. By being emotionally cool, Hillary unfortunately wears the role of the absent and rejecting mother too well. In the distorted faces of those firefighters and policemen -- a little tipsy and booing lustily -- there were lonely latchkey kids.

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