How will America respond to a ferocious Hillary?

If I didn’t care so much about this damn election, I’d forget the politics and just intently await the answer to a fascinating sociological question.  Can a woman in American politics, especially one running for president, prosper by being harsh?

Let me be clear.  From a personal standpoint, I believe women in politics should be judged by no different standard than men.  If we admire brutal toughness in a male candidate, we should admire it just as much in a female running for office.

But at age 52, I’ve long since discovered that not everything I believe ends up carrying the day.

And what’s interesting about the Democratic debate that just concluded, from a sociological standpoint, is how completely Hillary Clinton broke the traditional gender rules for a female advocate.  In general, it has long been accepted (as a trial lawyer I know a little about this) that a woman can appear tough and be effective, but she can’t afford to come across as harsh.  When a woman advocate becomes harsh, according to the conventional wisdom, she turns off a lot of people.

Tonight, Hillary Clinton was harsh — impressively so intellectually, but harsh.

While I’m not a Hillary supporter, as a strong believer in equality for women, I hope she isn’t punished for this, at least in a gender biased fashion.  I hope we’ve moved past that so that men and women are judged alike in such matters.

But to be honest, I think she may be.  Maybe not among Democrats, who tend to be more liberal in such matters, but more broadly in the general election. 

But if nothing else, it should be a learning experience. 

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12 Responses to “How will America respond to a ferocious Hillary?”

  1. Larkrise Says:

    I just can’t find it in myself to like her or trust her. I admire her intellect, her determination, and believe she does want to make a difference. However, she will give deference to the fat cats who have contributed to her campaign. Such is the way of politics. Always has been. Always will be. If a politician gets elected once, their eye is on the second term. At least, campaigning has forced her to get back in touch with the people. I think a person, male or female, can be strong without being harsh. But, when exhaustion sets in, and winning becomes an end in itself, less desirable behaviors start to show themselves. Stress and fatigue work their negative influence. This election is going to bring out all kinds of biases. I wish that it were not so, but that is looking at the reality of this country through rose-colored glasses.

  2. Again Says:

    Can a woman in American politics, especially one running for president, prosper by being harsh?

    how about Maggie Thatcher? (Ok, ok, was not American, but surely closely related ;-) )

    While I’m not a Hillary supporter, as a strong believer in equality for women, I hope she isn’t punished for this, at least in a gender biased fashion. I hope we’ve moved past that so that men and women are judged alike in such matters.

    while i agree to the latter i would like to see all people be punished for being harsh without having to defend life and limb. What is civilization all about if we still use “stone axes” whenever we want just because “we can do”?

    Do you know what the duty of the Strong was in ancient philosophy? Self discipline. Because the stronger persons (be it men or women) are, the less they can be controlled by others - so they have to control themselves. Otherwise justice is not possible, because who should protect the weak if not the strong - even against the strong themselves?

    “What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana forced on the world by American military power. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men & nations to grow & to hope & to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men & women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.” -John F. Kennedy

  3. Chuck Says:

    There is an interesting article in today’s New York Times called Political Animals That talks about politics in other animal species, and often it is the female of the group that is the political boss.

  4. Chuck Says:

    O.K. let me try this again. Folks, I’m so prescient I scare myself. I just read today’s “Tom Dispatch”, and Chalmers Johnson has just said everything I’ve been saying in my disjointed fashion, but of course he says it better.

  5. Chuck Says:

    Blast! I went off message with that Tom Dispatch thing! That is SO unlike me.

  6. johncp Says:

    You creeps are relentless! Why can’t you lay off this lady? What is your problem? Why do you accuse Hillary of being any more harsh than her competitors? Why are you trying so hard to derail her campaign? Talk about cowardice. Your assault on Hillary is incredible . . .

    From Steve: I’ve only posted a few lines from what was a much longer comment, due to violation of the café policy against personal insults.  I decided to post this much, however, because I think the comment reasonably raises the issue of whether I unfairly singled out Hillary Clinton in using the word “harsh.”  Clearly the other candidates weren’t angels during the debate either.  Their “harshness,” however, wasn’t relevant to the point I was making.  Still, I probably should have mentioned it.

    That said, the suggestion (made rather graphically in unposted portions of the comment) that, for instance, “You’re afraid of Hillary.  You’re afraid of this ‘castrating female,’ aren’t you?” (it gets worse) is simply nonsense.

    One of the tiresome aspects of the generally fun “job” of blogging involves dealing with people who attack you for what they wish you had said so they could have legitimately attacked you for it, as opposed to what you actually said.  But so it goes.

  7. Chuck Says:

    “So it goes.” I think I first read that in a Kurt Vonnegut novel. But I’ve used it a lot both before and after I read it. (My wife hates it when I say that.)

  8. DonnaWade Says:


    I’ve had more than one critic in my life that, as I phrase it, “put words in my mouth to argue with me later.” So, I feel your consternation…

    Personally, I didn’t find Hillary all that harsh. I thought she did a pretty good job of immediately responding to some of Obama’s snarkier comments, and was glad to see her get her back up about something. As mama would say, “good on her!” She showed she can slug it out when she thinks it’s necessary (though I wish she’d do that on issues of war and funding it.)

    Women “firsts” are always severely tested. As one of the first two female police officers in a rural Georgia town (1975), my co-workers first took me out to prove I could shoot, then surreptitiously set me up in situations forcing me to physically restrain someone much bigger and combative than I. To test my emotional/psychological readiness, they sent me to every suicide, child abuse case, and grizzly traffic accident that happened over the course of my rookie year, which felt like they’d ganged up and said “let’s throw THIS at her and see if she can handle it.” But I handled it all, usually with a sense of humor, but sometimes I had to stand up for myself, and I didn’t mince words.
    Some called me a “ball-buster”, most left me alone. I learned that the “old boys’ club” will push, and test, and sabotage…until you put your foot down and call them on it.

    I haven’t decided yet who I’ll support Feb. 5, but Hillary’s still in the running for my vote. Face it, there’s not a woman alive who’d be worse than what we’ve had the past two terms…I’ll probably vote for Edwards or Kucinich, unless the desire to see a woman President in my lifetime overcomes my ability to reason…

    From Steve: Thanks Donna, this is exactly the sort of discussion I was hoping my post would help to generate.  Having a woman clearly in the lead for the nomination creates a dynamic that’s never existed before.  While none of us believe her gender should hurt her, it is a factor in the race and we should be able to discuss it in a reasonable fashion.

  9. Larkrise Says:

    Send the attackers back into cyberspace where they can dwell with all the other attack homo sapiens, including Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Bill O’Reilly, Michael Savage, ad nauseum. It is rather a crowded environment.

  10. Again Says:


    Your assault on Hillary is incredible …

    + Steve

    One of the tiresome aspects of the generally fun “job” of blogging involves dealing with people who attack you for what they wish you had said

    yes, know that from “former times”. Usually (on liberal blogs) those trolls were “patriotic defenders of a strong America” and hated each and every slightest touch of criticism as if using blinders and ignoring facts would change anything anyway

    and i know, that - since those mentioned “former times” - the blogosphere is a hunting ground for people who try to influence others. I’ve even heard that offices pay persons for that (know “Pay Per Troll”?), especially in times of elections

    so, sorry to say that, johncp - but you attract attention…

    i never read something of you before Hillary Clinton from the heart, where Hillary Clintons own blog-collecting-blog responded

    so please, johncp, keep in mind, that brains retrieve information in two ways: first by comparing kinds and second by comparing times. Then think of the way your brain has to compare - by using memory. To compare kinds is easy - you just look for equalities (remember Leibniz? “That which cannot be distinguished from each other is equal”) . But to compare “times” brain has only one chance: To capture events and store it in chronological order to detect the cause-effect-connection. And if there are two events at the same time, hypothesis is that the cause of both effects is the same

    that is the simple foundation of information retrieval, you can see it everywhere: if something happens at the same time people tend to think that it is correlated - and comparison in kind is even easier to be proven right: look around you and think of the fact, that your eyes just retrieve light, distinguishable by colors - actually, you see only colors and your brain creates monitors and keybords, letters and pictures - with nothing else than comparing colors. If colors are equal - the seen surface is put together, if colors are not equal, a boundary is defined separating two different things. Add to this memory and voila - a world arises out of randomness

    true, an only hypothetical world - but the necessary first step for each and every information retrieval to be able to create an object-behavior-model out of chaotic input

    i just told you that to show you that i don’t want to attack, offend or flame

    because it is just the way brains work

    so if you and Hillarys entry came to us at (nearly) the same time and if you act in a special way (like those paid commenters), those two things must inevitably be put together - until disproved, of course

  11. Mwakingup Says:

    I am Very upset with Hillary, and the way she is behaving is exactly why, if she is the nominee, the dems will not make it to the White House. She is not a very likeable person and a very polarizing person. Repubs are licking their chops at the thought of her as the candidate.
    I am a democrat and a woman and would love to see a woman in the white house but I do not want Hill. She is nasty and downright cruel and if that is the way she has to get there I want no part of her.
    She and Bill are an embarrassment to our party!

  12. marcinmin Says:

    This is supposed to be a debate, not a lovefest. Yes, there were a couple of cheap shots, but, IMO, most of the points and questions were legitimate. If Obama wants to be President, he needs to toughen up and be prepared to answer hard questions about his record. It isn’t going to be any easier after the primaries, when the Republicans start going after the Democratic nominee. I don’t agree with Hillary on all the issues and support Edwards at this point, but she is showing her experience and breadth of knowledge on the issues. I do think Bill needs to tone it down a bit, since he is an ex-President. It is unseemly for him to be a hatchet man for the campaign. I’ll support any of the three Dem candidates over any of the current Republican ones.

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