Friday 15 December 2017

'Clintipathy' could turn polling day into fright night for Democrats

Hillary Clinton takes the stage with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado after being introduced at a campaign rally at
Pasco-Hernando State College in Dade City, Florida.
Hillary Clinton takes the stage with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado after being introduced at a campaign rally at Pasco-Hernando State College in Dade City, Florida.

Celia Walden

The hair was the easiest part. The morning after I had one-clicked 'Hillary Clinton wig' on Amazon, a 100pc synthetic, side-parted, $11 mop landed in my mailbox, worryingly described as 'Female Political Candidate Wig' on the invoice - as though there could only ever be one helmet hairstyle for all 'overly ambitious' women worldwide.

The make-up, too, was surprisingly simple: a discreet touch of eyeliner, rouge and a poppy-painted lip to showcase that ever-gaping battle-cry mouth. But the pantsuit. Lord, the pantsuit. It took two flea markets and four charity shops to locate the perfect Mao-collared magenta marquee. And it was only as I stepped out on to the streets of Los Angeles on Halloween night, feeling every inch the Democratic presidential candidate, that my daughter pointed out my mistake: "Look, Mummy - everyone else is Hillary, too!"

Trying to explain to a four-year-old why so many Americans find Hillary Clinton scary, even ghoulish - and why, in a cast of characters involving headless corpses, flesh-eating zombies and vampires, she fits in just fine - was more enlightening for me than her. Outside the US, we don't fully understand 'Clintipathy' - a term coined this week by 'Time' magazine to describe the pathological hatred people have for Hill 'n' Bill (although, since it doesn't apply to Bill on his own, it's basically just directed at Hill).

Accurately described as "one part totally rational, one part sexist and unfair", Clintipathy has been building momentum for 20 years, reaching its apotheosis last Friday with the FBI's bombshell decision to reopen the case on the legality of Hillary's email server, after "pertinent" information was uncovered during the sexting investigation of disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner.

The importance of this latest development in fuelling the rational part of Clintipathy cannot be downplayed. Now, at least, there is a socially acceptable (if disingenuous) reason for voting Trump that can be aired at dinner parties and over garden fences without fear of ostracisation. And it may well be that Weiner's 'wiener' has single-handedly changed the course of this election - and the future of America.

But the truth is that it has always been about symbolism with Hillary, as though - impossible as it is to see her as a real, feeling, flesh-and-blood woman - she has been reduced to a series of badges and emblems.

Inset bottom: a youthful Bill and Hillary.
Inset bottom: a youthful Bill and Hillary.

That photograph of her bespectacled in her liberal hippie years inspires antagonism, as did the Clintons' yuppie Eighties period. Her 'female political candidate' hair symbolises hardness, her pantsuits a lack of femininity.

But most of all, right down to that smug and permanently open mouth, she is to many the symbol of corner-cutting entitlement, which is why the email scandal has been so damaging to her. And, presumably, why Republican FBI director James Comey did everything he could to widen the trust gap between her and the American public by taking the unprecedented step of sending a letter to Congress announcing his discovery of these "pertinent" emails on the second to last Friday before election day. Because, despite Comey's repeated insistence that the FBI is above politics, his reasoning - "I… think it would be misleading to the American people were we not to supplement the record," he wrote in the letter - was as feeble as it was transparent.

So far, so logical. But it's the "sexist and unfair" part of Clintipathy that's most interesting. Because, as the more powerful part, it's the reason we could see Trump elected president on November 8.

"If only there were a third box on the ballot paper marked 'anyone else'," my Mexican Uber driver said the other day, "I would tick that one. But if it's the lesser evil, I have to go for Trump."

Many on this side of the Atlantic would be baffled by that statement. As they would be by the misogynistic lingo constantly used to describe Hillary out here - the worst of which invariably comes from women. One local mum even defended her (secret) decision to vote Trump with the words: "Hillary wouldn't qualify as the first female president anyway - she's more man than woman."

Aside from her ambition, there's actually nothing manly about Hillary. Sure, she's hard-nosed and steely, but no more so than every contrasting-lapelled female news anchor - and certainly no more so than any top woman executive. There is, however, a traditionally female trait she is lacking - and it's that trait which, in my view, is at the root of Clintipathy and is the most sexist and unfair aspect of it.

Just as certain nationalities and minorities are expected to be obsequious, women are expected to be solicitous, and that is the one thing Hillary Clinton cannot and will not be. "Men can't stand her because she reminds us all of our ex-wives," a (divorced) man once explained to me. Why? Because ex-wives are some of the very few women who have zero reason to be solicitous. In fact, they wouldn't even give it a go if their lives depended upon it.

Hillary may have been up 12 points and down again in the space of a few days, but there isn't a pollster in America who can tell us whether, a week from now, people are going to vote rationally or irrationally.

Since there isn't an 'anyone else' box, America will have to choose from two of the most 'dislikeable' candidates it has seen in decades. Yet given how likeable - and disappointing - their president of the past eight years has been, perhaps dislikeability would be a better measure of who would be the best man or woman for the job.

And let me tell you that on the night of All Hallow's Eve, when Hillary Clintons flooded the streets in their droves, they sent the handful of Trumps running - hands on toupees - for the hills. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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