Most conservatives hate Hillary Clinton. And a lot of liberal articles have come forward recently asking people why. To them, the only reasons could be because you’re misinformed, ignorant, or a misogynist. Of course I don’t think this is the case, but I too have wondered why people hate Hillary. I am generally conservative, but I actually haven’t formed much of an opinion on her. My only real objection to her was the same objection I had with George and Jeb Bush. I don’t like aristocracy. I don’t like the idea of two people in the same family becoming president. It just means there’s a lot of who-knows-who going on.
But besides that, my thoughts on Hillary have actually been fairly innocuous. Much of this is because of a simple childhood memory. My uncle was a big-wig Economist in Houston and being young and impressionable I trusted whatever he said. As a group of us talked, he described how impressed he had been with Hillary’s work ethic. I was too young to know what they were talking about, but I left that conversation with one idea: Hillary Clinton was a hard worker. That went a long way for me.
From then until now something has changed. For whatever reason, whenever Hillary is mentioned there’s this sour taste in my mouth—nothing of substance, just a feeling about her. A feeling that isn’t even my own. And so I performed an honest evaluation: Why do conservatives, and why did I, dislike her.
As far as I can tell, the four most popular arguments against her this election are about how she handled her emails, the Benghazi situation, pay-to-play politics (or just general corruption), and her political positions. The first and second issues are widely debated. I think the general consensus is that she made some mistakes. She also agrees and wishes she did things differently. That’s as far as agreement goes. From there people disagree over the severity of her mistakes.
People who dislike Hillary believe either that her mistakes were reckless and extremely careless or that her mistakes were intentional and she acted with malice. While the latter belief may seems a little like a conspiracy theory, the reality is that conspiracies actually do happen and politicians are pretty likely to get tangled in them. We know Hillary has had a few cover ups throughout her career. And we know she has been less than honest with the public on a number of occasions. And this gets to the point of general corruptions culminating most recently in the pay-to-play accusations.
But from another perspective, for someone who has been involved with sensitive, top-secret information things were bound to go wrong eventually and people were bound to be offended. There’s a joke in most church governances. They say you lead a congregation until you’ve managed to offend everyone. That’s just the nature of leadership. You make hard decisions and there are consequences.
So there are a lot of possible reactions to the various accusations against Hillary and hundreds of articles have been written on both sides. I find myself pretty unsure about Hillary’s malicious intent and think her mishap is rather the semi-inevitable result of leadership. I know many of my conservative friends passionately disagree.
The fourth and main reason people express dislike for Hillary Clinton is simply her political policies. When you find yourself head to head against the same opponent year after year, a rivalry develops. This happens in sports all the time. And for whatever reason, even in something as relatively unimportant as a game, we tend to attribute negative characteristics to the rival team, particularly the players we remember from last year. These feelings can be strong enough to engender violence. It perhaps isn’t such a surprise then that our rivalry and familiarity with the Clintons has caused deeply negative feelings. Republicans have lost the presidential race twice in a row and are really feeling it this year.
But I think the main reason people dislike Hillary Clinton is not the rivalry, and not even the mistakes she’s made, or her corruption. At least for me, I remain pretty unsure about the facts and her various motivations. So I can’t speak to who she is as a person. But I do see in her the way a political life can reduce people to something that feels almost unhuman.
Our advancements in marketing technology has allowed campaigns to become increasingly scientific. They analyze carefully what soundbites will be most effective, what policies will bring in the most votes, and even what clothing to wear. The whole process has become a machine. But the thing is, we’re not robots. We remain always a little ahead of the mechanism. We can tell when we’re being pandered, tricked, and hoaxed. And when someone is in politics very long we often begin to see the way they bend, the changes they make, the warping of character that irrevocably take place when they trust too much in their science. Of course it may just seem this way. They are likely different in person. But to the public they feel mechanical—each action calculated to produce a specific and designed outcome.
Politicians like Hillary seem to believe what they do rather than do what they believe. And, though this certainly won’t satisfy the people who will accuse me of sexism, I felt the same way with Mitt Romney. He seemed too deliberate. And I am not sure it is avoidable in politics. But I hope it is.
At the risk of sounding sentimental, I believe there was a time when politicians didn’t know so much. Politicians had to engage a little more with their own heart and a little less with their party, campaign managers, and statisticians. And I think they must have come across a little more human and a little more like real leaders: people who could captivate, unite, and enliven the public. I could be wrong, I haven’t done good enough research to say for sure. But what I do know is that the politics that the public sees today lacks almost any authenticity. And I think politicians hold too tightly to their science. Which is to say, I think they’re wrong about us.
There’s this great line in Shakespeare’s Henry V after King Harry has conquered France and he is flirting with the princess Katherine. He wants to kiss her and she tells him it’s against the custom and wouldn’t be a very smart political move. And Harry says, “We are the makers of manners, Kate.” The point is that we’re not entirely defined by the science, customs, or parties. We create them. Leaders have more privilege than they think.
I believe that’s what people find attractive in Trump. I don’t like him and I won’t vote for him, but at least he doesn’t trust the algorithm. And if he’s done anything good, he has proved that the machine isn’t as competent as we thought. There’s something authentic in Trump even if it’s scary, ugly, and mean.