Hillary Clinton is having a bad month of September. The FBI summary of its interview with the former Secretary of State regarding her secretive email practices was not flattering, and her appearance at an NBC presidential forum was underwhelming.
Then, on Sunday, after dismissing concerns about her health as “conspiracy theories,” Clinton nearly collapsed at a 9/11 anniversary event in Manhattan. Then we learned she had been diagnosed with pneumonia days earlier. Oh, and her lead over Donald Trump in the polls is steadily eroding.
Hillary’s bad news has been accompanied, perhaps inevitably, by invocations of gender and sexism. For example, here’s what Hillary tweeted several hours after the FBI published its report on her emails on September 2:
When Ruline was born in 1913, women couldn’t vote.
In 2016, she’ll cast her vote to elect the 1st woman president. pic.twitter.com/QSCZI7JbrV
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 2, 2016
According to The Hill, the candidate and her campaign allies have launched a coordinated effort to accuse her critics of sexism. Former First Daughter Chelsea Clinton criticized Trump for using “the sad, misogynistic, sexist rhetoric that we hoped we had moved beyond in the 21st century.”
These cries of misogyny have ranged from creative to hysterical. On the creative side, we have Clinton surrogate Jennifer Granholm, who found a way to shoehorn sexism into legitimate critiques (including some from Democratic allies) over Clinton’s failure to disclose her pneumonia diagnosis.
To press lamenting @HillaryClinton‘s health/transparency: “powering through” illness is what women do: Stoically, every. single. day.
— Jennifer Granholm (@JenGranholm) September 12, 2016
Christiane Amanpour got in on the action as well.
On the hysterical side, Peter Beinart warns in the October issue of The Atlantic that Hillary’s candidacy has “provoked a wave of misogyny. . . that may roil American life for years to come.”
Okay, let’s calm down for a second. It’s true that Hillary Clinton has consistently underwhelmed as a presidential candidate. Might there be a less apocalyptic explanation? National Review’s Charles Cooke suggests an obvious one:
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) September 9, 2016
Hillary Clinton is not very likable. As a result, many Americans do not like her. This explains why, as a candidate for president, she has consistently underwhelmed. This year, Hillary struggled to fend off an improbable challenge from a crotchety socialist. In 2008, she lost to an inexperienced but far more likable opponent.
Ironically enough, one of the things even Hillary’s own supporters didn’t like about her 2008 campaign was the constant invocation of gender. (Also the blatantly racial appeals to “hard-working” “white voters.”) For example, the New York Times 2008 endorsement of Hillary argued she had “tarnished” the campaign by playing the “first woman president” card, which she did often.
You’ve probably forgotten about the time Hillary deflected a debate question about the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and her surrogates’ attacks on Barack Obama by referring to herself “as a woman who is also a beneficiary of the civil rights movement.” [Insert eye-roll emoji.]
This is why people don’t like Hillary. This sort of answer is par for the course. During a Democratic primary debate last year, for example, she deflected criticism of her financial ties to Wall Street by playing both the gender card AND the 9/11 card, a rare move that is more often seen in parodies of hapless politicians.
“I represented New York [as a senator], and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked,” Hillary said. “Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is.”
Politicians make absurd, condescending statements like this all the time while running for office. It’s why people don’t like politicians in general. Hillary’s case is somewhat unique, not because she’s a woman, but because she manages to embody all of the negative qualities of the stereotypical politician—ruthless ambition, militant opacity, moral flexibility, relentless pandering, obscene roboticism, shameless greed, routine dishonesty, among others—without any of the “positive” ones, such as charisma (See: Clinton, Bill).
Hillary isn’t even a graceful liar, a problem her husband never had. Part of the reason is that she is constantly under investigation and therefore must provide cagey answers out of legal necessity. She also puts herself in situations that compel her to say things that are blatantly untrue.
“We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” she boasted to a crowd of liberal supporters in March. Months later, when an unemployed coal miner confronted her, Hillary said the statement was “totally out of context from what I meant.” Right. She can’t even answer a simple question like “What is your favorite ice cream flavor” without running it by a focus group.
Hillary’s handling of her recent health scare is a perfect example of behavior that turns off, or at the very least weirds out, a large number of voters, irrespective of the candidate’s gender. Politico reports that after nearly fainting and being hauled into a Secret Service van, Hillary “almost immediately began assessing the political fallout.” See, she’s just like us!
The New York Post adds that a “campaign operative” overruled Secret Service protocol, which called for Hillary to be taken to an emergency room, and decided to take her to her daughter Chelsea’s $10 million Manhattan condo instead in order to minimize the potential for leaks to the public about her health.
Maybe Hillary has nothing to hide, but she frequently behaves like someone who does. None of this is normal, even for a conventional politician, and you don’t have to be a member of a grand misogynist conspiracy to have trouble relating to her, or liking her, or trusting her, or not voting for her. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.