The majority of anti-Hillary sentiment may not be steeped in sexism. Hillary Clinton was viewed as polarizing long before she ever ran for president.
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For months we have been bombarded with increasinglyamusing analysis regarding the identity politics atplay this presidential election. I say amusing becausethe headlines and articles have featured questionsranging from the inane -- "Is Barack Obama blackenough?" -- to the overly simplistic -- "How will blackwomen voters be able to decide who to vote for whenfaced with both a black and a female candidate?." Infact I have been holding my breath and waiting for thearticle titled, "Left Handed voters from the South whoknow black females, find themselves torn betweenloyalty to left handed candidate or staying true totheir Southern Roots."

Yes I am being sarcastic but you get my point.

I was reminded of the complexities of analyzingidentity politics when I came across the results ofLifetime Television's recent poll of female voters.One of the poll's most significant findings is that"Hillary Clinton was the only candidate who registereda significant net change in public opinion sinceJanuary: 26% of women surveyed said they like her lessnow compared to just 15% who said they like her more."While a lot has been made of the historic nature (andnovelty) of the diversity of the two leadingDemocratic candidates in this election, a lot has alsobeen made of the expectation that their candidacywould translate into automatic support among thecommunities they represent. The thinking has gonesomething like this: Wouldn't every black Americanwelcome the opportunity to vote for a highly educated,(and let's not forget as Sen. Biden reminded us"articulate") candidate like Barack Obama? Andwouldn't every woman jump at the opportunity to helpour country finally make history (long after countrieslike England and even Pakistan already have) byelecting Hillary Clinton its first female president?Regardless of whether you support them or not, onething that can be said for both candidates Clinton andObama is that they are two incredibly smart, capablepeople. (Heck, let's admit it. They are likely smarterthan most of us -- which is exactly how a presidentshould be.)

But traditional identity politics are becoming,increasingly, a thing of the past. In the 1960s itmade a whole lot of sense for someone like me to votefor someone else who looks like me, for absolutely noother reason than the fact that he or she did. Becauseat the very least I could be assured that they wouldbelieve that I should have the right to vote for themregardless of my skin color or gender. Today thestakes are not nearly as clear-cut. While debatesabout the morning after pill or affirmative actionremain important, they are still less likely to evokethe emotions that debates over segregation and Roe v.Wade did. Furthermore, today it is much less likelythat just because someone looks like you they aregoing to agree with your fundamental politics. Anexample? Two words: Clarence Thomas.

Which brings me back to another common mistake peoplemake when attempting to make broad generalizationsabout identity politics, and the role that race andgender play in them.

While much has been written about the role that raceand racial innuendo have played in Sen. Obama'scandidacy, much more has been written about the rolethat sexism has allegedly played in Sen. Clinton's. From claims ofoverzealousness by male Obama supporters, to claims ofbias in the media (as confirmed by the media authorityknown as Saturday Night Live) a number of Clintonsupporters have argued, and she herself has inferred,that the barbs she has faced are rooted in the factthat she is a woman. What they all seem to haveforgotten is that she is not just any woman.

While no one will ever claim that chants of "Iron myshirt" are anything but the sexist rants of a ravingmisogynist who should be deplored, denounced, (if nottarred and feathered) accordingly, this does not meanthat the majority of anti-Hillary sentiment is steepedin sexism. The reality is that Hillary Clinton wasviewed as polarizing by a number of men and women long beforeshe ever ran for president. The reasons why vary. Yessome view her as cold and calculating. While othersconsider her untrustworthy -- a perception sniper-gatedidn't exactly help eradicate. Maybe it all dates backto the infamous cookie comment.Frankly, as someone who grew up admiring her (and yesin the interest of full disclosure I interned for herfirst campaign) I never really got why so many peopledidn't like her. Part of me wonders if it's justbecause she's not as naturally charming andcharismatic as her husband. But how many of us are?

Ultimately the reason why some people perceive HillaryClinton as polarizing is much less important than thefact that they do. This means that having a seriousand accurate discussion of the role that sexism hasplayed in the perception voters have of her, and ofher treatment in the media is virtually impossible. Itwould be like trying to have a serious discussionabout race in America through the prism of how manyWhite Americans voted for Al Sharpton when he ran forpresident, and how the media covered his candidacy.That would be ridiculous because everyone knows thatthere are plenty of people -- including black people -- whodon't like Al Sharpton, will never like Al Sharpton,will never vote for Al Sharpton and it's not becausehe's black. It's because he comes with a certainamount of history and a certain amount of baggage. Andwhile we all have baggage, there's a differencebetween those who have carry-on luggage and thosecarrying an entire suitcase or two.

Sharpton is packing a couple of steamer trunks. So isHillary.

Like it or not she's not just any woman.

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