The prince’s body and the body politic, 2016

Henry VII and Henry VIII at left, Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour, at right. Copy of the Holbein's Whitehall Mural, ca. 1667

Henry VIII and Henry VII on the left, Elizabeth of York and Jane Seymour on the right. Copy of Hans Holbein’s Whitehall Mural, ca. 1667

(Deep background:  This post recalls some of my earlier arguments about the dynastic nature of American politics, about which Americans are mostly in denial, at least when the dynasties involve male pols only.  American politics became even more royalist in the first half of the twentieth century, when the U.S. emerged as a major international player.  They’ve become even more royalist in the succeeding 70 years since World War II, in the years that the U.S. became a “superpower” and then the global hegemon.)

Queen Elizabeth I, 1592, by Marcus Gheeraerts

Queen Elizabeth I, 1592, by Marcus Gheeraerts

Hillary Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia last week.  It’s an entirely treatable condition suffered by more than one recent pol on the campaign trail, but looking at the media coverage of this ridiculous non-story, you’d think that she was Henry VIII on his death bed without a male heir.  And that’s the American press coverage–it’s almost as though reporters on the 2016 campaign trail are unaware that the health of the nation is not entirely dependent on the health and heartiness of our Dear Leaders.


Abraham Bosse’s cover for Thomas Hobbes’s Leviathan (1651),  a massive prince looming over his kingdom




We await breathlessly the report of the royal physician on the state of the prince’s health.  Long live the prince!  Thank goodness it’s just pneumonia, rather than a massive stroke, crippling polio, chronic heart failure, chronic heart diseaseAddison’s disease, or Alzheimer’s!  To quote my husband, a licensed and boarded M.D.:  “In case you’re wondering, these are all worse than pneumonia!”

Oops: George Washington had neither daughters nor sons! (1772 portrait by Charles Willson Peale).

Oops: George Washington had neither daughters nor sons! (1772 portrait by Charles Willson Peale).

There is in fact a plan of succession for the executive branch of the U.S. government.  It’s all right there in the Constitution:  you can look it up in Article II and then the 25th Amendment.  We don’t invest our national security in male heirs or surviving children in our Republic.  Rule of Law is so much more sensible, don’ t you think?

Eleanor Clift had a brilliant column about Clinton’s brief illness yesterday in The Daily Beast called “Hillary Clinton Isn’t Sick.  You Are,” in which she highlighted the absurdity of the sexism and ageism of the alleged desire of some Democrats to replace Clinton with Joe Biden.  Unka Joe–of course he’s nearly 74–as Clift points out, “five years older than Clinton with a history of brain aneurysms.”  And this was reported by Cokie Roberts, who will see her 73rd birthday later this  year, dog willing.

Listen to your elders, people:  Clift, who is 76, has had it up to here with your ageism and sexism:

We think of ourselves as a youthful country even though the U.S. population is aging. We like more recently to elect presidents who are in their prime, in their forties and fifties, and we indulge them in their inexperience. Clinton defies recent history as someone who is highly qualified but struggles to excite and inspire. Bernie Sanders surprised everybody becoming a rock star as a septuagenarian. He even had a doppelganger in the comedian Larry David to connect with voters.

Clinton is on her own to make her way. There is no template for a woman of her vintage. “Ageism is rampant these days, but of course it’s worse for a woman,” says Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University.

Clinton is on her own.  She’s always been alone.  We Americans have already piled more responsibility on her nearly-69-year-old human shoulders than we should have.  Those of us in leadership in the Republican party who ignored the calls of Main Street Republicans for real jobs and a social welfare net and instead counted on whipping up the rubes with promises to “end Obamacare” and “Jeezus hates feminists/gays/baby killers” bear a lot of the blame.  Those of us who are Republican voters didn’t take our citizenship seriously, so instead of nominating a Republican presidential candidate within the range of “normal” for Republican nominees, we nominated the man I’m now calling The Human Stain (after Philip Roth’s trilogy.)  We Republicans are responsible for this.

Those of us in the news media who thought The Human Stain’s candidacy was a joke and so never subjected him to the scrutiny that long-time politicians have endured also bear much of the blame.  We are guilty of offering he said/she said reporting that offer false equivalencies rather than evaluations based on facts and proportionality.  We reporters are to blame for The Human Stain.

Those of us who are Democrats also didn’t take our responsibility seriously in the primaries, and we entertained for far too long the quixotic candidacy of a lifelong gadfly with few real achievements, preferring instead to believe 25-year old rumors and lies about Hillary Clinton in order to justify “feeling the Bern!”  Those of us who are too pure to affiliate with a governing party are also to blame, because we were vulnerable to the lie that Democratic and Republican politicians are all the same and offer equally odious policies, so we Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, and so-called “Independents” are all to blame as well.

clintonalone2016So now we have Hillary Clinton, all alone, as our only backstop against The Human Stain, and all of the shame and fraud and ignominy that his election would bring upon us all, and for good reason.  Hillary Clinton is all alone because we’ve preferred to insult, condescend to, and abandon her, and the reaction of many of us is, “OMG Trump is gaining in the polls.  Why doesn’t that stupid b!tch do something???”

(Those of you who were around in 2008 may remember the acronym WWTSBQ?, or When Will/Why Won’t That Stupid Bitch Quit?  Now we’re all like, “oh, noes!  Why won’t she be the only responsible living American???”)  So why don’t we do something, friends?

This is why I predicted exactly one month ago that Hillary Clinton’s historic presidency is going to be four to eight years of “Mo-om, where’s my sandwich???instead of “Thanks, Hillary Clinton, for saving us from our stupid, selfish selves.”  Prove me wrong, America!  Prove me wrong, for once, goddamnit.

34 thoughts on “The prince’s body and the body politic, 2016

  1. To fill out the Republican primary portion of the “who is to blame for The Stain” analysis from the perspective of a participant/observer:

    One of the biggest elements of this is that the “establishment” donors broke hard (to the tune of $160 million) and early for Jeb Bush, despite internal polling which showed that he had minimal support, even within the “establishment” base. They were supporting an unelectable primary candidate, essentially on the assumptions that he was a safe supporter of their interests (probably correct), and that a big fundraising lead would scare off his competitors (flat wrong). This blunder was then compounded by the Bush campaign primarily focusing on attempting to take down the most attractive “establishment” candidate, Marco Rubio, rather than leveling any fire on Cruz and The Fascist. This was perhaps the most comically misspent money in US political history, and perhaps the most comically misdirected campaign.

    The more general miscalculation within Republican circles, shared by me, was that there was a “ceiling” on support for The Fascist in the 40-45% range, which would essentially prevent him from winning enough delegates to take the nomination. The New York primary proved that to be wrong.

    P.S. I could not help but thinking “Who lost Vietnam” as I was reading this. . .


    • I agree with you, Profane, but I think Little Marco turned out to be a lot less appealing to the base than I thought he would be if the base were rational. (Then again, he also seems like a pretty lazy guy too. If he had the work ethic of Hillary Clinton, he’d be unbeatable, I think.)

      Bush was the wrong horse, but so was Rubio. I think the Republicans this time around let the perfect be the enemy of the close enough, and so they ended up not with perfection, but with a guy who (as you say) has a disturbingly deplorable high floor but a very low ceiling.


      • I do not know that Rubio himself was lazy, but his campaign certainly was – the attitude was that activists would realize that he was the future of the party, and the rest would follow, absent the nitty-gritty that is necessary to do well in Iowa and NH. (I applied for a position in his campaign, and got the standard brush-back letter – but did NOT get the message to “Contact so-and-so if you want to volunteer.” The thing that makes this campaign malfeasance all the worse is that I was in NH at the time).


  2. “you’d think that she was Henry VIII on his death bed without a male heir.”

    Ha! I was hoping you’d post something about this ridiculous media-manufactured non-story, and you did not disappoint.

    And can we talk about David Axelrod’s “her vulnerability is not health, it’s stealth” for a moment? He was on NPR this morning, where he doubled down on the “criticism” (er, gratuitous concern-trollery) that he made a few days ago (apparently candidates to high office are to immediately divulge any and all information about their current state of health within less than six hours, or else they’re just proving that they have something to hide!: but this new, and fundamentally irrational, standard only applies to HRC, of course). Talk about insulting, and condescending to, and abandoning Hillary Clinton. I mean, I guess we already knew that Axelrod had no love, and very little respect, for HRC; but at this stage in the race, his willingness, his apparent *need*, to undermine “our only backstop against The Human Stain” is really a little bit shocking (if not especially surprising). As a seasoned, veteran political operative, there’s no way Axelrod doesn’t know what kind of game he is playing, no way he doesn’t realize that when the clock hands are at ten minutes to Doomsday, to unfairly attack Hillary Clinton is to lend support to Donald Trump.


    • I’m sure Axe’s former boss (aka POTUS) doesn’t appreciate the unchecked hostility towards Clinton. Most people got over 2008 in 2008 before the general election. If not then, most people got over it sometime in the past 8 years, at least in public if not privately. Surely he knows that POTUS’s legacy and his political mojo depends on a Clinton win.

      As you note, he’s been pushing that “it’s not the pneumonia, it’s the secrecy” line for days now. Ick.


    • Ugh, I hate him so much. So much sexism fro so many so called liberal men.

      Plus, she was diagnosed on Friday and told reporters on Monday. Even if she didn’t have a right to privacy (which she does, because, as docrocktx26 notes, she is a public servant and the next president, not a kardashian) can’t she get a weekend off?

      But no. Women’s bodies belong to the public the moment they are fricking born. I hate the patriarchy so much.


  3. I walked through a case of pneumonia when I was about four. No big deal. Actually it was a big deal, but that was mostly the paediatric spectacle performed for the benefit of the parents. They even used to put kids in things called “oxygen tents” on the wards back then. From the inside out it was, as I say, no big deal. A landslide of toys arrived outside the tent. My 350+ pound practitioner had to stop smoking in the room with the clicking dials and the hissing tanks. I kind of think Hillary can handle this one.

    It’s nuts out here where print has actually literally died. They don’t even sell the local rags in the monopolistic convenience store, west of Altoona, anyway. But I saw a clip on the news of Obama putting on a home run derby show in Philadelphia the other day. Wisht I’d of stayed for that one. Joe Dell is needed to run the moonshot. We can stop panicking. Pennsylvania is going to stop this one in its tracks.


  4. Ronald Reagan was freakin’ senile during his second term! Possibly even during his reelection campaign. And the be-damned senior media said NOTHING! Who ran the country during that time? None of that revered media has even asked the question. Was it Nancy’s Edith Wilson moment? Or HW Bush’s unofficial first term?

    On a somewhat related note, I got a laugh this morning hearing about Colin Powell’s emails where he whined because Clinton screwed up at least one cushy speaking gig. I was less amused by the description of him as a respected figure on foreign policy. The guy who lied to the UN about WMDs in Iraq. Yeah, that Colin Powell.

    That line by Rockwelll sounds ever more appropriate: “But why do I always feel like I’m in the Twilight Zone?”

    Get well, Hillary!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t have anything substantive to add, only my frustration (rapidly increasing to rage) about this idiotic pneumonia non-story. If it’s a story, why shouldn’t the story be: Bada$$ candidate continues campaign despite pneumonia? Bada$$ candidate cares so deeply about attending a memorial for 9/11 she almost passes out? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m under the impression that “pushing yourself past your limits” has been always been part of the job description for a president.

    Secrecy! holy jfc. I can’t deal with it. I can’t listen to NPR anymore. As terrible as the media coverage of 2008 could be, I’ve never seen anything like this year (and I hope I never see it again).


    • HAHAHAHAHA!!! Get used to it. It’s going to be 4-8 years of this stuff, and that’s if we’re being OPTIMISTIC!!!

      You’re absolutely right: the media took Trump’s frame of “weakness” and swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, instead of seeing Clinton’s determination to power through as evidence of toughness or determination.


  6. I appreciate you analysis of the body politics and the body politic of the 2016 Campaign season. There are so many ways in which HRC has been unfairly denigrated and scrutinized by the press and the peanut gallery alike. But I do need to quibble with this:

    “Those of us who are Democrats also didn’t take our responsibility seriously in the primaries, and we entertained for far too long the quixotic candidacy of a lifelong gadfly with few real achievements, preferring instead to believe 25-year old rumors and lies about Hillary Clinton in order to justify “feeling the Bern!” Those of us who are too pure to affiliate with a governing party are also to blame, because we were vulnerable to the lie that Democratic and Republican politicians are all the same and offer equally odious policies, so we Democrats, Greens, Libertarians, and so-called “Independents” are all to blame as well.”

    After reading this paragraph I was left wondering: So are we Democrats really all to blame for Trumpismo, except the people who accepted the historical necessity of HRC’s campaign?


    • I think the viciousness of some of the BernieBros definitely forced many people who are proud Clinton supporters to go underground with their enthusiasm, making the “she’s so unpopular” argument kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. This gives the “false equivalence” narrative in the media more juice: that this is an election in which both nominees of both major parties are “historically unpopular.” Except, of course, Clinton won the Dem primaries with a commanding win over Sanders, whereas Trump had no such margins (and neither, of course, did Obama.)

      But I will also add that the “we’re to blame” rhetoric in my post isn’t just a rhetorical strategy. I include myself among the blameworthy this year. I haven’t done this year what I did in 2008, which was to support her candidacy with direct financial contributions. I do have a Dem party campaign worker sleeping in my guest room for a few weeks right now–and I will probably use that connection to see about volunteering my time for the campaign. There are still 7-8 weeks to go–which is in part why I wrote this post. What are we doing to beat Trump besides fret about whether or not Clinton is doing enough? Why not pitch in?


      • In fairness to democrats (and Axelrod aside), a lot of berniebros were not democrats and would not have voted democratic.

        This is my third presidential election as a professor in a social science that touches on policy issues and my students are absolutely silent about politics this time around. I have seen exactly two HRC bumper stickers and one trump sticker. The town is papered in signs for mayoral candidates and various city counsel positions. This is exactly the opposite of my experience with the last two elections where the students were loud and proud and give or take 50% Obama for each election. I suspect a majority are Clinton supporters (both reluctant like my neocon RA and silently enthusiastic) being silenced by a small number of Trump supporters and Trump supporters not willing to let their racism flag fly with black and Hispanic students in class and a female professor lecturing.

        I haven’t actually met an “out” Trump supporter yet, despite living in a red (maybe purple soon?) state. My Republican colleagues are all voting Clinton, even the ones who sat out the McCain election (b/c Palin) and voted Romney. My sister, otoh, is being harassed at work by a bunch of racist misogynists with anti-Clinton posters. She’s considering going to HR.


      • Totally agree on this point. The pissyness of (some? a few? many?) Democrat supporters of Bernie has somehow sucked away the enthusiasm that there should be for the FIRST F’ING WOMAN NOMINEE FOR THE PRESIDENCY OF THE US OF A!!!

        Some of these people drank the Obama koolaid in 2008, got disappointed, and have decided they are done with “the system.” Fine. But the rhetoric of “I will hold my nose and vote for Clinton” is insidious. It gets repeated on social media, and it drains away all the peer pressure/force of emulation that got people out to donate, volunteer, call, canvass for Obama.

        Like nicoleandmaggie, my college town–which was plastered with Obama yard signs in 2008 and 2012–has virtually none for HRC. Not a single sign in my neighborhood except the precinct captain’s house. And local campaign HQ isn’t helping. I’ve been calling and FB messaging to find out where to get a yard sign. Crickets there, too. Very discouraging.


      • Our headquarters is out of Hillary yard signs and we’re waiting for more to come in. I haven’t seen many around town, however. I think they get stolen. Across from the Loveland Democratic headquarters, some men have made a point of parking pickup trucks plastered with Trump signs.


  7. At a minimum, I would say, carrying the “Bern” onto the streets of Philadelphia, and all of the anticky kid stuff inside the convention itself, including the restless murmuring when the actual Bern was trying to make peace, and the histrionic walkout, like it was 1968 or something, and the like, would carry a degree of responsibility for the whole “two historically disliked candidates, in two badly-divided parties, limping toward the finish line” journalistic trope.

    Separately but relatedly, I thought that the New York Times “public editor”‘s effort to refute the “false equivalency” critique last Sunday was pretty weak.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Don’t miss Rebecca Onion’s take on this (with a little assist from me & from Jacqui Antonovitch of Nursing Clio!). She writes,

    The idea that female success is a crime against the natural order has had a startlingly long shelf life in American culture. A story in the National Enquirer, last year, began: “Failing health and a deadly thirst for power are driving Hillary Clinton to an early grave.” Hillary is an older white woman who has defied cultural expectations, accumulating positions of influence and racking up successes in the public eye. She has desired a position she doesn’t deserve and she isn’t suited for; she must be paying with her flesh.


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  11. Here’s my report on canvassing in Loveland. As you probably know, Loveland is more conservative than Fort Collins. My mother and I went out together; we were given clipboards with the addresses of likely Democratic voters and we were to ask if they were planning to vote for the Democrats again, record their responses, give them literature, answer questions, etc. It was discouraging how many streets we hit that only had one or two houses on them.

    A number of people weren’t home, of course. The younger people were disappointing; they all said they were planning to vote third-party or were undecided. At one house we were assigned to talk to a woman who wasn’t home, but the man of the house, wearing a big gold chain and no shirt, and holding back a pit bull puppy, helpfully bellowed at us that “she’s not voting for Hillary!” After we left, my mom muttered, “Or you’ll beat her up, right?” I cherish the hope that this woman is telling him that, but secretly fills out her ballot for Hillary.

    The place we got the best reception was at the retirement home. We weren’t supposed to be in there because you needed a code to get in, but an old gentleman helpfully opened the door for us. We had a great time talking to several old ladies who were all in for the Democrats and said they’d tell all their friends, too.


    • Thanks for the intel. Profane is right: young people are deserting Clinton. She is already on this with surrogates like Sanders and Elizabeth Warren stumping for her in some swing states on college campuses.

      We’ll see if things might turn around–it’s distressing to me to see such blatant evidence of the disinclination of ANYONE, not just young people, to see and older woman as inspiring or powerful. BTW, I live in Greeley, which has a reputation for being more conservative than Fort Collins, but I think has a growing number of Democrats b/c of the Latino presence here. (The white ppl. here are probably more conservative than the white ppl. in Fort Collins, but I think Fort Collins’s reputation as a “liberal town” is greatly oversold. That’s not the vibe I get at all anywhere South of Drake or Horsetooth.)


      • One of the people I talked with said that she was concerned about Trump because she wants to leave a better world to her children. So she’s going to vote for the Green Party, and of course if enough people do that it will end up throwing the victory to Trump. I wasn’t there to argue with people, but it was hard to bite my tongue.

        Liked by 1 person

      • As someone says in my Twitter timeline every damn day: “congratulations if you’re white enough that it doesn’t matter to you if Trump is elected president,” or something like that.

        Ugh. White people: when Clinton wins this, please write thank-you notes to every black or brown person you know to let them know how much you appreciate them saving the country, AGAIN.


      • She wasn’t white, though, which makes it even crazier. There are a lot of people who don’t understand why voting third party is a throwaway vote, or who have a consumer/shopping mentality when it comes to their vote.


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