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Leslie Loftis: Hillary and Chelsea. A feminist dream ticket lacking the common touch


Two months ago, even two weeks ago, if anyone had mentioned that a Hillary Clinton candidacy was beatable, I would have laughed. While I think she is a terrible choice for President of the United States, I thought if she managed to get the Democratic nomination, she would likely win the election. Like Barack Obama before her, she’s a feel-good candidate. People want her to win.

But she has a problem with the common touch. Bill had it, Hillary doesn’t. Their daughter doesn’t have it either, witness her Telegraph interview in which she explained that she tried to care about money:

“It is frustrating, because who wants to grow up and follow their parents?” admits Chelsea. “I’ve tried really hard to care about things that were very different from my parents. I was curious if I could care about [money] on some fundamental level, and I couldn’t.”

Her attempt at passive-aggressive bragging—neither she nor her parents care about money—backfired by highlighting her wealth relative to most of those reading her comments. Who but the wealthy have the option of not caring about money on some fundamental level?

Normally, the gaffes of political offspring wouldn’t matter. Chelsea’s comments matter, however, because Hillary does things not as Hillary Clinton, politician, but as a woman breaking the glass ceiling.

To whip up women’s support, Hillary puts her sex in play in a way that Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi, or Golda Meir did not. She gains some female votes that way but loses the ability to own her tough reputation because it makes her look tough on men rather than tough on the issues, and patriarchal oppression theory dictates men win the women vs men contests.

By framing the contest as one she assumes she will lose, she creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wary of a tough woman reputation, her political team has struggled to soften her image for 20 years. In 2016, they can’t have her rely on her husband. Among other things, that flirts too dangerously with implying that women, even the pantsuit aficionado former SecState, in some way needs a man.

Given the Anything for the Sisterhood attitudes prevalent in American society, presenting a mother-daughter team is more politically appealing than a husband-wife team. For this campaign Chelsea is playing the role of political wife.

But Chelsea lacks the common touch, like her mother does. Hillary and Chelsea are the Hepburns. Recall the movie about Howard Hughes, The Aviator. He dated Audrey Hepburn. She took him home to meet her family in a “delightful” scene, Dinner at the Hepburns. The Hepburns could be socialists because they didn’t need to rely on other peoples’ money. Or, as Hughes retorted, “You don’t care about money because you have it.”

With the Clinton women’s pronouncements of being dead broke, of trying to care about money, or not being truly wealthy because they pay their taxes and earned their wealth with “the dint of hard work”, the last of which begs a question about the kind of rich people they know, Hillary and Chelsea are making the Hepburn mistake. It’s not being rich that is the problem. It is assuming that rich people’s problems are just different problems. (This also sounds like another member of Hollywood royalty, Gwyneth Paltrow.)

Hillary and Chelsea think that they can connect with folks on Main Street by relating to them. ‘See, our problems are the same, save the number of zeros.’ But by thinking they can relate, they show how little they really know about life without the extra zeros.

Americans don’t care much for how rich someone is if she can demonstrate that she knows what the zeros mean. In the Clintons family, it seems that Bill is the only one who can do that.

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Leslie Loftis
Leslie Loftis
Leslie is a once and future American expat, most recently in London. She is also a lawyer and former local political campaign operative turned freelance writer. She currently lives in her hometown of Houston with her husband and their four children. Find her on twitter @AHLondonTX.

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