No doubt we’ll see and hear more of this as the campaign continues. . . .
On tonight’s Chris Lydon Show (WGBH – Boston), the topic was The Hillary Rorschach Test. How many ways can we hate Hillary Clinton? Let us count the ways!
According to Lydon, “Has any American icon been so variously reviled as Hillary Clinton? You hate her because she’s too far to the left, you hate her because she’s too far to the right, you hate her because she triangulates. You hate her for her hair, her looks, her marriage, her career. You hate her because she wasn’t a good wife to Bill, or because she refused to leave him when he cheated. This is what Jack Hitt calls the Hillary Rorshach Test, a phrase that apparently originates with Hillary herself. Hitt argues that what’s interesting is not what our intense reactions to Hillary tell us about her, but what they tell us about ourselves.”
The experience of listening to Lydon’s show reminded me of a course on Psychoanalysis and Literature that I took at the University of Vienna back in the early 1970s. Nothing was what it seemed to be, whether we were discussing scenes from Kafka or Shakespeare or Eliot or Mann. Hillary would have felt right at home in that class. And whatever deeper meaning we might ascribe to her constantly changing hairdos, her sometimes combative ways in political debate, or the accommodation she has made to Bill Clinton’s past — whatever that says about Hillary, it says even more about ourselves. Or so Lydon and Hitt believe. Never in their world is a cigar just a cigar, certainly not if Hillary is holding it.
Perhaps the only one on the show to see the cigar as a cigar, was pollster Frank Luntz, who noted that Hillary Clinton’s political success will depend on her political views (surprise!) and how well “she carries herself.” In other words, how well she comes across as a likeable person, and not as a Rorschach test that the rest of us can use to evaluate our teetering interpersonal relationships in a post-feminist, post Andrew Dice Clay world of sexual ambiguity (which evidently exists more prominently in Bean-Town than elsewhere in the Universe.)
All of this begs the question: so what’s new? Unless we are the most fervent logical positivist, everything “out there” has meaning that transcends its own “objectness.” A dove means peace, a heart means love, an elephant means a Republican a-hole. To take Hillary Clinton’s history and turn it into a theme for Lydon’s sophomoric thesis, does a disservice to Hillary Clinton, his listeners, and political discourse in the US.
So let’s call that show what it really was: one big intellectual circle-jerk. I hope you all feel better now!