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April 17, 2012

The Hillary Meme Explained


TEXTS FROM HILLARY came and went, but it really didn’t end because the meme lives on. In the last few days, for example, the Tumblr electricity was captured and relayed through the wire photo from Cartegena above. But if Hillary’s the epitome of cool right now, the question is, why?

Well, for one reason, Hillary’s all that because she’s the biggest A-tier politician, public figure, and cultural celebrity in this PR-driven, me-me-me culture right now who could care less about the attention. She’s everywhere because she doesn’t seem ego-invested. (Otherwise, this wouldn’t be funny).

Remember the utopian vision of the Obama campaign and the early days of the Administration — that Washington would lay down the switchblades and embark on a new “post-partisan” era? The dream might have been blown to bits in an instant, except that, after one of the most epic political brawls in history, fueled by race, gender and a previous Presidential legacy, Hillary kept faith with it.

And, how many ways has the State Department gig played a role in the Tumblr phenomenon?

First off, the Secretary of State position is a solemn one and Hillary, mindful of the propriety, has managed to keep her head down (in contrast to all the pols in town who relate to his or her position as a personal vehicle). Second, whereas Condi floundered in the job for years with hardly anything non-self promotional to show for it, Hillary has helped heal America’s neocon-induced international alienation (and the Gaddafi and bin Laden erasures haven’t hurt her either). Third, a more procedural point but a significant one: holding the State Department job means Hillary cannot do any electioneering. The fact that she’s been depoliticized, especially in an election year, has put her a quantum leap above the fray.

And then, the fact she insists she’s not running for president again (and who in our narcissistic culture with similar assets wouldn’t start to salivate over the brass ring?) is again très cool.

Finally, let’s not overlook the gender dimension. As females are being rolled like bowling balls in the direction of every possible oncoming bus, how rare is it to find a woman in the political sphere (keep your pants on, Weiner) who can’t be f-cked with?

(photo 1: AFP caption: Just hours after attending Saturday’s official dinner for the heads of state and government attending a 34-nation Latin American summit in the Colombian tourist resort of Cartagena, Clinton, pictured here on April 15, was seen partying in a nearby nightclub. Pictures of Clinton’s happy moment went viral, the second time in a week that her fun side has become an instant hit on the Internet. photo 2: Diana Walker for Time)

  • bks

    I’m guessing that Obama would trounce Romney in a dance contest.


    • jonst

      yeah?  From what hear, his Secret Service people could be the dance contest judges. 

  • Caraf

    There is also something generational happening, I think. Hillary is in the space of life where the working mom conversation no longer applies to her, which frees her rhetorically and visually from some of the more predictable gender politics of late in the campaign. (Remember cookiegate of 1992?) Maybe all this media coverage signals she is in her Eleanor Roosevelt phase?

    • jonst

       Eleanor (friggin) Roosevelt phase?  Hillary!?  Hillary Clinton, the Sec of State, the one in the picture? That is who you write of?   If so, that would be a metamorphosis only slightly less startlingly “than Saul’s on the road to Damascus”.  

    • Michael Shaw

      Thanks for the observation. I couldn’t quite get a handle on the generational aspect. I think the other factors are also critical, though — the lack of ego (at least, as far as anyone can see) and the political “neutrality.” Otherwise, being a senior statesperson is just as circumspect a role/stage as any other.

  • karen h

    love the nerd girl = cool undercurrent, especially with the Maddow and Clinton tumblr.

  • Thomas Gokey

    The aura of JFK is largely a result of our collective imagination of what might have been. Al Gore grew in stature for the same reason. As the gap between 2008-candidate-Obama (where Hillary Clinton came off as the villain) and the downright cynicism inducing 2012-president-Obama widens, I have to wonder, what might a Clinton presidency have looked like?

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