Thursday, June 01, 2006

Hillary Clinton as Batwoman

By: The_Bell
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DC Comics has just announced the reintroduction of Batwoman. The original superheroine premiered back in 1956 but was subsequently killed off in 1979. The new Batwoman will share some commonalties with her predecessor – her alter ego is named Kathy Kane and she will wear a costume replete with cape and boots. However, DC says they have also decided "to give her a different point of view." By this they mean that Batwoman is now a lesbian.

Fan reaction to the change ranged from outrage to hearty approval, with a wait-and-see sentiment dominating. "This is not just about having a gay character," DC insists. "We're trying for overall diversity in the DC universe."

Then there is Hillary Clinton's presumptive run for President in 2008.


The poster Catorce asked a really good question the other day on the BOTF board – "Why don't you like Hillary?" There’s More... Expand PostHe goes on to explain, "I've heard a lot of the 'I just don't like her' stuff. But I have yet to hear responsible coherent criticism."

I must point out that while "I just don't like her" is certainly not a rational argument, it is a very real one upon which countless Americans will base their vote should Clinton run. Indeed, generally liking/trusting a candidate seems to have become more important to a great many of us than where that candidate stands on the issues since at least Ronald Reagan and probably all the way back to Washington.

That said, let us examine some of the reasons why people "just don't like" Clinton in a more analytic light. One Democratic strategist has labeled her "black licorice," meaning that the people who like Clinton find her irresistible while those who dislike her absolutely despise her. I would argue (tongue-in-cheek) she is also the new Batwoman of politics and can be best understood in those terms.

1. They're Both Chicks
Let's get the most obvious thing out of the way first. Generations of the boys and men who comprise the (usually) unwashed masses of comic book enthusiasts have long enjoyed feminine superheroes. Yet there is a smug assumption that they remain sidekick material in the presence of their male counterparts. Batwoman can kick all the bad-guy ass she wants when alone. If Batman is standing next to her, however, she is expected to graciously swoon and allow herself to be protected by a real hero.

Blame genetics, blame societal stereotyping, or anything else you prefer. Likewise, many men – and, in honesty, more than just a few women – would vote against Hillary simply because she is a woman and the office of President historically has been a male domain.

2. Lesbian = Liberal
For very conservative comic book readers, the very fact that the new Batwoman is gay makes her immoral. Those less traditional in their views may still find themselves uncomfortable should artists follow Kathy into the privacy of her boudoir with a consenting adult. Even those who have no problem with it whatsoever may still worry whether her lesbianism will impair the new Batwoman's widespread appeal and acceptance.

Hillary Clinton is seen by many conservatives as a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. When the Clintons first came to Washington, many Democrats whooped that, at last, serious progressive were once again in charge who would put an end to the inanities of the Reagan era. Bill Clinton did not do that – in fact, he ended up moving the Democratic Party to the right-center.

That was partly out of political savvy and partly because personal scandals kept him too preoccupied to implement much of any agenda he may have had. Republican scandal makers, having lost the husband as a liberal bogeyman, turned to the wife and insisted she was always the real force behind Bill in that direction.

Nobody doubts that Clinton could probably win the Democratic nomination. However, many fear that Republicans could easily defeat her in the general election by tarring her with the old "tax and spend liberal" charges. Clinton herself is certainly worried about it, given her propensity over the past year to move herself to the ideological center and engage in tough talk regarding Iraq and social values.

3. She's From New York
Gotham City, the haunt of Batman and Batwoman, has always been considered to have been modeled on New York City and "Gotham" is an old NYC nickname. Unlike Superman, who often left his also New York-like city of Metropolis to fight for all of America or even the entire world, Batwoman tended to be bounded by her native city.

One of the reasons for Clinton's recent emergence as a viable Presidential candidate is the bipartisan respect she has earned over the past five and a half years while serving as the junior Senator from New York. The problem is that New York is one of the bluest of Blue States and is often inseparable in many people's minds from the very liberal New York City. Clinton may have gained Rupert Murdoch's esteem but that just makes her a successful liberal carpetbagger in the minds of many Red State voters.

4. She Already Died Once
One of the more subtle factors working against the new Batwoman is the fact that she had a predecessor who suffered the ultimate failure for any superhero in dying. Unless they are John Wayne at the Alamo, a hero's reputation only tends to suffer rather than being ennobled by being defeated. We cannot help but remember the weakness from an earlier time.

In this sense, Clinton the candidate will not be able to escape her ill-fated 1990s assignment from husband Bill to solve the country's healthcare crisis. Nobody doubted Clinton's intelligence after the massive study she ran. But where America was looking for leadership and admittedly simple answers, she proposed a staggering bureaucracy – the very thing we fear most regarding healthcare. She got a unique opportunity to be co-President. She also suffered a Presidential-sized failure in full view of the American public. It is not that Clinton cannot rise about this past failure but it will always continue to loom over her.

5. No Charisma
One reason Batman is so interesting is that Bruce Wayne is interesting and complex. Orphaned at a young age by a thug's bullet, he dedicated his life to crime fighting, making him a fascinating mix of selfless champion and merciless vigilante. Kathy Kane was a circus acrobat who unexpectedly inherited a fortune and found herself bored. She was inspired to superheroine status by Batman and there is an unavoidable girlish crush aspect to her dedication.

I really don't know if Clinton is bland in her own right. She had the unfortunate luck of spending most of her political career until recently standing next to Bill and most people are going to suffer in that comparison. She comes across as cold and stilted to many people, although, by standing on her own, she may end up doing to the nation what she did in New York. She has certainly shown herself able to raise big piles of money which is as pragmatic a measure of charisma that any candidate can manifest these day.

Still, Clinton's charisma, no matter how real and effective, strikes me more as learned. I cannot she her winning that battle if the Republicans run someone with true natural charisma, such as John McCain.

6. What's With This "New Point of View?"
A lesbian superheroine in the abstract than may bother comic readers less than the re-introduction of a character who was never gay before. DC Comics may be sincere that the new Batwoman has no agenda to promote but fans will be hard pressed to avoid being skeptical if not downright distrustful.

The same is true, in my opinion, about Clinton's recent swing to the right. It is understandable – the entire Democratic Party is cowering in fear of doing something wrong to screw things up at the very time when Republicans are at their most vulnerable to aggressive attack. Yet it leaves many voters distrustful of the "new and improved" Clinton who has emerged from New York and the U.S. Senate. How much is genuine and how much is learned?

Her marriage does nothing to help this perception. Everybody loves Laura Bush. She married a drinking, drug-abusing, wild man but stood faithfully by his side until he found Jesus and respectable behavior. Hurrah, she's an icon. Clinton has stood faithfully by Bill's side through several infidelities. Many have sympathized with her over this but still ask why she stays with him. Then they answer their own question by concluding she is addicted to power and unattractive for being so.

* * *

The roots of these reasons may themselves all be irrational but they logically lead to only one unfortunate conclusion for Clinton. No matter how much she may have been misrepresented or suffered by comparison in the past, no matter how much she may have sincerely changed/grown in office, and no matter how much she has accomplished as a Senator in her own right, many people will never be able to shake the image of cold, bitchy, liberal, healthcare Hillary. She is the new Batwoman of politics. When they see Clinton's name on the ballot, a familiar theme song will run through voters' heads –

Naw-Nah, Naw-Nah, Naw-Nah, Naw-Nah . . . Hillary!