Mrs. Clinton Comes to Gorham

Hillary Clinton visited our little town yesterday and marched in our Fourth of July parade. I don’t know how I’m going to vote yet (and when I do, I won’t talk about it here, because I’m not stupid). But Mrs. Clinton seems like a smart, tough lady and probably is just as qualified as anybody else to be President of the United States.

Mrs. cpb isn’t sure who she’s going to vote for, either. But my wife is very sweet and thought it was pretty cool that a major political figure would be walking right by us when we stood on Main Street for the parade. She wanted to make Mrs. Clinton feel welcome. Before I had even gotten out of bed yesterday, she’d made two signs to welcome the former First Lady to Gorham.

A few other locals made signs of their own. They were asking questions about Benghazi and accused Mrs. Clinton of being a liar and (for reasons I didn’t get clarified) “anti-woman.” My problem is not that I agree or disagree with what they’re saying (though I’m pretty sure that Mrs. Clinton likes women as a group, and that she was cleared on the Benghazi thing in, like, November). My problem is that I just don’t understand why they’re so mad.

Before I present my photos, I will ask a general, rhetorical question about modern Right Wing politics. And I ask this as someone who has some conservative values and even registered as a Republican not terribly long ago.

So here’s my question, Right Wingers:

What is your deal?

You don’t have to like Hillary Clinton, obviously. In fact, you’re free to dislike her quite a bit. Her husband—though he was undeniably a good president—had the unfortunate taint of scandal hovering around him even before he took office. But like another reasonably decent president whom you guys really despise for some reason, there seems to be no rational reason for the intense, vocal, bitter hatred that you sling her way.

Back in January 1993, Bill Clinton was giving his first State of the Union address. I was a young newspaper reporter in the Southern Oregon city of Roseburg (My proposed motto for Roseburg: “If there were a ballot measure to make enslaving black people legal again, no more than a third of us would vote ‘Yes’!”). My editors asked me to go around while Clinton’s speech was going on and get people’s reactions. At about the point where Clinton was talking about universal health care, I wandered out of the rain and into an appliance store. There, the lonely proprietor was watching Clinton on a wall of TV’s. I asked him how he thought the speech was going.

I don’t remember his exact words, but they were really angry. According to him, the country was going to hell, America was about to be taken over by the United Nations, and Bill Clinton was the first in a long line of leaders who would rule us with a mandate handed down (up?) by the Antichrist. Then he said a bunch of Bible verses.

At this point, Clinton had been in office for twenty-eight days.

I wish I could say that he was atypical of people who hate the Clintons, President Obama, political pragmatism, etc, etc. But he wasn’t. I’ve run into dozens of people like him while working both in journalism and education. The first thing I notice is that they’re really vocal. The second is that they don’t really seem to care whom they are vocal with.

A recent example: I was mailing a package from North Conway last week. The news that Mrs. Clinton was going to be in Gorham had just gotten out, and the guy behind the postal counter wasn’t happy. He popping off about how much he hated Mrs. Clinton to pretty much to anyone who would listen—me, other postal customers, anyone. This kind of thing is constant, and I just don’t understand. I’m confident we’ll reach consensus one day that George W. Bush wasn’t a very good president. He was elected (sort of) in a very bitter election. But after Sept. 11, he had an approval rating north of 90 percent. You don’t get that without a little bipartisan support. I’m not a universal fan of Democrats by any means, but they do seem to want to get everyone together when times are tough.

I don’t perceive the same sentiment from their opposite number.

Now, I am not naive enough to believe that American politics got this stupid and nasty only recently. I remember hearing a story about a couple of U.S. Army officers in Europe drinking a toast to the recently deceased FDR. They weren’t toasting him, they were celebrating his death! (And he was a great president! We were winning the war and everything!)

I also get that the Clintons aren’t perfect people. They’re politicians. They both like to seek office for reasons we’ve all come to expect from the ruling class. But I do believe that Hillary Clinton wants to be president because she believes that she can leave the United States in better shape. If we don’t all agree on the best ways to go about this, and we believe that other people would do a better job than she could, maybe we could go about it in a more respectful way.

Besides: Insulting visitors is rude. Show the lady some respect.

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