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« A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Democracy | Main | Existentialist Me and Donald Trump »

Phenomenologist Me and Hillary Clinton

Following on from my last blog entitled Existentialist Me and Trump

If I were a phenomenologist, which I profess to be this week, I’d be spending my time trying to describe the phenomenon that is Hillary Clinton. As a phenomenologist my concern isn’t so much what or how Clinton is or isn’t in reality, but how Clinton the phenomenon presents herself in my experience. That is to say I need to sidestep, or even strip away, abstractions, ideologies, authorities, emotional associations, and concentrate on Clinton and nothing but Clinton as I experience her. But even a cursorily glance as the task reveals that that will be difficult in the extreme.

First of all, I don’t know her personally. My “knowing” her is through the media which edits her speeches, pronouncements, tweets, photos, policies, clothes, relationships, for a particular purpose. That purpose may be to flatter or demonize her, but it is never neutral. Depending upon who you listen to, she is an amazing statesperson or a murderer. And, of course, Hillary Clinton as a phenomenon is not actually a single person. She’s a melding together of two people, a national political creature not seen before. She is Hillary and her husband, and from now on we must refer to her as HillaryBill. How could it be otherwise? She is a woman, after all. And in case you, through some distorting political corrective lens, forgot about Bill, or purposefully decided to ignore him, the Republican Party nominee, the proto-fascist or neo-fascist or just plain fascist Donald Trump, will never ever let you forget Bill. Trump is an expert in generating hatred.

That’s not all. There are Bernie Sanders supporters, Tea Partyers, and my neighbor Bob across the street, who are all there to tell me who and what HillaryBill is. And finally there is HillaryBill. SheHe isn’t running for president to be my best friend. SheHe really doesn’t want me to know what brand of toilet paper shehe uses, and quite frankly I don’t care. But as a dedicated phenomenologist what am I to do given that the person I experience is only filtered images? As a phenomenologist I can get to the heart of what a cup of coffee is, but how to get to the heart of who and what HillaryBill is?

First, as a way of beginning, I must recognize and accept that the HillaryBill I experience is a combination of truth and lies, fact and fiction. That’s all I have and I have to live with that or just give up. Second, phenomenology liberates me into recognizing and accepting that my experience of HillaryBill and my description of herhim has legitimacy, regardless of what Sanders supporters, Tea Partyers, fascist, media, and my neighbor Bob might say. They, individually or in chorus, should not determine for me my description of HillaryBill and whether or not I will vote for herhim.

I experience HillaryBill as a paradox, indeed, I want to say a great paradox. When she can get a job, she can be quite good at it. Even Republicans said she was a good, if not excellent, Senator. Many say she was a very good Secretary of State, though when shehe was in that role Republicans turned into a political hit squad that spent, and is still spending, millions of taxpayer’s dollars trying to bring her down. Interestingly, they may yet succeed (hold your breath for the FBI).

Unfortunately, HillaryBill just isn’t very good at the we-the-people-interview for the big job. The longer the interview goes on the worse shehe gets. It always starts out full of promise but ends up full of despair. I suspect that in both the past interview and this present one, she thought, perhaps assumed, it would be a short interview. Admittedly, she has to deal with being a double shehe target, but as the interview goes on she has a   tendency to frazzle, turning a decent articulate person into a mean spirited inappropriate person. Way back when, when it began to look like Obama was going to win the day, shehim got downright nasty. Yes I know, politics is nasty, but she got nasty in ways that most of us who share at least part of her worldview found unacceptable. The flirtation with racist attacks just didn’t go down well.

She’s not a great orator, but she very intelligent. Shehe can demonstrate supreme patience and dignity (the hours of testimony before a Senate committee dominated by hateful Republicans over the Benghazi deaths[1]), and can become impatient and petty (declaring victory in the Democratic Party nomination process before several states, including California, had gone to the polls). Shehe is a great supporter of women’s rights and also a great supporter of the status quo. Shehe proclaims a passion for the common man and woman and is a friend of neo-liberal capitalism. SheHe is obviously qualified to be president and she brings some much baggage with her that she has employed a fleet of 747-8 wide body cargo plans to simply lug all that baggage around with her – which includes a couple of FBI investigations that will not be completed until after shehe is nominated. (Has there ever been a candidate running for the nomination for president of the United States under investigation by the FBI on issues of national security and financial fraud?) At a time when anti-establishment candidates are pulling great crowds and often winning support (see Trump, Sanders in the U.S. and Corbyn in the UK, for example) shehe is establishment through and through.

The phenomenological issue of describing the phenomenon slides into the existential question of what should I do. Well, given the Republican Party has gone over to the Dark Side the answer is simple. Vote for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, even if it hurts. Hell, I’d vote for Mickey Mouse if he were running against Trump.  Donald Trump is the least qualified and most dangerous person ever to be nominated by one of the two major parties.

If it hurts so much just stay home and don’t vote for anyone, I hear you say. Democrats are good at staying home because they are either apathetic or sulking. They are then great at complaining about how Republicans run the country. Interesting strategy. Let’s see. In 1968 Eugene McCarthy supporters could not vote for Hubert Humphrey and we got Richard Nixon and Watergate. In 1980 many Ted Kennedy supporters could not vote for Jimmy Carter and 27% of them voted for Ronal Reagan instead and the Reagan Revolution followed which lead us right up to 2008. In 2000 a lot of Democrats could not see voting for Al Core so voted for Ralph Nader and we got eight years of George W. Bush and his version of creating a neocon reality.[2] In 2016 if Sanders supporters can’t vote for HillaryBill or HillaryBill supporters can’t vote for Sanders, we get Donald Trump.

As far as the argument that a Trump presidency will usher in a Bernie progressive revolution, please! For heaven's sake get real. The stakes are too high. That’s like shooting yourself in the gut to demonstrate the need for Obamacare. And history is just not on the side of that argument.

The three primary elements of phenomenology are: description, phenomena, and intentionality. Intentionality is tricky but in extreme short-hand it speaks to the realization that the human mind, or consciousness, is always of or about something outside itself. The philosopher Franz Brentano put it this way: “In presentation something is presented, in judgment something is affirmed or denied, in love loved, in hate hated, in desire desired and so on.”[3] And as Sarah Bakewell says: “ Nothing else can be as thoroughly about or of things as the mind is…”[4] Some would say it is through intentionality that we keep in touch with the world. It is aboutness and directedness. It’s the fact that we’re almost always thinking about something outside ourselves.

As a good phenomenologist, my intentionality, my directedness, does not embrace some abstraction, some ideal, floating in the inner recesses of my mind. It embraces the phenomena that I experience. If HillaryBill survives the email and Clinton Foundation scandals and it is Trump versus Clinton, then I have nothing to worry about. It will not be an election where I’m confronted with the difficult task of deciding between my two ideal candidates. Nor will be it be an election where I have the pleasure of voting for my one ideal candidate. Ideals are out. One candidate will be unqualified and dangerous and the other flawed and damaged.  

By the way, if the HillaryBill, shehe, herhim nonsense annoyed you, it should have. Actually, it should have made you mad as hell.

Copyright © 2016 Dale Rominger

[1] For an actually history of attacks on U.S. diplomats and facilities go to Mother Jones and Wikipedia.

 [2] Jonathan Freedland. A plea to Hillary’s Democrat critics. The Guardian.

[3] Brentano, Franz. Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973. P. 88.

[4] Bakewell, Sarah. At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails. New York: Other Press, 2016. p. 45. It is Bakewell’s book that has inspired this blog and Existentialist Me and Trump.

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