Why Tom Hayden Makes Me Scream

Why Tom Hayden Makes Me Scream

Hayden is employing an ancient literary-political device, in which a man wards off charges of sexism by citing the example of a woman.


I want to do my bit for Obama, so I vowed I would give up attacking Obama-supporting progressives for the duration of the presidential campaign. No circular firing squads for me! Believe me, it hasn’t been easy, and now Tom Hayden’s “Why Hillary Makes My Wife Scream” has pushed me over the edge. Who cares what Tom Hayden’s wife, the peaceful organic Barbara, feels when she watches Hillary on TV? Hayden is employing an ancient literary-political device, in which a man wards off charges of sexism by citing the example of a woman: I’m not averse to votes for women, but my wife, sir, won’t hear of it! Barbara is female — so that makes it okay for Hayden quote her comparing Hillary Clinton to “a screech on the blackboard” and Lady Macbeth. Because those are certainly similes that have never been used before! And that have no misogynist connotations, as in a woman who seeks public power is shrill and strident, a would-be despot who’ll stop at nothing to achieve her evil ends, and is just so darn unlikeable, too. So bitter! As for Clinton flack “that Kiki person” — when Hayden makes fun of a woman’s girly first name and finds her just too ridiculous even to have a last one, that is not at all like rightwingers mocking Lani –Lani! ha ha ha! — Guinier back in the day.

By rummaging in the tired old grabbag of male-chauvinist cliches, Hayden undermines the point he eventually gets around to making: that Clinton’s attacks on Obama for guilt-by-association with Rev. Wright and Bill Ayres are vile and low and will come back to haunt her should she win the nomination. Not only is she alienating Obama supporters she’ll need for the general election, she’s inviting attacks on herself for her own past connections with leftwing figures and causes. Hayden calls on progressives to “send a message” to Hillary to “immediately cease her path of destruction.” (Cease her path?) Fair enough.

Well, here’s my message to Tom Hayden: Cease your path! Every time you and your fellow progressives write your sexist/nasty/catty garbage about Hillary Clinton — and every time the Nation publishes it, which is far too often — you alienate women whose energy and votes you will need if Obama wins the nomination. When you start talking about “millions” of young voters and black voters refusing to work for Hillary because of her unfair attacks on Obama you invite “millions” of women to say, well, why should I work for a candidate whose prominent supporters call my candidate Lady Macbeth?

Be the one you’ve been waiting for, Tom person. A man who respects women or if that’s too big a stretch, who pretends to, for strategic reasons, at least till the election is over.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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