Might as well let the wild rumpus start. Tomorrow, probably, Hillary Rodham Clinton will announce that she is campaigning to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. And the adjective most liable to be overused in discussing her announcement will be… well, here’s Mark Leibovich, Beltway anthropologist, on “What It Really Means to Call Hillary Clinton ‘Polarizing’“:
… Last February, when I was interviewing attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the subject of Hillary Clinton came up a lot, and when it did, the term “polarizing figure” was never more than a few sentences away. Maybe this is a simple conjugation issue. Hillary Clinton is not “polarizing” so much as she is “polarized.” She has been at the center of a long brawl that has left people weary on all sides. But if Clinton was not so willing to fight (and so well equipped for battle), she could be called worse. She could be called Michael Dukakis.
Initially, reporters said Clinton was “polarizing” because she was a transitional figure in the culture wars as they existed a quarter-century ago. She was a working woman and full political partner with (gasp) feminist tendencies. Among would-be first ladies in the early 1990s, these were exotic qualities. Today Hillary Clinton is a cautious and exceedingly diplomatic politician, perhaps to her detriment. (She is often criticized for being “calculating” and “robotic.”) If anything, her willingness to be deliberate, speak carefully and appeal to the political center was a big part of what sank her with liberal Democrats who opted for Barack Obama in 2008. If Clinton really were polarizing, wouldn’t the left be more excited about her? Wouldn’t people be roused from their “Clinton fatigue”?
When people say Clinton is polarizing, they are largely indicting her by association. She has been a fixture of our political climate for so long that the climate defines her. But the political climate has not been made, or polarized, by mysterious outside forces. It is us. You could argue that the act of showing up at CPAC and cheering a red-meat speech from the likes of Ted Cruz is an act of self-polarization, or at least an indication that common cause with Clinton probably was not much of a possibility to begin with…
Phillip Bump, one of the Washington Post‘s politics-as-a-sport touts, spells out the statistical measure of HRClinton’s “polarization“:
… Clinton has polarized America since the outset. There’s been a remarkable stability to her net favorability since America first learned who she was: Democrats like her, Republicans don’t, and independents can go either way.
That is because — stick with me now — Democrats like Democrats and Republicans don’t, and vice versa. The strength of that opinion varies depending on how politically charged that person is. Hillary Clinton was much more disliked by Republicans in 2007, when she was a threat to win the presidency, than she was in June 2008, when she wasn’t. And when she was happily working away in Foggy Bottom in 2012, Republicans barely bothered to hate her at all…
HRClinton is polarizing because she’s a Democrat, and a woman, who won’t accept the role her Republican opponents want her and all of us Democrats to play. Just as President Obama is divisive, because he won’t give his Republican opponents 110% of what they demand, this very moment & on a silver platter. Both adjectives have become code words for those too mealy-mouthed to use uppity in public.