Former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is a 68-year-old white woman from the Midwest. She dances like it. Bless her heart, though, because as she teeters (and in some cases tumbles) towards trying to make history as the first female president, she is proving to be relentlessly willing to do whatever it takes to win – even if that means putting her lack of rhythm on full display.
Earlier this week, Clinton returned to The Ellen DeGeneres Show to try her hand at dancing once more – this time, opting to do “The Dab.” To her credit, she nailed the move that requires only one small portion of movement. I think many of us recall the great Whip, Nae Nae disaster of Fall 2015. Then there was Clinton’s attempt to do “The Wobble,” which reminded me of the time I told some Black people I forgot how to play spades and they ushered me right out of their immediate space.
Still, I think it’s fair to acknowledge growth when you see it. Zoom, girl. Look at you go!
Nonetheless, now that we’ve seen Clinton whip, nae-nae, dab, wobble-wobble (but not shake it, shake it ala the 504 Boyz anthem) and reference Beyoncé on the campaign trail, many voters – notably the Black women who will play a vital role in her fate this election – are expressing exasperation with her ventures into (Black) pop culture.
While I never want to see Hillary Clinton dance again, in this instance, she can’t win for losing. As a candidate, it’s fair to question Clinton in terms of policy i.e. her plans for criminal justice reform and beefing up federal oversight of police. In terms of motive, it’s reasonable to question how someone with her background and fundraising methodology can be expected to challenge the finance industry as advertised. And when it comes to her answers on questions about matters like white privilege for which she stumbled terribly, the skewering feels justified.
However, when it comes to her trying to engage the voters by way of pop culture, I feel the critique is unfair.
Much of Clinton’s career has been fraught with criticisms of her being cold, distant, and fake. Last year, Buzzfeed published a rare, long forgotten interview with the woman then known as Hillary Rodham. In it, she is bright, thoughtful, charismatic, and engaging – and that has often been a problem for many women of that time in the public arena. She had to become Hillary Rodham Clinton and then Hillary Clinton because who she was had been considered threatening to the electorate. Even in 1993, the New York Times published a piece on which way to refer to her – Hillary Rodham, Hillary Rodham Clinton, or Hillary Clinton – complete with referencing a poll on how Americans felt she should choose to identify herself.
This week, Slate published a piece entitled “Hillary Clinton Isn’t a Lesbian—but She Dresses Like One.”
What’s always struck me as interesting about Hillary Clinton being perceived as insincere is the reality that she is nothing but a product of her environment. She’s done what’s been asked of her only to then be told that she is trying too hard. As far as pop culture goes, the pandering says more about us than it does Hillary.
No matter what happens in the GOP presidential primary, the reality is for six months now, the frontrunner has been a reality star. Our current president has recently appeared on reality television. There has been debate on whether or not President Obama is too tied into pop culture, but I think that is a testament to his political skill of realizing where the general public is and meeting them halfway. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush is shouting out DJ Khaled. In response, Khaled is referring to Bush as a “leader.”
Hillary Clinton appears to be trying to follow suit and while she can’t dance worth a good damn, I certainly understand why she’s trying. I actually think her dabbles with pop culture — including an interview on the podcast “Another Round” — has made her appear more “human” than past decades have ever allowed.
If nothing else, at least she actually has unveiled policies that would benefit the people she’s pandering to. I certainly can’t say the same for Bush, Trump, or any of the other men all running for the same office as Hillary.