If my mother was a politician

January 15, 2017

My mom is a fighter.

She might not think of herself as such, but that’s how I think of her. She’s not the kind who dodges the blows, or backs away from the fight. Oh no. She wades through the punches, accepting the slings and arrows of everyone who gives her shit, and she does not give a fuck. I got that trait from my father as well, who is small-s stoic (think John Wayne crossed with Harrison Ford), but it’s easier to see with my mother, because she’s more open. I’m two levels of don’t give a fuck, thanks to them.

My mother is the mean grandma, which I don’t mean as a slight. You see, I have this theory. It goes: everyone has a nice grandma, who gives them what they want, and a mean grandma, who gives them what they need. I know I had those grandmas, even though my nice grandma gave me what I needed as well, to my eternal benefit.

My mom is the mean grandma, for sure. I don’t have kids yet, but I see it with my brother’s children. She’s the one who gives them what you need, and who can slog through a world of lies and bullshit without being torn down by them, because she knows exactly who she is.

She’s a substitute teacher occasionally, and all the other teachers love her, because she takes charge of the room and makes sure the class stays on track. The students, I feel, respect her at minimum, because they know she doesn’t put up with their shit—and if they don’t know that, they find out soon. She’s not the kind of person you’re always happy to follow—she’s not going to coddle you—but you go where she tells you anyway, because you know it’s for the best. Plus, she’ll smack you upside the head if you need it.

My mother is a fighter, and always has been.

If my mother was a politician, she would be like Hillary Clinton.

Which makes me sad, because my mother probably didn’t vote for Hillary. I don’t know who she voted for, and I’m not sure I want to ask, because I know she’s voted Republican for most of her life. Best case is probably that she didn’t vote for president at all, though perhaps I would be surprised.

Which is a shame, because she’d have ignored the one who would have governed much like she would have, in favor of the one who endangers us all.

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By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    “She’s not the kind who dodges the blows, or backs away from the fight. Oh no. She wades through the punches, accepting the slings and arrows of everyone who gives her shit, and she does not give a fuck.”

    Replace “she” with “Trump” and you have summarized the main thing people like about Trump.

    Hillary? She’s nothing like that. She responded to the slings and arrows by lowering her sights, growing paranoid about a “vast right wing conspiracy”, and retreating ever deeper into the swamp of legalistic grey space and big donor quid pro quo. Even her campaign style was utterly defensive, giving press conferences relatively rarely and with the questions known to her ahead of time. She hid behind celebrities for her rallies and spent most of her unprecedented war chest on ad buys throwing slings and arrows at Trump. Even the hardcore partisan Democrat analysts agree that she didn’t present any unifying positive vision for America or case for herself beyond “I’m not the Republican candidate”. She tried to be the “nice grandma” and offer each little slice of her coalition a focus-tested list of policies that they wanted, not the ones they needed.

    Hillary gave a fuck all along and it destroyed her. For all her persistence, every step forward left her more hurt, more bitter, and more twisted into precisely the scheming backroom-dealing flip-flopping charicature of a politician that she is now. When she lost, she raged and cried and finally had to send someone else out to admit that the party was over. In an election where both parties have half the country outraged against the other, she shrank back from the conflict while Trump embraced it and won.

    1. Reply

      Stephen W. Gee

      Dude, what’s your goal here? I don’t mean that confrontationally, it’s an honest question. You’re not going to convince me that Trump isn’t a wildly incompetent and existentially dangerous demagogue. Trump will have to do that through his actions, or time/history will have to prove me wrong, and that’s not liable to happen on a weekend when he’s saying that John Lewis, of all people, is all talk and no action. On MLK weekend, fer chrissakes.

      You’re free to leave comments, it’s no skin off my back, I just don’t understand why you bother. Hillary has been vanquished. Obviously I care because I wanted her to win, but your guy won. Why waste the time? Why not just roll your eyes when you see a post like this and save that effort for an extra well-thought out comment on another post?

      Note: when I say “I don’t understand,” that’s half a lie. I read enough about human behavior to know why we humans like to argue, to defend our viewpoints, or to impose a psychic tax on people who hold contrary viewpoints. I just don’t see how the benefit is worth the effort.

      1. Reply


        No overriding agenda, it’s pretty much just what John A said. You made a comparison and I don’t think it fits the objective facts, so I took a spare moment to say so. I can link the Democrats who said these same things if you like.

        So, why spend the time for this post? Because even if we have differences regarding our political preferences, I think we have more values in common than not. That’s really what this post is about: The fact that we on both sides of the aisle want and respect the same thing; someone to stand up and fight without apology for the things we consider worth fighting for. Hillary didn’t do that and she lost. Whether Trump actually is such a man or merely played the part well enough to fool us all is irrelevant to both those points; time will tell.

        You think Trump is an existential threat. I think the same of Hillary. This was the Flight 93 election; we could either charge the cockpit and let a passenger try to fly the plane or stay in our seats and watch our plane crash and burn. It might still go down, but at least we tried. You don’t need to agree with that, but it’s worth thinking about how a Democrat can address those concerns the next time around. I’d honestly like to have somewhere to go politically speaking if the Republican party degrades into something I can’t support.

        Here’s the thing though, Trump will be President for at least 4 years. If he does turn out to be all that you fear, what then? If he turns out to be a great President, what then? Either way, I see a need for both sides to be able to reach across the aisle and work together (or at least be able to debate productively). I don’t mind having a loyal opposition (moreso grateful than ever this cycle), but that does require an honest commitment to recognize the facts as objectively as we can. For starters, that Hillary and Trump were both historically bad candidates (each with their own failings) and that something has gone badly wrong in our country for either of them to have won a major party nomination, much less both of them. We can’t readily find a common way forward if we can’t agree on where we are right now and how we got here.

        You are thoughtful, accessible, and you have an audience. That makes this one of those places where I can try to productively engage with people who have differing veiwpoints. Talking to folks like you is one of the ways I avoid falling into echo chambers, small group polarization, and tribalism.

        1. Stephen W. Gee

          Then the thing to realize is that the reason HRC supporters tend to bristle about that argument is that—well, I won’t speak for everyone. When Trump and Hillary are spoken of as equivalently bad, or someone says that Trump has fought but Hillary hasn’t, I bristle because I don’t see that as lining up with objective facts either. Hillary has been in public service her entire life, save for (arguably) when she side-lined her own career to help her husband’s. She ground out victories in law, in her husband’s administrations, in the senate, and in the state department. Trump, on the other hand, certainly talks a good talk, that I can admit. He hasn’t fought for shit other’n his own self-aggrandizement, though.

          Even if we want to talk about whether Trump and Hillary are equally bad candidates, I think that’s flawed. Hillary was a bad candidate in the same was as Kerry or Romney, with an extra dose of decades of the Republicans launching preemptive attacks on her (which turned out to be smart, save for how Repub lawmakers are now trapped in DC with Trump, which, ya know. Have fun with that, guys). That just isn’t terribly germane to either person’s character. Plenty of horrible people are popular, and plenty of amazing people are boring.

          So, that’s why I bristle. I probably won’t talk too much about Hilary going forward, though, because Cinnamon Hitler is about to take over officially and I’ll have other things to worry about. And as for reaching across the aisle, I totally agree—I just wish national level politicians did as well. (Dems used to, see the deference they paid to Dubya, but I fear they’ve learned the lessons of the Obama era. Which is logical given the situation, but makes it harder to escape the trap.)

          Which is another reason I wish there are multiple aisles, ala Single-Transferable Vote, etc. It’s a lot easier to reach across the aisle to the Moderate|Republican aisle, or the Moderate|Democratic aisle, if they’re expressly distinct from their more extreme brethren.

          Anyway, sorry if I bristled. The internet remains a terrible place to have conversations, unless there’s a real back and forth, which thankfully you stick around often enough to provide. And as for the Dems having a way to speak to the economic concerns Trump tapped into, I’ve got a post coming up on that, though it’s not one where I have any answers. Another muse out loud one. Though I have a few others slotted first, including a storytelling one. I still do those, lol

        2. Steven

          It’s all good. That’s the challenge of discussing things that we actually care about; it’s not easy to appreciate being challenged. That’s certainly a lost art at the national level of politics, so we need to recreate it at the ground level of regular voters.

          “but I fear they’ve learned the lessons of the Obama era. Which is logical given the situation, but makes it harder to escape the trap.”

          Logical? I sincerely hope they learned the lesson that radical obstruction and Washington gridlock leaves one’s party vulnerable to hostile takeover by a non-ideological opportunist. Electing one populist was risky enough, let’s not make it a new norm.

          Open ended musing is good. A big part of the recent backlash was due to elites deciding that they had “The Answer” and therefore “the matter is settled” and full speed ahead without actually putting in the work to convince regular Americans or address those who disagree with them. Please keep in mind though, it’s not just economics. Hillary actually won a narrow margin of those who listed the economy as their top concern. It’s also security, culture, and simple dignity for people that are tired of being treated as a highbrow punchline (rural Americans, Evangelicals, stay at home moms, etc). Despite their rhetoric of tolerance and equal dignity for all, the Democrat approach to campaigning has for years now increasingly relied on ad hominem attacks against the opposing candidate and insulting generalizations of entire swathes of the electorate. We need to get back to a point where we respect people who hold honest disagreements over political means and aims, but fixing the economy alone won’t do that.

        3. Stephen W. Gee

          Here’s an interesting tweetstorm—which I wish was a dang blog post, but I guess that’s how we’re doing blogging nowadays—on that. You’re not wrong, in part, but it’s also not the complete picture.

        4. Steven

          Twitter is so disjointed that it hurts my head to read, but there were some interesting points in there.

          1. They don’t seem familiar with the “No Labels” caucus in Congress (radical centrists looking to craft bipartisan legislation).

          2. For all the talk about needing more moderates, everyone on the internet seems to think that they themselves and their preferred representatives are center-R/L. When I read the description of Obama as center right adjacent to Reagan I just about did a spit take. I’m starting to wonder if anyone outside of tenured professors actually considers themselves “far left”. Small wonder that calls to “meet in the center” turn into “stand your ground” if both sides think they are already within the center and their opponents are not.

        5. Stephen W. Gee

          I guess you were referring to something else in #2, because I don’t see Reagan coming up in that thread. It is true that most people like to think of themselves as moderates, or at least reasonable, which are often conflated as synonyms. There’s a certain allure in the idea that we’re persuadable, a swing voter that politicians will try to woo . . . even though, increasingly, that ain’t the case.

        6. Steven

          Found it. I don’t know how to link tweets, so copypasta.

          Start quote:
          animadversa ‏@marling981
          @absurdistwords So here’s a question for my lefty friends: I’m willing to vote for a center left President. Would you vote for center right?
          5’7 Black Male
          21h21 hours ago
          5’7 Black Male ‏@absurdistwords
          We did. That’s how we got Obama.

          The center is way over. He’s damn near Reagan.

          End quote. 5’7″ Black Male argues further on the matter in later tweets, but this was the one that necessitated a spit take for me in showing how very wide a gap there can be in perception of where the center lies.

          So, in a situation where opponents tend to paint the true moderates with the same broad brush as the radicals and the radicals each tend to think of themselves as moderates, how do we actually tell one from another? Indeed, how do we tell which we ourselves truly are?

        7. Stephen W. Gee

          Talking a lot, mostly, and being open to being wrong.

  2. Reply

    John A

    Hmm, I don’t see his response as argumentative. He’s simply pointing out a different viewpoint given the same character traits you listed as attributing to your mother, then reflecting those on who you wished she voted for.

    I’m not a Trump supporter, it I do feel your characterization of HRC is flawed, and I feel the comments is closer to what hrc was trying to project during her run, “friendly grandma”.

    I don’t disagree with you that Trump is likely “wildly incompetent and existentially dangerous demagogue”, it it’s off topic for both you and the initial commenter. No one was talking about job qualifications.

    You seem to have turned this into a different reflection of traits that it started.

    1. Reply

      Stephen W. Gee

      I get what you mean. It’s not that I don’t see how people can take those as traits Cinnamon Hitler has, it’s just that it in no way tracks with what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Anyway, more on that above.

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