Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox {Book Review}

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I was not compensated for writing this post. I received a reader copy of this book to facilitate my review. My opinions are 100% honest and 100% mine. (This post may contain an affiliate link.)

Love Her Love Her Not The Hillary Paradox | Joanne Bamberger

Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox ($16.95/$9.95)

By Joanne Cronrath Bamberger

Summary of Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox

Hillary Clinton’s name is on everyone’s lips almost every day as we are knee-deep in the 2016 presidential election. But as we know from the 2008 presidential campaign, and its outcome, Clinton evokes extreme and varied emotions among voters in a way no other candidate in recent memory has. But why? Does she have to be likable? Do baby boomers have too much history with her? Why do Gen X-ers admire her? Can we “forgive her” for not being perfect? Is she doomed because women project their own insecurities onto her? Can she use a “family agenda” to be elected? Can she thread the needle between a softer, gentler Hillary and a tough commander-in-chief Hillary?

Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox delves into the nuances of our complicated feelings about one of the most powerful women ever in American politics. In this timely collection, editor/author Joanne Cronrath Bamberger provides the narrative framework through which to view the history that’s led us to this moment in time — the moment when voters must decide whether they can forgive Hillary Clinton for not being the perfect candidate or the perfect woman and finally elect our first woman president — then hands to stage to a unique and diverse group of writers of all ages, walks of life, and political affiliations, while also weighing in with her own essay, “I Don’t Need Hillary Clinton to Be Perfect.” 

Timely and fresh, Love Her, Love Her Not will provoke new conversations and push political and cultural dialogue in the U.S. to a new level.

My review of Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox

I was pretty psyched about the opportunity to read this book, I have to tell you. I am extremely — and I mean extremely (perhaps to the point of obsession) — interested in the 2016 campaigns that are swirling around us. For the sake of this review, obviously, I’ll stick to the Hillary Rodham Clinton (or, HRC, as I like to call her) campaign.

Why? Because it’s so, so important — to America, and to the American people (heck, to the rest of the world, too).

Love Her, Love Her Not is about themes, not specific issues, per se. So while I concede that Benghazi and emails are important issues, the essays don’t examine them (or any others). They discuss topics such as gender roles and expectations, sexism, and, of course, American politics. And, to me, that’s more important than any specific event — which have been debated ad nauseam.

Back in 2008, I was torn between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. I wanted to support Hillary, but I was leaning more toward Barack Obama (significantly so), because I really believed in him. He made me feel good about the potential of America and American politics. I was lukewarm on HRC, because I had some inexplicable distrust in the notion of a “Clinton dynasty,” whatever the heck that meant. And, I admit, I wasn’t sure that America was ready for a woman president. Was I? I’m not 100% certain. The bottom line? Hillary didn’t excite me; she didn’t inspire me the way Obama did. But I really can’t put my finger on precisely why, which I think was (is?) a common feeling when it comes to HRC.

And, no, I don’t fall prey to reasons such as her marital issues (seriously, how is that our business — and why would it be a factor in deciding someone’s fitness for office?) or her comment as First Lady about how she wouldn’t be spending her time “baking cookies.” I just wasn’t…sure. That’s why I welcomed the chance to read Love Her, Love Her Not, a book of provocative, thoughtful essays that addressed so many aspects of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The Amy Ferris-penned “On Being Hillary’s Campaign BFF” addressed both of those points. Ferris argues that Hillary’s comments on not being a stay-at-home-mom who bakes cookies made many see her as “one tough cookie” and a “ball of fierce.” And as far as Hillary “standing by her man” during the crisis over Bill’s sexual infidelity, Ferris astutely insists that she needs to own that decision, and have a “really good answer, not a shrug” when she’s confronted with those questions. Should voters care? Probably not — but they do, and that matters. Linda Lowen touched on this issue in “Hillary Clinton: Everymother,” highlighting how Hillary “carried on with courage, conviction, strength, and fortitude” in the face of humiliation on a public stage. Personally, I find it peculiar that’s not the widespread perception.

As more than one essay in Love Her, Love Her Not points out, Hillary Clinton is unquestionably the most qualified candidate for the Oval Office in 2016. She actually has more foreign policy experience (which is pretty darn important) than Barack Obama had when he took office, more than her husband had, and more than George W. Bush had. Yet I hear people say that she’s not qualified to be in the White House. It’s bizarre, to be honest, especially in light of the fact that a few candidates have literally no political experience whatsoever.

Too educated, too smart, too ambitious…those are all labels that are used to dismiss Hillary. Can you imagine saying that about a male candidate? Of course not. As Deb Rox points out in an essay discussing the oh-so-important factor of appearance (I’m being facetious, but, yes, it matters to voters), to my (and millions of others’) chagrin, HRC often is judged because of her looks, her weight, her hair, and her clothing. Hence, the pantsuit. Rox says that “[Hillary] let them have something: the pantsuit. She gave them one thing to objectify and in doing so she controlled the conversation.”

Anne Born discussed Hillary Clinton’s motivation (for her presidential bid) in “Preaching the Social Gospel: Hillary’s Mighty Fortress.” Touching on Hillary’s 1993 “Politics of Meaning” speech, Born disputes Hillary’s characterization of America as one marred by “alienation and despair and hopelessness” (although that seems to be striking a very predominant chord in 2016) and the need for a new politics of meaning that would result in a “society that fills us up again and makes us feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.” Born doesn’t think this approach would work today (positing that it worked in 1993, because it followed the George H.W. Bush presidency), suggesting that today’s citizens feel fulfilled, living lives that are “complex and meaningful,” pointing out that Americans do things like embrace yoga, believe in reducing waste, support after-school programs, and “invents so many ways to donate clothes and food to the less fortunate among us that in the end, there are fewer less fortunate.”

I disagree with Ms. Born. I don’t think it’s that simple, and I don’t think that a) people necessarily feel fulfilled because of all the “stuff” they do in their life and b) the efforts of well-meaning Americans to help others, while noble and honorable, have that much of a long-lasting (or tremendous) effect on the recipient (in other words, I don’t think that simple gestures are life-changing; they plug holes in the short term). I’ve donated gloves and scarves for the homeless, and canned goods for the food bank (and so on), as have many Americans…but do I believe we have fewer less fortunate people in this country as a result? Not for a second. So, while Born’s approach doesn’t necessarily line up with mine, she makes a point when she says that Hillary’s “social gospel” is off-putting. While it’s not off-putting to me (not when HRC does it, that is), generally I do get turned off when politicians expound on their religion…so it makes sense that other people feel that way, whether it’s Hillary or any other candidate.

One of my favorite essays was written by Lisa Solod: “The Responsibility of Privilege,” because Hillary’s privilege tends to be a sticking point for me. I have to admit, I do find myself questioning whether Hillary understands the struggle of ordinary Americans, or if she can really relate to working families or single moms or burdened college students. Solod very briefly touches on a theme that drives me batty — that President Obama “brought back racism” in America. Racism is not and has never been gone, or dormant, in America. By the same token, Hillary Clinton will not make sexism and gender issues a new problem in America, because they’ve never gone away.

I loved Lisa M. Maatz’s essay, “A 12-Step Program of Her-storic Proportions,” and agreed with all 12 of her points, especially #3, “This is not a coronation.” This campaign should not be a formality, nor should it be a cake walk. She doesn’t get to just win, simply because she’s Hillary Clinton (and, by the same token, the same applies to a certain Republican candidate). She must, as point #9 states, “Work for every vote.” I agree. That’s how it should be. And, as many of you have noticed, she’s had to, with strong competition breathing down her neck.

People have all kinds of feelings, and all kinds of reasons, for loving her or for not loving her. Supporting (or not supporting) Hillary Clinton is…complicated. And that’s OK. It’s good, even. It’s healthy to discuss Hillary Clinton, her experience, her qualifications, her past, and her future…as long as we do it fairly and reasonably. You can’t just hate how she laughs or criticize her ankles, or condemn her because she’s “dishonest,” yet not have concrete facts to back that up. It’s easy to do that, and it’s sure a theme in the 2016 primaries, but it’s not serious, and it’s not truthful.

Love Her, Love Her Not is an absolute — absolute — must-read for anyone who cares about politics, American studies/history, gender issues, feminism (which is also discussed, of course, in this book). Don’t rely solely on the debates, or opponents’ attacks on her, or headlines. That simply will not provide you with enough (or accurate) information about Hillary to make an informed decision. I’m not saying that to sway you from Republican candidates to the HRC camp, nor am I trying to lure you away from Bernie Sanders, if that’s where you’re leaning. I can respect that. But, before you dismiss HRC, make sure you know why. If you don’t support Hillary, can you articulate why? That’s a fair question, right? Of course it is.

If you love Hillary, you will love Love Her, Love Her Not, as I did. I relished this book. It’s earned a spot on my bookshelf, where it will remain. It will, in my opinion, stand the test of time. Regardless of how the 2016 election plays out, the Hillary Clinton campaign (both of them, actually) are important moments in history. Not simply because they happened (although that’s significant in itself), but because of all the aspects of Hillary’s impact on this country. Love her or hate her — or fall somewhere in between — Hillary Clinton is a woman who matters. A lot.

If you are on the fence when it comes to HRC, you must, must, must read Love Her, Love Her Not. And even if you dislike Hillary, Love Her, Love Her Not is a fair and thoughtful collection of essays that will, at the very least, give you something to consider. It might not sway you or make you reconsider, but it will broaden your way of thinking. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Thank you, Joanne Bamberger, for putting this compilation together. You’ve done Hillary Clinton a great service, but an even greater one for the American public.

You can purchase Love Her, Love Her Not on Amazon.

Want to learn more about Joanne Bamberger? Me too!

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