Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Why is it that women are called by their first names and men by their last? Hillary is running for president, but everyone I know has been caught by Obama-mania. You could say that it’s because there already was a president with her last name, but that doesn’t really work when you think about the current one. He was referred to by nicknames or his last name, never by his first, unless derisively. I think of it in a sports environment, how all the players are called by their last name. It’s been a while since I’ve seen A League of Their Own, but I’m sure there was some sort of scene, look or line where some of the players were called by their last names. It’s gotta be a bonding thing–from both sides. Hillary is Hillary because we know her; she’s one of us. A last name is more impartial, since it belongs to your family. You call your friends by their first name (hence Hillary), but the playground tykes nicknames or last names. A last name might be funny, or carry more weight, some authority. In jobs (not my current one), I’ve been called by my last name, always by a guy. Guys seem to give nicknames more easily, are comfortable calling each other by their last names, usually as a way of differentiating them. In school I was known by my first name and last initial, a mark I still hate today. I never really minded being called by my last name–probably because it made me feel like one of the guys.


John said...

I think it has to do with sports jerseys. Think about it! If you start to make friends through your sports activities (as many young men and women across our great nation have been doing for decades)then you get to know someone by the giant name-tag written on their shirt. Plus, let's not forget that everyone is called by their last name during practices and games for most sports. As far as Hillary is concerned, I think people would get the wrong message if her bumper stickers said "Clinton '08." They would think it's just more of the same, and lord knows the buzzword of this year's democratic race has been "change." By contrast, Bush Jr. ran on the promise of more of the same, which is what conservatives like to hear. That's what makes them conservatives, after all.

Jeremy Biggs said...

Well, the Clinton campaign has certainly been eager to cultivate the use of this familiar moniker. But I think you’re right--it really does benefit both sides. Among conservatives, anti-Hillary rhetoric has dominated the national conversation, largely because it promises to reinvigorate a demoralized and segmented Republican Party. For hard-line progressives--who tend to favor the candidate that most offends conservative sensibilities--all of the right-wing invective against Clinton is just icing on the cake.

And so the age of hyper-partisan bickering continues unabated. Pundits on both sides of the political spectrum feed off of these political divisions, and I suspect that many are keen on seeing Clinton get the nod.

The primary logic for Obama is that he promises to elevate the country above all of this. Senator Clinton is a smart, capable policy wonk--and also one of the most polarizing figures in contemporary American politics. How can she hope to pass meaningful healthcare reform through a divided Congress? Or immigration reform? Or tax reform? Or any of the lofty goals that she seeks to accomplish, and that Americans desperately want to see accomplished? This argument against Clinton may seem trite--and it's been quickly dismissed by partisans like Paul Krugman--but it's a very real concern.

And it's a concern that has led populists and pragmatists alike--Democrat and Republican--to cash in their chips with Obama.