When we were in high school, one of my best friends – a smart, serious, politically minded and outspoken young woman – decided to run for student body President. Her opponent was a good-looking and popular guy who hung out with the jocks (I can’t remember if he played a sport himself), and, along with his other pals who were running for the remaining offices, his idea was to create a Coalition of Cool Dudes who would rule the school with their awesome popular guy power and subvert the authority maintained by the teachers and administrators. Their campaign posters featured hastily scrawled drawings of Mickey Mouse (one of the school administrators was known for her love of all things Mickey Mouse) hanging from a tree in a noose, or lying dead next to a bottle of poison. Everyone expected all of these boys to win; it was clear that my friend was the nerdy, A-student, underdog girl staring down the behemoth of handsome popularity.
On election day, we all assembled in the school’s auditorium to hear each candidate give a little speech before we voted. My friend’s opponent went first, and gave a sort of Alice Cooper School’s Out Forever kind of spiel, which the auditorium seemed to love, and which felt like an impossible act for my friend to follow. I remember her standing up there on the stage in her white button-down shirt, black slacks and orange Converse (the other guy had just rocked up in his usual jeans and a T-shirt), and if she was nervous or afraid, she didn’t show it. She launched into her speech, and then, midway through a sentence, someone in the audience started to heckle her. Without pausing or missing a beat, she looked askance at the heckler and muttered, ‘Bite me!’ into the microphone before continuing on with what she had to say. I’d like to think that people applauded this – twenty years wreaks havoc on the memory – but I’m certain, at least, that people laughed.
(Which is why I love it so much when Hillary – or her social media people speaking on her behalf – fights back with a bit of snark or uses a laughable insult to her own advantage by creating a bumper sticker to further support her campaign. This woman gets so much shit and is not allowed to directly express any annoyance about it. This is her way of saying, ‘Bite me!’, and I applaud it every time.)
And I’ve realised that this is what Hillary vs Bernie feels like to me right now. The nerdy girl vs the cool guy. He’s promising to overthrow the administration and put free Coke machines in the lunchroom and his supporters are making fun of his opponent for being too smart and too earnest and trying too hard and wanting it too much, and just being so uncool. How dare she even think she should be in the race? Why does she even bother getting up on that stage, when everyone knows the cool guy is better and free Coke machines would be awesome?!
You could see it in the reactions to those NYDN interviews that each of them did. Much was made about the seeming lack of depth and knowledge apparent in Bernie’s answers, and though I believe he’s not a dumb guy and I have nothing against him, I also think someone who wants to be President should be able to provide clear, confident answers to the questions he was asked. Of course, many of his supporters rushed to defend him, claiming the paper was biased garbage and the published transcript an obvious ‘hitpiece’ (never mind these were the actual answers that came out of Bernie’s actual mouth in response to very reasonable questions) and goddammit he’s the cool guy who’s gonna give us FREE COKE MACHINES! Meanwhile Hillary’s interview was pretty much the polar opposite, and pretty much what you would expect from her: detailed and nuanced and confident, with an obvious knowledge and understanding of what she was talking about. She had clearly done her homework. Because she’s Hillary Goddamn Clinton and she always does her homework. But this just makes her a suck-up and a panderer and a phony. Obviously she had all the right answers because she is so uncool, boning up on policy and nerdy political shit. Look at her trying so hard! What a cunt!
(But also she probably cheated, because no one is that good.)
It seems to me that Bernie’s entire plan, to the extent that he has one, is ‘Get me into the White House and then I’ll appoint some people who know stuff and we’ll cross these bridges when we come to them!’ He doesn’t have time for this other shit – the questions, the explaining, the policies, the boring homework. Free Coke machines! Which is fine; not everyone has to be an overachiever, the world also needs cool people and I, too, would love more free Coke machines. But I also believe our next President should be someone who does do the homework, who is interested and engaged in the process, who has detailed and well-thought-out plans (which she is endearingly excited about explaining), who is incredibly informed and can work with the advisers instead of just leaving it all up to them, who has worked her ass off for decades to get where she is, who has experience and is ready, who is not ashamed of being the nerdy girl.
My friend won that election and became student body President, upsetting the plans of those over-confident, popular guys and everyone else who thought she wouldn’t and couldn’t do it. And maybe, if we’re lucky, this November Hillary Rodham Clinton, President-elect, will take the stage and give an amazing, history-making victory speech, and will be wildly applauded by all of us – the millions of us – who knew she deserved it, who liked her and supported her and enthusiastically voted for her, even though it wasn’t cool.
Which will be the biggest ‘Bite me!’ of them all.