But she is making progress. She is trying every day to change her image, and I suspect it's working. One senses not that she has become more authentic, but that she has gone beyond her own discomfort at her lack of authenticity. I am not saying she has learned to be herself. I think after a year on the trail she's learned how to not be herself, how to comfortably adopt a skin and play a part.
Her real self is a person who wants to run things, to assert authority, to create systems and have people conform to them. She is not a natural at the outsized warmth politics demands. But she is moving beyond--forgive me--the vacant eyes of the power zombie, like the Tilda Swinton character in "Michael Clayton." -- Peggy Noonan
Peggy in Wonderland presses warily on through the hall of looking glasses that is our most current form of identity politics -- the politics of personal construction. We have an unprecedented amount of it going on now, dominating every day of campaign coverage. It is the topic, the angle; the style is the substance. Fred Thompson is critiqued primarily for failing to bring the style everyone expected. Mitt Romney experiences the frustration of failing to overcome his substance problems (Mormonism; political evolution) because people don't buy his style: if Hillary is the power zombie, Zoolander Mitt is the himbot. Barack Obama's campaign is almost entirely therapeutic, centered around the proposition that style is substance; Obama cannot be a Christianist, for example, because his Christianity is a means of a certain style -- all the less frightening because genuinely admitted as such -- to the greater end of more catholic abstractions. All of this is to speak nothing of Huckabee or Giuliani or Edwards. John McCain, Bill Richardson, and Ron Paul are probably the only people in the race defined by their substance.
And then there is Hillary. Noonan's right about everything but that Hillary wants to assert authority in order to gain power. To the contrary, she wants to assert power in order to gain authority. Constant had to invent a new term of art, usurpation, to account for how this timeless impulse takes modern shape as it's applied to politics:
Despotism banishes all forms of liberty; usurpation needs these forms in order to justify the overturning of what it replaces; but in appropriating them it profanes them. Because the existence of public spirit is a danger for it, while the appearance of one is a necessity, usurpation strikes the people with one hand to stifle their true opinion, and subsequently strikes them again with the other to force them to simulate the appropriate opinion.
Yes, this man born in the eighteenth century saw apparently postmodern virtual politics as clear as day. In fact they are only really really modern: "servitude has no rest, agitation no pleasure." And he reached as surely as Noonan reaches for the zombie metaphor:
This agitation no more resembles moral life than the hideous convulsions, which an art, more frightful than useful, inflicts upon corpses without reanimating them, resembles physical life. It is usurpation which has invented those pretended sanctions, those monotonous congratulations, customary tribute that in all ages the same men lavish, in almost the same words, upon the most opposite measures. Fear apes all the appearances of courage to congratulate itself on its shame, and to give thanks for its misfortune.
You can see at the end there how the ugliest downsides of the Bush administration -- the flattery that lies to itself as well as power -- evoke the fun to come under a Clinton administration. Picture the Bodyworlds principle applied to politics.