August 26th, 2008
10:26 AM ET

The Catharsis Campaign

What does Clinton's political release mean to the future of feminism?

What does Clinton's political release mean to the future of feminism?

Rebecca Walker

Let's start from the beginning.

The concept of catharsis has a powerful pre-Freudian connection to the sacred feminine. In 355 B.C., Aristotle developed the idea of collective purging in response to tragedy based on the medical term katamenia, which described reproductive fluids. Hundreds of years later, devotees of Mary Magdalene found inspiration in his idea and called themselves the Cathars. Freud adopted the term centuries later, using it to describe a gender-neutral, beneficial release of repressed emotions.

Repressed emotions, indeed. Hillary Clinton may be making the right gestures this week, taking on John McCain for his bold attempts to woo her disaffected supporters. But in embracing the idea of catharsis, Team Hillary has set the scene for the Democratic National Convention to act as a kind of mass purification ritual. The podium is the sacrificial altar; the floor to ceiling monitors, dozens of television cameras and throngs of political priests and priestesses are perfectly orchestrated for optimal alignment. Bill serves his perfunctory role as emperor. Hillary is the oracle who will perform the ritual bloodletting.

So what exactly will be purified? Will the woman down the street's house escape foreclosure? Will incarcerated mothers and fathers be returned to their families—sane, intact and ready to love? Will dead soldiers come back to life? Will Gloria Steinem recant her statements that gender trumps race and that all young women (except her own white, well-resourced protégées) are naïve? Will a black woman in Harlem be able to get a tomato without having to walk for 40 minutes?

If not, it seems that the concept of catharsis is little more than a cog in a larger political wheel whose only aim is to maintain the influence of a select and privileged few.


Filed under: Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Mark

    To bad HIllary we know that you are putting on a show for Obama's bandwagon side kick show. Were going to vote for McCain!!! Go Mr. McCain were praying for you all the way !!! Thank-God for McCAin!!

    August 27, 2008 at 12:12 am |
  2. Patricia

    Hillary is wonderful. She would have had my vote had she won. She did not. So life goes on. Do we vote for the enemy because our favorite warror lost? NO! We follow her lead and we vote for Barack Obama, a vote for Barack is a vote for the middle class and the poor.

    Are we better off now than we were at the end of the Clinton years? Hell no! It's the economy, stupid! Remember that saying when Clinton was running? I do! And it is still the economy thanks to Bush. I'm tired of hearing Reagan praised to high heaven. He left this country in a mess. Clinton cleaned it up. It will take another Democrat to clean it up again. Barack Obama is that man! And you can bet that Hillary will play an important part in his administration!

    August 26, 2008 at 9:41 pm |
  3. Patricia

    All the Democrats need to do is run AGAINST George Bush and the fact that McCain is just four more years of Bush policies!

    Make it very clear that Democrats will raise taxes alright... but "on the wealthy" for a change. McCain wants to make their tax cuts permanent. Hell, yes! He and his wife are rich, they do not want to have to pay taxes. Nor do they want their special interests to pay more taxes. The Republicans do not want to raise taxes on anyone.... BAH.... they want to borrow the money from China to run this country and subsidize the out sourcing of our jobs and pay big business to relocate in their world countries.

    They are only interested in themselves. Wake up, America. Republican politicians do not care about you. They will lie and cheat to get into office, they will tell you whatever you need to hear. Then they will do whatever they want to do, and the hell with the rest of us.

    There it is! IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID! Compare this country now to the Clinton years. Were we better off then or now? How about the national debt? Better or worse? Just go right down the line.

    The Republicans make a mess, and the Democrats have to come along and clean up that mess. Sadly when people are not over burdened with financial woes, they have time to pay attention to nit picking nonsense. The Republicans bank on that. They bank on the fact that they can say, "he will raise your taxes," and a certain part of this country will run scared to the polls and vote for them instead of voting for themselves.

    A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for the Average Person in this country.

    Come on, People! Let's vote for change! Let's turn this country around again. And this time, let's not forget how the Republicans sold this country down the tubes! Let's continue to vote for ourselves for a change instead of special interests masquerading as Republicans.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:25 pm |
  4. SARA.ro

    Even the ancient texts are speaking about the redemption wich is coming through injustice and hurt, there is no place for marthyrs in this new milenium...but to change will be easier if you belive that you can do it ;the warriors of RepubTeam know, anticipate, waite,use it better than Pitagora numbers.

    August 26, 2008 at 9:02 pm |
  5. mark hoffman, Phoenix AZ.

    I'm not really that worried about HRC's supporters whinin' about Obama playin' dirty to get the nod. Mark my words, when the "October Surprise" gets sprung on people, most will fall in line & vote Democratic. My money for the "Surprise" is an announcement from the SCOTUS about "how this will be my last term". Justice Brennan perhaps?

    August 26, 2008 at 8:36 pm |
  6. lampe

    You people make me sick!!!!!!!!! You want her to help bring her supporters over to Obama, but yet you continue to trash talk about her. What is it that you want, because , you are the ones acting like the spoiled little brats. If you think for one minute, that all this crap that keeps coming out of your mouths, is going to CHANGE people's minds to vote for Obama, think again. I really wish Obama, would read some of the things his supporters are blogging. Do you think for one minute he would be happy about all this negative crap his supporters blog. Leave Clinton and their supporters alone, you are just making matters worse. If he loses, I hope you stop and think of all the evil things you blogged, because you may cost him this election.

    August 26, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  7. GAIL Centre,Al;

    I am sick of the whole mess. I have been a democrate for 40 years and I am sad to say I will never vote for a democrat again. Pelosi, Reed, all the democrates in congress makes me ashame to be of the same party. MCcain is better for our country, at least his friends are not hateful preachers, crooks, and terrorist. I'll take my chances with MCcain. God help us all if Obama is elected. He will be a diaster just waiting to happen, and his racist wife is worse than him.

    August 26, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  8. m green

    The latest and greatest I hear about the "cathartic" roll call underlines the DNC insiders manipulation. The smell of backroom deals in the name of unity has degraded to the stench of roll call fixated Obama dictation. I so reject this democratic family and this whole process.

    August 26, 2008 at 6:37 pm |
  9. Don

    Someone please explain to me the philosophy that certain Clinton supporters have in maintaining their present position of not backing Obama and would vote for McCain. If they were democrats to begin with (and this is a question of course) and supported Hillary and her vision and position on the issues at stake, I really don’t fathom how they could not support Obama. His positions are so similar to hers on most all issues and totally 180 degrees different than McCain. Were they only supporting her because she was a woman and had nothing to do with what she stood for? Are their little feelings hurt because he won and had a more efficient and better funded campaign? Will they only be happy if he comes crawling on hands and knees and begs them? Hillary has made it so clear that what is really important here is that the Democrat’s win the White House and she understands that and is willing to support Obama. If she is so committed, how can they not be? I was clearly an Obama supporter from the beginning but I told myself if Hillary won, I had no problem in supporting her as I was so deeply invested in believing that first and foremost we had to save our values and our country. I only hope they see the light and what is really important here and not be spoilers and get another Bush for four years.

    August 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm |
  10. Presley

    I'm SO SICK OF THAT WORD! "Catharsis"!
    Take a Prozac already and get over it Hillary. You had your moment, it's over, now put on a power suit, kiss your husband, work the photo ops and do the voodoo you think you do so well, of course people like me who did support you and have no problem accepting your defeat hope you still care about us as well.
    Face it, you got owned.
    You unite when you let go of YOUR own divisions Ms. Clinton. Put that in your CATHARSIS and smoke it.

    August 26, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  11. Kent, Illinois

    Elect McCain and you elect the Republicans who have ruined this country in 8 yrs. They all have gotten rich at the expense of all of us. And you want more of the same? Bush and Cheney are traitors and should be put on trial for war crimes. Time will tell...............

    August 26, 2008 at 5:13 pm |
  12. Kent, Illinois

    It is a shame that you Hillary supporters don't realize that it isn't about Obama or Hillary. It is about this country. We are in the dump. McCain knows war............what do you think we will have if we elect him? You so called life long Dems are changing partys for what? All of a sudden Dem ideals are no good? You don't care about the poor, civil rights, healthcare, or honoring the Constitution? No............you all need to stop the hate and realize what you are saying. Unbelievable........

    August 26, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  13. Beverly

    Kathryn S. Archuleta, so you were one of the 30 chanting people at this so called "rally". No wonder Hillary is still in debt, you PUMA people are a joke, I wouldn't trust you guys to plan a picnic. CNN even tried to help you guys out by moving the camera to pan the non-existent crowd. I saw the same LA women shouting Sweetie at least 5 times. John McCain get a bigger crowd to listen to his monotone town halls. So go ahead and throw your one vote his way, you PUMA's are not a threat to democracy.

    August 26, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  14. lyn-NY

    Hillary is not factor, even though the media has mae her out to be.

    She will be a sad story in history along with all the millions of little pieces and cannot see that at the end of the day.

    They Lost

    August 26, 2008 at 4:35 pm |
  15. JC- Los Angeles

    Obama made a fatal mistake in not addressing the situation with the Clintons immediately after the primaries.

    It's similar to a lead actor being upstaged by an understudy or a supporting actor; this is why Tom Cruise never appears opposite other great actors.

    Real leaders bring everyone together, empower others and focus on the collective whole.

    Hillary is center stage and Obama has to cross his fingers and hope.

    August 26, 2008 at 2:30 pm |
  16. Sharon

    I will be disappointing for Hillary to give up on the people.

    Something just isn't right. Whether she drank the koolaid, or strongarmed or intimidated. There is something wrong.

    The majority of the Democratic Voters did not and continue to not want Obama. No matter if Hillary stands up for us or not.

    August 26, 2008 at 2:06 pm |
  17. Mindy Chatsworth, Ca.


    First of all, Hillary Clinton did not bring gender and sexism into this campaign. That was accomplished by the media and other politicians. So don't blame her for creating this mess in the first place. The mysogynistic comments from the media and other candidates created the contaminated atmosphere that you now say is Hillary's responsibility to purge. Nonsense! That's the worst kind of victimization I have ever heard. This woman tried to break the highest of glass ceilings and, though there are now famously 18 million cracks, ultimately she couldn't get it done.

    I do not agree with those women who say that they will vote for John McCain if they can't have Hillary. It would be a fatal repudiation of all that we as women want for our country. But I must adamantly reject your idea that it is Hillary Clinton's duty to bring them back to the fold. She will try, of that I have no doubt. She will try as mightily as she possibly can. She knows what's at stake here and it's not her political career or her personal vindication. What is at stake is the future of the middle class and the poor, universal health care, a reinvigorated economy withl new jobs, a real energy policy, getting out of Iraq and paying down the deficit. Any woman who would put herself through the nightmare that Hillary Clinton did in the primary campaign, did not do it for simple ambition and vanity.

    Barack Obama will have to work to win over her voters and he will most likely not succeed in winning over all of them. But she can only do so much. She can't force her supporters to vote for Obama. I believe strongly that it is in their best interests to do so, but in the end it's a matter of conscience.

    Please do not continue to spread the propaganda that this is all Hillary's fault and she must get absolution by making it right. That is an insult to the women who were inspired by her campaign.

    August 26, 2008 at 2:01 pm |
  18. Ryan Field

    Of course Hillary supporters can be swayed to vote for Obama. I was and I'm supporting Obama completely. I'm not jumping up and down, and I think that awful Caroline Kennedy should go back under the rock from which she crawled out this year, but if I can be swayed anyone can.

    Now, we need to bury the primary, and all the bad feelings, and move forward so we can get a Democrat into office.

    How can the press help? Get rid of Donna Brazile, Roland Martin and David Gergen. They just remind people of the bitter primary, and Hillary supporters cannot stand to see their faces. I'm sure CNN willl do very well without them, maybe even improve, if they re-vamp a little.

    August 26, 2008 at 1:39 pm |
  19. Wilson

    Rebecca, you start off the article in great fashion providing us with historical origins of the word. However, your closing paragraph is does not make any sense. You say the following "So what exactly will be purified? Will the woman down the street’s house escape foreclosure? Will incarcerated mothers and fathers be returned to their families....."
    I think you are missing up apples and oranges. The catharsis is for Hillary supporters who haven't come to terms with what happened during the primaries. It is not meant to solve America's numerous problems but to unit the Democratic Party which would then win the election and solve most of our social, economic and security problems

    August 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm |
  20. JT

    Well, the DNC selected Obama.

    Obama stated before, Hillary is the champion, you need to knock her out to win. Obama did not knock her out. In fact she was wining big in the end.

    Hillary is the winner.

    Forget Obama. How he is going to take care of our family if he can not even take care of his brother that is living in a shack.

    Obama is just full of BS.

    August 26, 2008 at 12:44 pm |

    There is no way Obama will reach the Hillary supporters. I was at a Hillary for John McCain rally last night. The anti-Obama sentiment is very strong. The Democratic Party has become a “Nothing Party” thanks to Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and the like. I am now a registered Republican after being a registered Democrat for 40 years. Hillary’s speech tonight will not affect me or my decision to vote for John McCain. Most people I socialized with last night felt the same way. During the Prime News yesterday several former Hillary supporters called and stated the same thing “NObama”.


    August 26, 2008 at 11:49 am |
  22. Kent, Illinois

    Hillary is and important part of this whole process. Bill could be, but he wants to talk about himself at the convention instead of Obama...........Ego, ego, ego. You were President. Now you are not. Period. Wow.........do you Dems want to win? Or do you want to spiral down the toilet and fight with eachother? Coulda fooled me..........

    August 26, 2008 at 11:37 am |
  23. June Effler

    Personally, I believe the opening night of the Democratic Convention was uplifting and a "time out" from all of in intense insanity of the daily newscasts. Maybe instead of the incessant "war of the roses" we occasionally "smelled the roses" the world would be a better place.

    Let's get a grip!!!

    August 26, 2008 at 11:35 am |
  24. jr

    You see, 25% of the Democratic party has decided that they don't want the Clintons to have any influence in Washington. They fixed the primary to get rid of Hillary even though she really won. They have insulted and blasted her every step of the way since they cheated her.

    Why would anyone in their right mind vote for a figurehead, whose campaign doesn't realize that 75% of their parties core wants the Clintons in the spot light?

    The 75% of Democrats who can see the blatant bigotry against the Clintons is not going to vote for a weakling who didn't understand they were bucking the majority.

    August 26, 2008 at 11:30 am |
  25. Ryan Field

    I'm a *disgruntled* Hillary supporter who will (yes I will) vote for Obama because I'm a Democrat and believe in party unity.

    But you guys at CNN aren't helping the cause when you put people like David Gergen, Donna Brazile and Roland Martin out there. These people (there are others, but they are the most arrogant) only turn more people toward John McCain.

    So let's help Obama win by putting Brazile, Martin and Gergen in a back office somewhere. I'm working hard on my own small level for Obama, and so far these three on CNN have cost me four votes this week.

    August 26, 2008 at 11:02 am |
  26. Pat

    Rebecca: Congratulations on a report that not only is void of reason and substance but also transcends along the lines of illucit rantings from a disconnected cog from an unbalanced wheel!

    Your point is? This speaks to?

    August 26, 2008 at 10:53 am |


    But putting the genie back in the bottle will take a lot more than a massive display of scripted unity. Through their opportunistic appeal to white voters, subtle strumming of the chord of black man as immature "boy" and refusal to stem the sweeping rhetoric of gender politics engulfing their message, Hillary and her female chorus, including Steinem and Geraldine Ferraro, have reopened the floodgates of mistrust many, myself included, have tried to stem for decades.

    THANK YOU REBECCA.......... 🙂

    August 26, 2008 at 10:52 am |
  28. Kathryn S. Archuleta

    There is no way Obama will reach the Hillary supporters. I was at a Hillary for John McCain rally last night. The anti-Obama sentiment is very strong. The Democratic Party has become a "Nothing Party" thanks to Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and the like. I am now a registered Republican after being a registered Democrat for 40 years. Hillary's speech tonight will not affect me or my decision to vote for John McCain. Most people I socialized with last night felt the same way. During the Prime News yesterday several former Hillary supporters called and stated the same thing "NObama".

    August 26, 2008 at 10:37 am |
  29. Cindy

    GREAT article. I agree 100%!! What ever Hillary says will mean nothing to the "real" people in this nation who are hurting. Her trying to ease her pain and anger and releasing her people to vote for Obama does nothing for anyone but her and maybe Obama. She just wants to keep her influence and Obama wants to gain his. But what does that do for anyone else...NOTHING!!

    The Dems lack of telling their true plans is very showing in what they would do if in office. If they have no clear cut plan now then how are they going to be the big agent of "change" that Obama keeps hounding about?


    August 26, 2008 at 10:36 am |