One thing is certain as November’s presidential election approaches: Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama need fear the Dr. Fell Factor. This was not the case of Hillary Clinton’s failed run for the Democratic Party nomination. There may be no way to quantify this thesis, but Hillary Clinton was a victim of the Dr. Fell factor as she lost the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama.
You may remember Dr. Fell from the old Mother Goose nursery rhyme penned in 1680 by a 17-year-old British poet, Tom Brown.
I do not like thee Dr. Fell,
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know and know full well,
I do not like thee Dr. Fell.
A great many Hillary Clinton loathers also seemed incapable of articulating why they couldn’t abide the former first lady. Ask those “anybody but Hillary” advocates what they find so odious about her, and more frequently than not you’ll hear growls and oaths rather than thoughtful refutations concerning her positions on issues.
Aside the rants on talk radio, it is difficult to understand the widespread enmity toward the senator from New York, or how she may have been able to overcome these strong negative impressions among certain voters.
The case of cousin Elmer
The Dr. Fell factor was a presence in our home while I was growing up. My mother detested a cousin I’ll call Elmer, and like Tom Brown’s assessment of his Oxford professor, John Fell, Mother knew full well she didn’t like Elmer, but also like the poet, could not tell why. And like Hillary Clinton’s name on talk radio, the mention of Elmer in Mother’s presence engendered fulsome, inarticulate rages during which Mother sometimes ground her teeth and invoked his name as a pejorative.
My brothers and I couldn’t ascertain Mother’s animus, except that her cousin was given to cornball humor, which seems hardly a reason. She never even tried to justify her reaction to Elmer except to repeat, “I can’t stand him.”
When I hear people say they can’t tolerate Hillary Clinton, I think of my late mother, and cousin Elmer. No stated reason for the loathing, but there it was.
Even after defeat, the factor remains
But Hillary Clinton and the Dr. Fell factor persist. In an NPR broadcast on the heels of Barack Obama securing the required delegate count to assure his selection as the Democratic Party nominee, a Clinton supporter said those she encountered with rancor toward her candidate could not state a single reason for their hostility.
And a few weeks ago, to no avail, Larry King asked his pundit guests if they could explain why Hillary Clinton aroused ire in so many voters. Clinton herself must wonder the same thing.
Back in 1680 Tom Brown had his finger on an aspect of human nature when he created the Dr. Fell quatrain. Certain people get up our noses because they just do.
Hillary Clinton certainly was aware of her perception among voters inimical toward her, and she must have known, too, that there was little she could do about it. But it is also unfortunate that there are those like the poet, who only know full well their animosity, but are unable to justify it.
Michael Fedo is the author of “The Lynchings in Duluth,” “The Man From Lake Wobegon” and other books.
Want to add your voice?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion by writing a Community Voices article, email Susan Albright at salbright [at] minnpost [dot] com.