by Joe Sobran
(Originally published in SOBRAN’S, March 1997, page 1)

Of all the comments on the Paula Jones [law]suit, the most interesting was made by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. Observing that the feminists haven’t rallied to Mrs. Jones as they did to Anita Hill, he reflected that she is precisely the type of woman who is most vulnerable to what the Sisterhood calls “sexual harassment”: dowdy, working-class, without money or education or social connections or ideology. Who these days would dare to hit on a smartly dressed professional woman who spoke fluent feminese?

Another way to put it is that a lecherous governor could have sized up Mrs. Jones in a flash as a woman he could safely make a pass at. Who would believe her if she complained? And who among those who suspected she was telling the truth could give her story any resonance? Not even Bill Clinton, who thinks of ’most everything, could have foreseen that if he ever became president of the whole U.S. of A., her story might find its own avenue to the front page.

But Paula Jones may also stand as a symbol of something larger than the admittedly large class of women who have received Bill Clinton’s attentions. She belongs to the class of people who fall into a peculiar twilight zone — just above the victimhood line, so to speak.

Some people earn just enough money to disqualify them for welfare. They get little attention and less pity. In the same way, some whites are ineligible for the aid and solicitude that go to minority group members at the same income and education level, and some women — women of modest means, heavy makeup, and big hair — don’t qualify for feminist sympathy.

All these folk might be called near-victims. They are typically self-sufficient, job-holding whites without much ambition, which is not to say they lack purpose, industry, or self-respect. They may even have political passions. But they are more likely to spend their weekends building a garage than organizing a movement. They know they are better off without the victim status which they despise and which, in any case, isn’t intended for the likes of them.

The establishment of any sort of victim status creates not only a class of victims, but a counter-class of invisible but resentful near-victims. They are audible on what’s called “right-wing talk radio,” as they call Rush or Gordon [Liddy] or Ollie [Oliver North] with their well-grounded gripes and homespun witticisms.

Progressive-minded people scorn them, and vice versa. There is no room for compassion for the near-victim in the liberal’s bleeding heart; in fact, the near-victim’s self-respect and self-sufficiency make him (or her) a rebuke and a bête noir to the liberal, as witness the liberals’ acid dismissal of Paula Jones and the talk-radio audience.

The real controversy over Mrs. Jones isn’t over whether she is telling the truth; it’s implicitly understood on all sides that she is. The struggle is over whether a jury of ordinary people, including, in all likelihood, several near-victims, is to be allowed to decide between her word and that of the nation’s victim-coddler-in-chief. 



Hear Joe read Section 3 here.

  • Recovering Sobran
  • Joe Sobran on ‘Shakespeare’
  • Guide to columns and essays by Joe Sobran 
  • Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation (copyright holder for this article)

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