Kaling is certainly not the only person still rolling her eyes at Hufflepuff nearly a decade after the series ended. Covering Wednesday’s Republican debate, The New Republic sorted each candidate into a Hogwarts house, and everyone sorted into Hufflepuff apparently resented it. There was Marco Rubio (“a Hufflepuff who keeps trying to hang out with the kids from Gryffindor, even though they pick on him”), Scott Walker (the same, but for Slytherin), and Ben Carson (who “would beg the sorting hat to be put in Slytherin before being told to take a seat ... at the Hufflepuff table”).
Within the context of the books, the houses aren’t just divided by personality—if so, a place like Slytherin would make no sense. A club full of Machiavellians would just be constantly plotting to stab each other in the back, but Slytherin’s members include pliable bullies like Draco Malfoy’s lackeys Crabbe and Goyle, who seem to have no ambition and carry out whatever awful tasks they’re ordered to. As Rowling built up the expansive universe of her books, she revealed that Slytherin’s founder Salazar was a bigoted old wizard who wanted to only admit “pure-blood” families to his school, and resigned in fury when he was overruled. The series is very conscious of the rigid British class system, and Slytherin is populated with the snobbiest rich kids, disinterested in mixing with anyone outside of their tight circles.
Hufflepuff, on the other hand, apparently accepted all kinds of students from the start, placing less emphasis on specific attributes or social backgrounds. One imagines a large portion of “scholarship kids” (represented best within the books as Muggle-born witches and wizards) going to Hufflepuff to find their place in the world free of prejudice, an egalitarian vision that even the brashly heroic Gryffindor seems to lack. The books’ most prominent Hufflepuff is Cedric Diggory, a paragon of modesty who’s named as the school’s representative champion in the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where he competes with Harry and others in a wizarding tournament. He (spoilers) eventually loses his life because he offers to share the championship with Harry, modest as ever, and thus inadvertently gets drawn into a plot to resurrect the evil Voldemort. (Other notable Hufflepuffs include Nymphadora Tonks, Newt Scamander, and the Herbology professor Pomona Sprout.)
The Hogwarts headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s eulogy for Diggory is one of Rowling’s better pieces of writing in the entire series. “Cedric Diggory was, as you all know, exceptionally hard working, infinitely fair-minded, and most importantly a fierce, fierce friend,” he says, lionizing every quality Hufflepuff House members could brag about, but of course, never would. In the series’s climactic battle with Voldemort, Hufflepuff is the house with the most students (outside of Harry’s own) taking part, though Rowling takes pains to note that they did so not for personal glory, but for the greater good.