What Happened: Hillary Clinton blames everybody, but it’s a clearcut case of both/and
We Americans tend to see binaries. Right and wrong. Black and white. For us or ag’in us. Either/or. But in this case, the truth is both/and. Clinton’s What Happened is right. Her critics are right.
A lot of Democrats wish Hillary Clinton would shut up and go away. Hillary has a new book, and she clearly has no intention of shutting up or going away.
“The best thing she could do is disappear,” said one former Clinton fundraiser and surrogate who played an active role at the convention. “She’s doing harm to all of us because of her own selfishness. Honestly, I wish she’d just shut the f— up and go away.”
Since her loss, Clinton has taken fire from both sides of the aisle for what’s seen as her refusal to acknowledge her own role in her campaign’s defeat.
She has blamed Russian hackers, sexism and former FBI Director James Comey for her defeat. But she has proven less vocal about flaws in her own campaign.
Is she right? Although investigations are still under way, it seems likely (based on the theory that where there’s smoke there’s fire, and there’s a lot of smoke, and also the Trump Crime Family is as stupid and corrupt as the night is long) that Russia played a role in helping Trump. If I were her I’d be righteously disenchanted with Comey, as well. And there is zero debate as to the role of misogyny in her unpopularity. A huge amount of the Hillary hate is driven by sexism – I can’t quantify how much, exactly, but I wouldn’t argue if you said more than 90%. As bad as she is – and make no mistake, I think she was a horrible candidate – if she were a man the reaction to her would have been on a par with any other bought-up Democratic apparatchik (as long as said apparatchik was white, of course).
So it is more than fair to say that Clinton has a point.
On the other hand, it is more than fair to say, as I note above, that she was a deeply flawed candidate. While she is not without accomplishments by a long shot, a number of charges having nothing to do with gender may objectively be laid at her feet. In a fit of frustration with certain of her supporters last March, I noted the following:
- She voted for George Bush’s illegal war on Iraq, a mistake for which there was no excuse. That war left up to, and perhaps more than 200,000 civilians dead.
- She supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And then backtracked. If you liked the TPP, fine – make the case. But it was a position which was wildly at odds with what many Dems believed in, and thus criticism of her on the issue was fair game.
- She doesn’t think we need to bring back Glass-Steagall – which her husband helped kill and which paved the way for the greatest financial meltdown since the Great Depression.
- She supported – or maybe not – the Keystone Pipeline. Again, it was hard to tell, and this sort of waffling is not a candidate’s greatest quality.
- Her eventual support for marriage equality was preceded by 20 years or so of unambiguous opposition to it (and it’s fair to argue that she flipped on the issue only once the polls hit a tipping point).
- She has a record of being neo-Con/hawkish even by Republican standards.
- She’s a big fan of war criminal Henry Kissinger.
- She supported the Patriot Act.
- She praised Nancy Reagan on AIDS. She later apologized, but WTF? Is this really something a presidential candidate couldn’t be expected to get right in the first place?
- She has a long history of – and forgive me for using Dubya’s cynical term here – flip-flopping, and all too often the about-faces seem to coincide with broad shifts in the polls. A caveat here, though. One might actually argue that this is one of Clinton’ better qualities, that she listens to the people. Sticking to your guns and staying the course and not changing horses in mid-stream when it becomes clear things have changed is not a virtue. So I’m willing to entertain discussion on this one.
- She took a lot of cash from Wall St. and as such we might be suspicious about her commitment to getting the financial sector under control. After all, these aren’t people who dish out millions for the privilege of being brought to heel.
- Finally, in every way I can see, she is unarguably to the right of Richard Nixon. She is what we would have called, back in the early 1970s, a mainline Republican.
I think more broadly – and this admittedly gets into the vague warm fuzzies of politicking – it can also be fairly charged that she had no real vision for her presidency. There were plenty of reasons to vote against Trump, but comparatively fewer to vote for her. There’s certainly nothing wrong with using your opponent’s shortcomings as campaign fodder – you’d be insane not to, in Sideshow Don’s case – but it’s also true that voters like being inspired. They’re motivated by the sense that they’re moving toward better days. As a certain other candidate once demonstrated, people will vote for hope.
Did Clinton ever offer hope?
In other words, Clinton is right to point out the forces that kneecapped her campaign. Without Russia, Comey and the fact that America has deep-seated issues with women she would very likely be president right now.
And those who now wish she’d shut the fuck up and go away are also right to criticize her for running a weak campaign. She was running against the most appalling candidate, perhaps, in the history of American politics (I say perhaps because I can’t quite get the genocidal Andrew Jackson out of my head). Had she been able to muster any sort of positive message at all, she would have won in a cakewalk.
Had she even tried to address the very real concerns of Sanders supporters, she may well have won. Should they have set aside their rage against the mainstream machine that is the modern Democratic party and done whatever was necessary to prevent our current dumpster fire of a presidency from becoming reality? Maybe, but it’s easy to read that laundry list above and see how people starved for meaningful change might be a bit uninspired by a candidate who promised more of the same, forever and ever, amen.
We Americans tend to see binaries. Right and wrong. Black and white. For us or ag’in us. Either/or. But in this case, the truth is both/and. Clinton is right. Her critics are right.
The real question before us right now – maybe the only question – is how best to approach the 2018 midterms and the crucial 2020 general. From where I stand, I can’t see how Clinton is helping.