There are many things in our political system I will never understand. And one of those is the Cult of Hillary Clinton.
It’s been almost six months since the election. We’re slowly getting a little more information about what went on in the disastrous Clinton campaign. And Hillary has apparently gotten a book deal to blame everyone but herself for the loss. It seems pretty clear that her campaign was sunk by a combination of bad tactical decisions, a public distaste for her, a profound sense of entitlement and, perhaps, an unfortunately-timed development in the e-mail scandal in the form of the Comey letter.
Nevertheless, there is a large cadre of people who refuse to believe that her defeat was anything besides a sexist conspiracy by government insiders, Russian agents and the media. And what strikes me over and over is the need to portray Hillary Clinton as a victim. To wit:
Every time you use "weak" to describe the most qualified presidential candidate ever, you commit psychological violence against women/girls. https://t.co/j1nTvP0noY
— …she persisted. (@leahmcelrath) April 20, 2017
— Nick Merrill (@NickMerrill) April 20, 2017
The theme is the same: Hillary Clinton was a selfless absurdly qualified public servant who the Republicans chased with 25 years of pseudo-scandals until finally a Russian-FBI-media cabal brought her down. They wonder if she’s doing all right and hope that she will stay in the public sphere, even suggesting she run for Mayor of New York.
Andrew Sullivan takes the wind out of this line of nonsense. And I’m going to do a long quote here because it’s beautiful.
And everywhere you see not an excoriation of one of the worst campaigns in recent history, leading to the Trump nightmare, but an attempt to blame anyone or anything but Clinton herself for the epic fail. It wasn’t Clinton’s fault, we’re told. It never is. It was the voters’ — those ungrateful, deplorable know-nothings! Their sexism defeated her (despite a majority of white women voting for Trump). A wave of misogyny defeated her (ditto). James Comey is to blame. Bernie Sanders’s campaign — because it highlighted her enmeshment with Wall Street, her brain-dead interventionism and her rapacious money-grubbing since she left the State Department — was the problem. Millennial feminists were guilty as well, for not seeing what an amazing crusader for their cause this candidate was. And this, of course, is how Clinton sees it as well: She wasn’t responsible for her own campaign — her staffers were. As a new book on her campaign notes, after Clinton lost the Michigan primary to Sanders, “The blame belonged to her campaign team, she believed, for failing to hone her message, energize important constituencies, and take care of business in getting voters to the polls.” So by the time the general-election campaign came round, they’d fix that and win Michigan, right?
Let us review the facts: Clinton had the backing of the entire Democratic establishment, including the president (his biggest mistake in eight years by far), and was even married to the last, popular Democratic president. As in 2008, when she managed to lose to a neophyte whose middle name was Hussein, everything was stacked in her favor. In fact, the Clintons so intimidated other potential candidates and donors, she had the nomination all but wrapped up before she even started. And yet she was so bad a candidate, she still only managed to squeak through in the primaries against an elderly, stopped-clock socialist who wasn’t even in her party, and who spent his honeymoon in the Soviet Union. She ran with a popular Democratic incumbent president in the White House in a growing economy. She had the extra allure of possibly breaking a glass ceiling that — with any other female candidate — would have been as inspiring as the election of the first black president. In the general election, she was running against a malevolent buffoon with no political experience, with a deeply divided party behind him, and whose negatives were stratospheric. She outspent him by almost two-to-one. Her convention was far more impressive than his. The demographics favored her. And yet she still managed to lose!
“But … but … but …” her deluded fans insist, “she won the popular vote!” But that’s precisely my point. Any candidate who can win the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes and still manage to lose the Electoral College by 304 to 227 is so profoundly incompetent, so miserably useless as a politician, she should be drummed out of the party under a welter of derision. Compare her electoral college result with Al Gore’s, who also won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College: 271 to 266. For that matter, compare hers with John Kerry’s, who lost the popular vote by 1.5 percent — 286 to 241. She couldn’t even find a halfway-decent speechwriter for her convention speech. The week before the election, she was campaigning in Arizona, for Pete’s sake. And she took off chunks of the summer, fundraising (at one point, in the swing states of Fire Island and Provincetown). Whenever she gave a speech, you could hear the air sucking out of the room minutes after she started. In the middle of an election campaign, she dismissed half of the Republican voters as “deplorable.” She lost Wisconsin, which she didn’t visit once. I could go on.
I can understand why people are disappointed in Trump’s victory. But I can not understand the sympathy and moaning over Clinton. The Clintons have made $153 million in speaking fees since Bill left office. They’ve made $23 million in books deals and that was before Clinton’s newest deal. They have a daughter, two grandchildren and a host of glitterati friends. They spent 25 years as two of the most powerful people in the world. Why in the name of Satan’s balls would you feel sorry for them?
Hillary Clinton lost won of the most winnable elections in history. She lost against her dream candidate, the one that she desperately wanted to oppose. And the main reason she lost it was because of her own damned self. Yes, you can excoriate Trump voters if you want — keeping in mind that about a two-thirds of the electorate would vote for their party even if Satan were the nominee. But Barack Obama faced many of the same or worse headwinds Clinton did and won twice. Handily.
Here, in no particular order, are ten reasons why Clinton lost the election that have nothing to do with sexism, James Comey or evil media cabals.
- In a year where the electorate was in an anti-establishment mood, she was a candidate trailing decades of scandal, 25 years in Washington and millions in speaking fees from Wall Street interests. Yes, Trump is establishment too. That doesn’t make Clinton not establishment.
- Oh, those scandals were all fake right? Well, the Whitewater scandal resulted in 40 felony convictions, including the Clintons’ business partners. And the only reason they weren’t indicted was because Susan McDougal wouldn’t testify. Their travelgate scandal didn’t result in charges but did result in a ruinous bullshit prosecution of Billy Dale. The e-mail scandal didn’t end in an indictment, but did involve knowing and deliberate violation of rules … all to keep her e-mails shielded form FOIA.
- One of Trump’s weak points was his treatment of women. Hillary Clinton was one of the worst candidates to leverage that, having spent years slagging women who accused her husband of misbehavior.
- Clinton’s campaign ads were far more negative and far less policy-focused than Trump’s.
- Clinton never set foot in Wisconsin. Her campaign in Michigan spent zero time in union halls. In the closing days of the election, when Trump’s path to victory went through Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennyslvania, Clinton spent her time trying to run up the score in places like Arizona.
- Clinton’s debate performance was terrible. She spent far more time baiting Trump than articulating policy.
- Clinton claimed she was the most qualified Presidential candidate ever, which was laughable. Her vast experience consisting of bungling healthcare reform, defending her family’s scandals, doing nothing as a Senator and intervening in Libya. This is hardly a sterling record.
- In fact, this “most qualified ever” nonsense played into what the American people disliked most about her campaign: a bottomless sense of entitlement, a claim that it was basically “her turn”.
- Trump grasped at least one issue — immigration — that the American people cared dearly about. Clinton had no signature issue other than “my turn”.
- Clinton’s tendency toward secrecy and denial blew a case of pneumonia that would have been forgotten in two days into a week-long bullshit storm. The pneumonia, in fact, became a microcosm of her campaign as apologists insisted 1) she wasn’t sick; 2) it was the heat that got to her; 3) OMG, she’s so strong campaigning with pneumonia!
I could go on. The simple fact is that the election should not have been anywhere near this close. Clinton should have won by ten points in the popular vote. But she didn’t. And it wasn’t because of sexism, although there was some of that. It wasn’t because of Comey, although his letter probably hurt her. It wasn’t because of the media. It was because of her. It was because she made decisions, ran a bad campaign and managed to lose to dribbling turnip. The Clinton holdouts are like those fans insisting that the holding call cost them the Super Bowl while ignoring the three fumbles, two interceptions, eight dropped passes and ten missed tackles. This election should not have been that close.
One day, we’re going to get a book detailing what went wrong (Thrill reviewed one of the first books on the campaign here). Hell, we may get leaked video of Clinton bungling the campaign. But there will always be those who insist that it wasn’t her fault. Because they need to believe. Not believe in Clinton, per se. They need to believe that the country was too sexist, the media too conspiratorial and the FBI/Russians too complicit. They need to believe the world is horrible and everything is against them.
Because … how can you call yourself the resistance if you have to admit you’re just backing the other half of the establishment?