I recently had a Facebook friend bring up some issues about Hillary Clinton and the election that were truly bothering her. And I have to admit that even this far into the election I’m seeing this type of thing more than I would have expected. Here are a couple of the main points that she brought up:
“I feel the damage this election has done to our country is incalculable. I’m not blaming the Clintons for the division in this country, but lets face it, we all suspected back in the 90s that if HRC stayed in the forefront of politics, a scenario like last night was inevitable.”
“I wonder sometimes if the Dems had cut the Clintons loose back then & focused on building up new talent in the party we wouldn’t have to be dealing with this sideshow right now. The Clintons have been lightning rods for vitriol and hatred & the Lewinsky scandal was like pouring gasoline on a fire.”
“I wonder if their popularity with the other half of the country & the staunch defense of WJC has just infuriated the right wing even more and driven them to these extreme positions that are espoused by the likes of Fox News & Brietbart.”
“I almost feel like any other talented Democrat on the ticket this year could have had DJT put away in the polls from the start & the race would have been a foregone conclusion.”
Over the last few months I have gotten the sense that a lot of Democrats/Liberals share these or similar views. In particular many past Sanders supporters, even those now supporting Clinton, are likely to share this general outlook. I don’t agree at all, and here’s why:
1) Conservatives do not act as they do because of the Clintons. Their attitudes and actions are based on their own internal narratives and myths, and these internal myths are what drive them. There is no “chicken or the egg” mystery here. The Clintons did not turn Republicans into what they currently are; Republicans have treated the Clintons (and many others) as they have because of what they are. Blaming Hillary Clinton for the actions of Republicans has become a bit of a national pastime, but let’s not confuse the causal relationships.
2) To be clear, the Republicans didn’t really care about Lewinsky. Her situation was just something that popped out the side while they were squeezing the Whitewater Investigation, and they ran with it. I feel very confident that all of the “outrage” at the time was manufactured for PR purposes. They were having no luck in the various Whitewater Investigations, and they used this because it’s what they had. Ironically, not only did the Lewinsky scandal not end up helping them that much with Bill Clinton, an argument could be made that it actually rescued/empowered HRC’s political aspirations.
3) If nothing else, the GOP treatment of Barack Obama, a responsible center/left politician with high favorables and no real scandals, should put to rest once and for all any assertion that Democrats are responsible for the way Republicans behave.
4) The Democratic Party has developed plenty of new talent post-Clintons. I’m not sure why anyone thinks otherwise. For example may I introduce you to our President? Also, keep an eye out for Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Eric Garcetti, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Cory Booker, Anthony Foxx, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom and many others too numerous to mention.
Clinton is not the nominee by default, and she is not the nominee because the Party has no bench. Clinton is the nominee because she is a giant in the Democratic Party, and because (despite what many continue to assert), she is highly popular and highly electable. She is the nominee because that’s what the clear majority of Democrats wanted.
5) The conviction, widely held in some progressive circles, that some other Democratic challenger (usually Bernie Sanders) would be beating Trump by a much greater margin can only be held by ignoring historical voting trends and the deep partisan divide in our country.
I remind you that in his re-election campaign even Herbert Hoover got nearly 40% of the vote, and he was so widely despised because of the Great Depression that on multiple occasions the Secret Service had to stop people from assassinating him during his campaign stops. Goldwater, who suffered one of the nation’s greatest presidential defeats, also managed to get 39% of the vote. And these results occurred well before the partisan post-80's era.
There is simply no historical basis on which to assert that Clinton should be beating Trump by 20–30 points. I don’t think that type of spread is even possible anymore. If Trump is proof of anything, it’s that 40% or more of the American public will vote for anyone who is the Republican nominee. The American public is now essentially divided into “Rightland” and “Leftland”, with a small (and shrinking) group of undecideds in the middle. Any expectation that a Democrat (or Republican) can simply run away with a presidential election ignores the reality of our current electorate.
Nor by the way is there any reason to assert that Sanders would have done better. Personally, I think Sanders would have done worse. And really, I think it’s fair to point out that questioning Clinton’s performance ignores the fact that she is doing better than Obama did in 2012. It also ignores the fact that she is winning, and she has been winning since the beginning of this election. Despite what many of Sanders’ supporters like to claim, Clinton had him beat by late February/early March, and she has always had Trump well in hand. I’m really not sure what else anyone could reasonably expect.
6) I have often spoken of the problems inherent in the epistemic bubble that conservatives have created for themselves. But one thing I have not typically discussed is how it affects those of us who are not in the bubble with them. My own experience has been that most liberals simply have no idea what conservatives think about the issues we face. And when confronted with conservative assertions and views, they assume that the conservatives in question are either “crazy” or “stupid”.
This quick and simplistic dismissal of conservative positions is one of the reasons so many liberals remain baffled by conservatives in general and Trump supporters in particular. It doesn’t seem to occur to many liberals that conservatives have a completely different view of reality than we do, and those liberals who are aware of this don’t take it nearly as seriously as they should.
Has the conservative view of our world affected how Republicans view Hillary Clinton? Of course it has. Has it affected how they treat her? You bet. But as I pointed out above, it affects how they view and treat nearly any Democrat. Do I need to list the bizarre and outlandish accusations that have been leveled against Barack Obama during his presidency? Viewed against the backdrop of the modern GOP reaction to any democrat or progressive policy, I simply don’t know how anyone can claim that Republicans (or Trump) would be taking it easier on some other Democrat running for office. They wouldn’t.
Bottom Line — Is Hillary Clinton getting a lot of crap because she’s Hillary Clinton? Absolutely. But so would any other Democrat running for President; don’t kid yourself on that point. The difference is that Clinton has 25 years of experience knowing just how to deal with this mishegas.
Also, she’s going to win.