by Ron Chusid Liberal Values
Hillary Clinton started her comeback/ excuses tour to deflect blame from the terrible campaign she ran, which led the Democrats to lose what was a sure victory against Donald Trump. While Clinton continues to blame others for her mistakes, an excerpt of a book provides further evidence of how Clinton mismanaged her campaign.
Clinton attributes her loss to four reasons:
Almost four months after her stunning defeat, Hillary Clinton y primarily blamed her loss to President Donald Trump on four factors beyond her control.
The former Democratic presidential candidate cited Russian meddling in the election, FBI Director James Comey’s involvement toward the end of the race, WikiLeaks’ theft of emails from her campaign chairman, and misogyny.
Clinton ignores the fact that there would have not been a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton if Clinton had not violated the rules regarding handling email, as documented in the State Department Inspector General report, and then go on to repeatedly lie about the situation, or if she had not handled classified information in an extremely careless manner.
Similarly, Clinton would not have been harmed by John Podesta’s email, or any other information allegedly released due to Russia’s actions, if the email did not contain such incriminating information about the actions of Clinton and the DNC. There has not been any evidence of any false information being released. The hacked email primarily acted to reinforce what Clinton’s critics were saying.
Most of those who would not vote for a woman based upon misogyny are also those who would never vote for a Democrat, and all serious analyses of the election have demonstrated that Clinton’s poor campaign rather than misogyny are responsible for Clinton’s loss, despite attempts of Clinton supporters to make such claims.
This is typical of Hillary Clinton’s long standing history of repeatedly making mistakes, and failing to learn from, or take responsibility for her mistakes.
Clinton lost both to being a poor candidate and making many mistakes in running her campaign (which were also indicative of her inability to handle being president). One example was the mistakes she made in Michigan in the general election–having failed to learn from the her loss to Bernie Sanders in the Michigan primary.
Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes provides yet one more example of what a poor candidate Clinton was, showing how she failed to take responsibility for the mistakes made prior to the Michigan primary:
Hillary had been up into the wee hours the night before, agitating over her loss. This is because we made poor choices about where we traveled, she thought. She emailed Robby Mook to tell him she believed she’d spent too much time in the cities of Detroit and Flint and not enough in the working-class white suburbs around them. Sensing just how angry she was, Mook responded by putting together a morning conference call so that Hillary could vent. But that didn’t settle her; if anything, it left her more perplexed and angry, as her debate-prep team witnessed firsthand.
Her aides took the browbeating — one of several she delivered in person and on the phone that day — in silence. They had a lot of their own thoughts on what went wrong, some of which echoed Hillary’s assessment: her message was off for Michigan, and she had refused to go hard against trade; Mook had pinched pennies and failed to put organizers on the ground; the polling and analytics were a touch too rosy, meaning the campaign didn’t know Bernie was ahead; she had set up an ambiguous decision making structure on the campaign; and she’d focused too heavily on black and brown voters at the expense of competing for the whites who had formed her base in 2008. The list went on and on.
The underlying truth — the one that many didn’t want to admit to themselves — was the person ultimately responsible for these decisions, the one whose name was on the ticket, hadn’t corrected these problems, all of which had been brought to her attention before primary day. She’d stuck with the plan, and it had cost her.
While the campaign projected a drama-free tenor, it was reminiscent of other moments of frustration.
Months earlier, Hillary Clinton turned her fury on her consultants and campaign aides, blaming them for a failure to focus the media on her platform.
In her ear the whole time, spurring her on to cast blame on others and never admit to anything, was her husband. Neither Clinton could accept the simple fact that Hillary had hamstrung her own campaign and dealt the most serious blow to her own presidential aspirations.
It was a difficult task for the Democrats to find a candidate so poor she would lose to a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump, but the Democrats, perhaps having a subconscious death wish, managed to do so when they rigged the system to nominate Clinton.
There are two types of books about the 2016 election. There are books from Clinton partisans, which paint Clinton as the victim and blame Russia, James Comey, and/or misogyny. These books do a disservice to Democrats, blinding them as to why they lost an election which should have been easy to win against Donald Trump, and increase the risk of Democrats continuing to lose.
Here are some excerpts from the review at The New York Times.
In their compelling new book, “Shattered,” the journalists Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes write Clinton’s loss suddenly made sense of all the reporting they had been doing for a year and a half — reporting that had turned up all sorts of “foreboding signs” that often seemed at odds, in real time, with indications that Clinton was the favorite to win. Although the Clinton campaign was widely covered, and many autopsies have been conducted in the last several months, the blow-by-blow details in “Shattered” — and the observations made here by campaign and Democratic Party insiders — are nothing less than devastating, sure to dismay not just her supporters but also everyone who cares about the outcome and momentous consequences of the election.
In fact, the portrait of the Clinton campaign that emerges from these pages is that of a Titanic-like disaster: an epic fail made up of a series of perverse and often avoidable missteps by an out-of-touch candidate and her strife-ridden staff that turned “a winnable race” into “another iceberg-seeking campaign ship.”
It’s the story of a wildly dysfunctional and “spirit-crushing” campaign that embraced a flawed strategy (based on flawed data) and that failed, repeatedly, to correct course. A passive-aggressive campaign that neglected to act on warning flares sent up by Democratic operatives on the ground in crucial swing states, and that ignored the advice of the candidate’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, and other Democratic Party elders, who argued that the campaign needed to work harder to persuade undecided and ambivalent voters (like working-class whites and millennials), instead of focusing so insistently on turning out core supporters.
“Our failure to reach out to white voters, like literally from the New Hampshire primary on, it never changed,” one campaign official is quoted as saying.
There was a perfect storm of other factors, of course, that contributed to Clinton’s loss, including Russian meddling in the election to help elect Trump; the controversial decision by the F.B.I. director, James Comey, to send a letter to Congress about Clinton’s emails less than two weeks before Election Day; and the global wave of populist discontent with the status quo (signaled earlier in the year by the British “Brexit” vote) that helped fuel the rise of both Trump and Bernie Sanders. In a recent interview, Clinton added that she believed “misogyny played a role” in her loss.
The authors of “Shattered,” however, write that even some of her close friends and advisers think that Clinton “bears the blame for her defeat,” arguing that her actions before the campaign (setting up a private email server, becoming entangled in the Clinton Foundation, giving speeches to Wall Street banks) “hamstrung her own chances so badly that she couldn’t recover,” ensuring that she could not “cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions.”
The review points out the authors previously wrote a “sympathetic portrait of Clinton’s years as secretary of state.” They interviewed over a hundred sources with promises none of the material would be published before the election. The review continues:
“Shattered” underscores Clinton’s difficulty in articulating a rationale for her campaign (other than that she was not Donald Trump). And it suggests that a tendency to value loyalty over competence resulted in a lumbering, bureaucratic operation in which staff members were reluctant to speak truth to power, and competing tribes sowed “confusion, angst and infighting.”
Despite years of post-mortems, the authors observe, Clinton’s management style hadn’t really changed since her 2008 loss of the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama: Her team’s convoluted power structure “encouraged the denizens of Hillaryland to care more about their standing with her, or their future job opportunities, than getting her elected.”
The campaign frequently spun its wheels in response to crises and urgent appeals from Democrats on both the state and national levels, the authors report. Big speeches were written by committee. “Evolving the core message” remained a continuing struggle. And the Brooklyn campaign headquarters — which would end up outspending Trump’s campaign by nearly 2 to 1 — frustrated coordinators in battleground states like Colorado by penny-pinching and cutting back on television, direct mail and digital advertising.
The review noted mistakes Clinton made when running against Bernie Sanders, and how, “These problems were not corrected in the race against Trump.”
After a planned appearance in Green Bay with President Obama was postponed, the authors write, Clinton never set foot in Wisconsin, a key state. In fact, they suggest, the campaign tended to take battleground states like Wisconsin and Michigan (the very states that would help hand the presidency to Trump) for granted until it was too late, and instead looked at expanding the electoral map beyond Democratic-held turf and traditional swing states to places like Arizona.
In chronicling these missteps, “Shattered” creates a picture of a shockingly inept campaign hobbled by hubris and unforced errors, and haunted by a sense of self-pity and doom, summed up in one Clinton aide’s mantra throughout the campaign: “We’re not allowed to have nice things.”
The mistakes made during the campaign were consistent with Clinton’s long history of poor performance in whatever government role she was in, along with her losing 2008 campaign against Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly shown that she lacks the judgement to handle a high political office. Rather than learning from her mistakes, she continues to repeat the same mistakes. This has been seen on policy matters, such as when she repeated the same mistakes in her policies on Libya and Syria as she made in backing the Iraq war without even reading the intelligence material prepared for members of the Senate, as well as in political campaigns when she lost to Donald Trump by repeating the same mistakes she made in running against Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders.
Donald Trump is now looking like he is at risk of turning out to be one of the worst presidents in our history. Hillary Clinton, with her poor judgement and the blind support of many Democrats who ignore her mistakes andcorruption, very well could have done even more harm to the country.
More at The Washington Post. Another review at NPR. Axios has a list of additional highlights. It is quite valuable how this book is changing the media narrative to a factual discussion of how Clinton mismanaged the campaign as opposed to continuing to hear Clinton’s excuses for why she lost.
No matter how much Clinton supporters want to deny the facts, reality keeps intruding. Over the past several months multiple media fact checkers have verified the criticism that I, and many others, have made against Clinton. Government investigations, including the FBI and the State Department Inspector General, have verified Clinton’s violation of the rules and repeated lies to try to cover-up her actions. Wikileaks provided further confirmation of actions by both Clinton and the DNC.
Possibly the most conclusive evidence the criticism of Clinton is valid is how she lost what should have been an easy to win election against a candidate as terrible as Donald Trump. The post-election attempts from the Clinton camp to blame Russian influence, James Comey, Bernie and/or Stein supporters, and others is just further evidence of Clinton’s dishonesty and unwillingness to ever take responsibility for her own mistakes.
Shattered provides considerable background material which shows why it was a mistake for Democrats to nominate Hillary Clinton. I have already posted some additional excerpts such as this one on Facebook, and now plan to post more excerpts as blog posts. This one shows the dishonesty, and desperation, of the Clinton campaign in responding to the challenge from Bernie Sanders:
So on January 12, a day after Joe Biden had praised Sanders’s “authenticity” on the issue of income inequality and said it was “relatively new for Hillary” to talk about it, Chelsea Clinton lit into Sanders as she stumped for her mother in New Hampshire. It was odd for the candidate’s daughter to become the vehicle for an attack, but the Clintons were spoiling for a fight. It was better that a charge come from someone other than the candidate, so that Chelsea’s words could be embraced or rejected by Hillary depending on how they played.
“Senator Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” Chelsea said of Sanders’s Medicare-for-all health care plan. “I don’t want to empower Republican governors to take away Medicaid, to take away health insurance for low-income and middle-income working Americans. And I think very much that’s what Senator Sanders’ plan would do.”
Across the Democratic universe, and particularly in Sanders’s camp, the dusting off of the Clintons’ scorched-earth playbook was taken as a sign of desperation. And accurately so. “I was surprised and thought it was out of character,” Arizona congressman Raúl Grijalva told The Hill newspaper. “It seems the Clinton campaign is going into full destruction mode very early in this process.”
The fact-checking website PolitiFact instantly rated Chelsea’s claim as “mostly false.” The attack previewed an angle Hillary would take—that Sanders was so liberal he rejected Obama’s legacy—but it gave Sanders and his allies a perfect opening to stab Hillary back. When he was asked about it, Sanders smiled and replied, “As much as I admire Chelsea, she didn’t read the plan.”
The episode reinforced the idea that Clinton was running scared. It reminded Democrats that Hillary would go negative and do it dishonestly, and she had turned to her daughter to defend her. The Clinton campaign insisted that it was an unplanned moment. But when Bill Clinton did the same thing a week later, also in New Hampshire, it was pretty clear that the Clinton family still didn’t believe that the risk of a low-approval candidate attacking a well-liked one outweighed the prospective gain of drawing blood.
While Hillary Clinton and her apologists have been blaming Russia, James Comey, misogyny, Bernie Bros, Stein voters, and even Barack Obama for Clinton losing, the recently published book Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign confirms what has been obvious to objective observers: Clinton lost because of Clinton. This excerpt from Shattered shows that even some in Clintonworld realized this:
From Hillary’s perspective, external forces created a perfect storm that wiped her out. In this telling, laid out in scores of interviews with Clinton campaign aides and advisers for this book, the media bought into an absurd and partisan Republican-led investigation into her e-mail server that combined with Bernie Sanders’s attack on her character and a conservative assault on the Clinton Foundation’s practices to sow a public perception that she was fundamentally dishonest. From there, Comey’s unprecedented public condemnation of her handling of the server, the Russian cyberattacks on the DNC and Podesta’s e-mail account, and new voter ID laws suppressed support for her. In a twist, Clintonworld sources said, Comey’s final exoneration of her enraged Trump backers and pushed them to the polls in droves. Along the way, they said, misogyny played a quiet role in turning men against her without an offsetting boost in support from women. Her most ardent defenders maintain that she nailed every major moment of the campaign. “Those debates were her. The Benghazi hearing. Her convention speech. Her getting off the mat in New Hampshire,” said one senior campaign aide. “She just does not give up.”
But another view, articulated by a much smaller number of her close friends and high-level advisers, holds that Hillary bears the blame for her defeat. This case rests on the theory that Hillary’s actions before the campaign—setting up the private server, putting her name on the Clinton Foundation, and giving speeches to Wall Street banks in a time of rising populism—hamstrung her own chances so badly that she couldn’t recover. She was unable to prove to many voters that she was running for the presidency because she had a vision for the country rather than visions of power. And she couldn’t cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions and yearned for a fresh approach to governance. All of it fed a narrative of dynastic privilege that was woefully out of touch with the sentiment of the American electorate.
“We lost because of Clinton Inc.,” one close friend and adviser lamented. “The reality is Clinton Inc. was great for her for years and she had all the institutional benefits. But it was an albatross around the campaign.”
It is typical of Clinton’s campaign in public life to show outrageously poor judgement, and then to blame others for her mistakes. Of course the second view in the above excerpt is the accurate one, even if it barely touches on the reasons Clinton’s campaign was doomed due to having a terrible candidate who ran a terrible campaign.
Donald Trump has been a failure, but we must keep in mind he is in office because the Democrats offered an alternative whose dishonesty, corruption, and poor judgement negated Trump’s negatives during the campaign, allowing Trump to win.
The Democratic Party continues its attempts to figure out what went wrong and how to rebuild. This effort is being sabotaged by Clinton and her supporters who spread false narratives to explain her loss rather than facing the truth or taking the blame for their mistakes. Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign shows how Clinton and her supporters initiated a strategy to place the blame on Russia, James, Comey, and the media within twenty-four hours of her loss:
On a phone call with a longtime friend a couple of days after the election, Hillary was much less accepting of her defeat. She put a fine point on the factors she believed cost her the presidency: the FBI (Comey), the KGB (the old name for Russia’s intelligence service), and the KKK (the support Trump got from white nationalists).
“I’m angry,” Hillary told her friend. And exhausted. After two brutal campaigns against Sanders and Trump, Hillary now had to explain the failure to friends in a seemingly endless round of phone calls. That was taking a toll on her already weary and grief-stricken soul. But mostly, she was mad—mad that she’d lost and that the country would have to endure a Trump presidency.
In other calls with advisers and political surrogates in the days after the election, Hillary declined to take responsibility for her own loss. “She’s not being particularly self-reflective,” said one longtime ally who was on calls with her shortly after the election. Instead, Hillary kept pointing her finger at Comey and Russia. “She wants to make sure all these narratives get spun the right way,” this person said.
That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.
In Brooklyn, her team coalesced around the idea that Russian hacking was the major unreported story of the campaign, overshadowed by the contents of stolen e-mails and Hillary’s own private-server imbroglio. They also decided to hammer the media for focusing so intently on the investigation into her e-mail, which had created a cloud over her candidacy. “The press botched the e-mail story for eighteen months,” said one person who was in the room. “Comey obviously screwed us, but the press created the story.”
Clinton attacked Donald Trump for suggesting that the election was rigged before the election:
“That’s horrifying,” Mrs. Clinton replied. “Let’s be clear about what he is saying and what that means. He is denigrating — he is talking down our democracy. And I am appalled that someone who is the nominee of one of our two major parties would take that position.”
Mrs. Clinton then ticked off the number of times he had deemed a system rigged when he suffered a setback, noting he had even called the Emmy Awards fixed when his show, “The Apprentice,’’ was passed over.
“It’s funny, but it’s also really troubling,” she said. “That is not the way our democracy works.”
Now it is Clinton and many of her supporters who refuse to accept the results, sticking with a script to blame others which does not hold up to scrutiny.
The Wikileaks releases of hacked email hurt because it verified criticism that the DNC had violated its own rules in rigging the nomination for Clinton, and in showing Clinton’s dishonesty. There has been absolutely no evidence that anything released by Wikileaks was not accurate information. In blaming Russia, Clinton is admitting that the facts about her and the DNC were sufficient to sink her campaign.
Despite blaming the media, Clinton’s violation of the rules regarding her use of the private server was confirmed to be in violation of the rules in effect in 2009 by the Obama administration State Department Inspector General Report. Fact checkers repeatedly showed that Clinton was lying about the email and Foundation scandals. It was Clinton who grossly violated the ethics agreements she entered into before being confirmed as Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton, not the press, was responsible for this story.
In blaming James Comey, Clinton ignores the fact that James Comey would not have been investigating her in the first place if she had not grossly violated the rules regarding email and hadn’t handled classified information in a careless manner. The investigation further hurt Clinton as Comey’s report demonstrated she had repeatedly lied in her public statements about the matter. This gave further credence to her reputation of both seeing herself above the law and of being dishonest. She further hurt herself when she repeatedly lied about what James Comey had reported.
Hillary Clinton brought this all on herself. Clinton lost due to both her own flaws, and the foolishness of those in the Democratic Party who supported her for the nomination, even to the point of violating their own party rules to rig the nomination for Clinton.
Of course, the problems are not limited to 2016. Democrats also lost badly in 2010 and 2014 by ignoring principles and running as a Republican-lite party. By 2016 their presidential candidate was a major supporter of the Bush/Cheney agenda on interventionism, enlarging the surveillance state, economics, and limiting government transparency. Clinton had largely become the establishment Republican candidate, with support from the neoconservatives, running against Donald Trump’s outsider campaign.
The Democratic Party will not be able to recover unless it faces the facts as to why it continues to lose. We are seeing this again on health care, with the Democratic leadership running away from support for a single payer plan, as Bernie Sanders promoted during the 2016 campaign.
Counterpunch provides further information as to how Clintonland has continued to spread the myth that Russia was responsible for Clinton’s loss after the election:
A lavishly-funded example is the “Moscow Project,” a mega-spin effort that surfaced in midwinter as a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s led by Neera Tanden, a self-described “loyal soldier” for Clinton who also runs the Center for American Progress (where she succeeded Podesta as president). The Center’s board includes several billionaires
The “Moscow Project” is expressly inclined to go over the top, aiming to help normalize ultra-partisan conjectures as supposedly factual. And so, the homepage of the “Moscow Project” prominently declares: “Given Trump’s obedience to Vladimir Putin and the deep ties between his advisers and the Kremlin, Russia’s actions are a significant and ongoing cause for concern.”
Let’s freeze-frame how that sentence begins: “Given Trump’s obedience to Vladimir Putin.” It’s a jaw-dropping claim; a preposterous smear.
Echoes of such tactics can be heard from many Democrats in Congress and from allied media. Along the way, no outlet has been more in sync than MSNBC, and no one on the network has been more promotional of the Russia-runs-Trump meme than Rachel Maddow, tirelessly promoting the line and sometimes connecting dots in Glenn Beck fashion to the point of journalistic malpractice.
Yet last year, notably without success, the Clinton campaign devoted plenty of its messaging to the Trump-Russia theme. As the “Shattered” book notes, “Hillary would raise the issue herself repeatedly in debates” with Trump. For example, in one of those debates she said: “We have 17 — 17 — intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyber attacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election.”
After Trump’s election triumph, the top tier of Clinton strategists quickly moved to seize as much of the narrative as they could, surely mindful of what George Orwell observed: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” After all, they hardly wanted the public discourse to dwell on Clinton’s lack of voter appeal because of her deep ties to Wall Street. Political recriminations would be much better focused on the Russian government.
In early spring, the former communications director of the 2016 Clinton presidential campaign, Jennifer Palmieri, summed up the post-election approach neatly in a Washington Post opinion article: “If we make plain that what Russia has done is nothing less than an attack on our republic, the public will be with us. And the more we talk about it, the more they’ll be with us.”
The inability of top Clinton operatives to identify with the non-wealthy is so tenacious that they still want to assume “the public will be with us” the more they talk about Russia Russia Russia. Imagine sitting at a kitchen table with average-income voters who are worried sick about their financial futures — and explaining to them that the biggest threat they face is from the Kremlin rather than from U.S. government policies that benefit the rich and corporate America at their expense.
Tone deaf hardly describes the severe political impairment of those who insist that denouncing Russia will be key to the Democratic Party’s political fortunes in 2018 and 2020. But the top-down pressure for conformity among elected Democrats is enormous and effective.
In their quick and Orwellian rewriting of the campaign history, the Clinton camp quickly moved from being in an election they could not lose to one in which multiple external factors conspired to make it an election which Hillary could not win. Even many Democrats continue to accept Clinton’s excuses and ignore what Andrew Sullivan calls, “one of the worst campaigns in recent history, leading to the Trump nightmare.” Matt Taibbi, who debunked the arguments from the Clinton camp that opposition to Clinton from Sanders’ supporters was based upon Russian propaganda, had excellent coverage of the race, which showed many of the weaknesses in Clinton and her campaign. He collected some of his articles in the book Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus. The book concludes with an epilogue which explains why Clinton lost.
The epilogue dealt with many topics I have also written about, including the betrayal betrayal of liberal principles staring while Bill Clinton was president. He wrote about how the Clintons were doomed by their greed, as they violated principles to make money from their position without consideration of the consequences. He wrote that, The Clintons probably should have left politics the moment they decided they didn’t care what the public thought about how they made their money.” Instead we had an election in which Clinton’s lack of ethics, seen in stories ranging from the Foundation scandals to her paid speeches, verified the suspicions of voters that Hillary Clinton could not be trusted, negating Donald Trump’s major negatives.
Following is from Matt Taibbi’s epilogue:
The only “ideas” at the core of the DLC strategy were that Democrats were better than Republicans, and that winning was better than losing. To make Democrats more competitive, they made two important changes. One was the embrace of “market-based” solutions, which opened the door for the party to compete with Republicans for donations from Wall Street and heavy industry.
The other big trade-off was on race. The Clinton revolution was designed as a response to Dick Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which was based on dominating among whites from the South who nurtured resentments about the post–civil rights consensus.
To win those white voters back, the Clintons “triangulated” against liberal orthodoxies, pledging to end “welfare as we know it” and to punish criminals instead of “explaining away their behavior.” Liberal dog-whistling, if you will. Candidate Bill Clinton even went out of his way to attend the execution of a mentally deficient black man named Ricky Ray Rector during the 1992 campaign to signal his seriousness.
The original DLC positions on policing sound almost identical to current Trumpian rhetoric. “The U.S. has unwittingly allowed itself to unilaterally disarm in the domestic war against violent crime,” the group wrote, as part of its argument for a bigger federal role in law enforcement and the expanded use of “community policing.”
These moves worked in large part because of the personal magnetism of the Clintons. Bill and Hillary both seemed energetic and optimistic. Much of the world was enthralled by them, this power couple of intellectual equals. They were something modern, with their can-do positive attitude, which was marketed almost like a political version of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.
Moreover, Bill Clinton was nobody’s idea of a plutocrat back then. He was a self-made success story from a hardscrabble background, raised by a single mom in a rural Arkansas town literally called Hope. He was thought of both as an overgrown hillbilly and “the first black president.”
Clinton looked like a man of the people. He had to be torn away from campaign stops and chatted up everyone from truckers to waitresses to toll operators. He even had a bad junk-food habit, a quality then-Bill shares with today’s Donald Trump.
It helped that Bill Clinton’s first presidential opponent, George H. W. Bush, was a calcified Connecticut aristocrat who had been pampered in power for so long, he didn’t know how checkout lanes worked when he visited a supermarket.
They won, and kept winning, their success papering over fault lines building in the party.
In the sixteen years after Bill left office, a lot changed. For one thing, the Clintons personally emerged from the experience of the presidency deeply embittered by press criticism. They became fatalistic rather than optimistic about the burdens of power.
In that Politico piece after the election, an unnamed “longtime confidant” explained that Hillary and Bill decided to embark on a moneymaking campaign after Bill left office because they figured they would get criticized either way.
“Her outlook is, ‘I get whacked no matter what, so screw it,’ ” the person explained. “I’ve been out here killing myself for years and years and if I want to give the same speech everyone else does, I will.”
So the Clintons went from being plausibly accessible to ordinary people to living in a world where it was nobody’s business if they wanted to make $153 million in speaking fees.
Soon they were the politicians who’d been on Olympus so long, they couldn’t navigate the metaphorical supermarket line. Shortly before she announced her 2016 run, Hillary gave a speech to Goldman Sachs executives admitting that she was “kind of far removed because [of] the economic, you know, fortunes that my husband and I now enjoy.”
There was another change.
The original Clinton strategy of the Nineties had stressed a rejection of liberal mantras about identity politics, and even the 2008 Hillary Clinton campaign had aggressively run against the “fairy tale” of Barack Obama.
That Hillary Clinton generated quite a lot of heat among white voters on the campaign trail. The emotional high point of her campaign came during the Pennsylvania primary, after Barack Obama had made his infamous “they cling to guns and religion” speech.
Hillary Clinton wasted no time in calling Obama “elitist and out of touch,” hammering him for his “demeaning remarks…about people in small-town America.”
I was at some of her Pennsylvania rallies that year, when she railed against her eggheaded opponent and riffed on her background as the “granddaughter of a factory worker” who was raised “outside” of a big city. Her mostly white and middle-class audiences whooped and hollered.
Hillary may have been very wealthy already by then. But the former “Goldwater Girl” clearly enjoyed playing the role of the champion of the silent majority. Her stump speech in that race was an almost exact replica of Nixon’s “forgotten Americans” theme from 1968: Hillary’s version was a call to the “invisible Americans” of the betrayed middle class.
But she lost that race, and the size and breadth of the Obama victory against McCain inspired the change to what her aides described to reporters as the “far narrower” Obama mobilize-the-base strategy in 2016.
But decades of those triangulating politics made her an unconvincing vehicle for that plan, and unforeseen developments like the Bernie Sanders campaign forced her to spend an enormous amount of time trying to hold the Democratic coalition together.
Meanwhile, on the other side, she was now pushing a strategy that couldn’t possibly have been less appealing to the so-called white working-class voter. Always an economic globalist, Hillary Clinton was now an enthusiastic convert to multiculturalism as well, the worst conceivable combination.
In the end, the Clinton revolution went the way of a lot of revolutions. The longer any group of intellectuals sits at or near power, the more they tend to drift away from their founding ideas and resort more and more to appeals to authority.
Trump’s rise massively accelerated this process. By late summer 2016, the Clinton campaign spent virtually all its time either raising explorations of Trump’s evil up the media flagpole or denouncing anyone who didn’t salute fast enough.
The Clinton campaign dismissed flyover Republicans as a “basket of deplorables” and then developed their own Leninist mania for describing factional enemies and skeptics within their own tent. In place of parasites, cosmopolitanites and wreckers, the campaign railed against “Bernie Bros,” “neo-Naderites,” “purity-testers” and a long list of other deviants.
In 2014, before the start of his wife’s presidential run, Bill Clinton was saying things like, “The biggest threat to the future of our children and grandchildren is the poison of identity politics that preaches that our differences are far more important than our common humanity.”
But by the last months of the general election race, the Clinton camp had done a complete 180 on identity politics, deploying it as a whip in an increasingly desperate effort to keep their coalition in place. They used language against other Democrats they would previously never have used against Republicans. Even ex-hippies and New Dealers were denounced as bigots whose discomfort with Clinton was an expression of privilege and an attack against women, people of color and the LGBT community.
Meanwhile members of the press who wrote anything negative about Clinton, made jokes, or even structured their ledes in the wrong way could be guilty of anything from “both-sidesism” (Lenin would have loved this tongue-mangling term) to “false equivalency” to the use of “weaponized” information, to say nothing of actual treason.
“You are a criminal agent of Putin conspiracy. And a profound enemy of progressive politics,” raged Democratic strategist Bob Shrum to journalist Glenn Greenwald, after the latter made a sarcastic comment about the campaign’s outrage toward previously lauded FBI director James Comey.
There are a lot of people who will probably say that all of these tirades against Clinton’s critics were on the mark. But it’s surely also true that once you reach the stage of being angry with people for wanting a reason to vote for you, you’ve been in this game too long.
The Clintons probably should have left politics the moment they decided they didn’t care what the public thought about how they made their money. Their original genius was in feeling where the votes were on the map and knowing how to get them. But that homing mechanism starts to falter once you make a conscious decision to tune out public criticism as irrational and inevitable.
It was a huge gamble to push forward toward the White House after they crossed this mental line. Moreover to run for president at a time when you’re admitting in private that you’re out of touch with regular people is wildly irresponsible, a violation of every idea even they once had about how to win elections.
All of these things played a role in the still-stunning loss to Trump. They spent virtually all their time attending corporate fund-raisers—more than 400 of them, according to one source I spoke to in Washington the day after the election—and relatively little on traditional canvassing. And they relied upon a preposterous computerized fortune-telling machine called “Ada” to gauge the feelings of voters, instead of sounding them out in person.
After the loss to Trump, the inclusive, upbeat Fleetwood Mac vibe of the original Clinton revolution vanished forever, replaced by anger, recrimination and willful myopia. A movement begun by future-embracing intellectuals ended on notes like, “I don’t want to hear it,” which became a ubiquitous phrase in Democratic circles.
“Samantha Bee Doesn’t ‘Want to Hear a Goddamn Word’ About Black Turnout” was HuffPo’s headline, after the comic’s postelection tirade against any explanations for Trump’s rise other than “white people.”
“I don’t want to hear it” became an expression of solidarity. It felt like a real-world extension of a social media response, where publicly blocking people during this season became a virtue even among upper-class white guys (Vox’s Matt Yglesias boasting in the summer of 2016 about having blocked 941 people on Twitter is one bizarre example).
The “hear no evil” campaign was surely in part messaging from the Clinton campaign, which went from pooh-poohing any poll numbers that showed a tight race (the media was often blamed for pushing poll numbers “without context” in search of a better horse race) to describing Trump’s victory as the inevitable triumph of an irrepressible white nationalist movement.
We somehow went from “suggesting it’s close is a vicious lie” to “we never had a chance” overnight.
The Clintons throughout their history had been survivors. They made it through controversy after controversy by unfailingly finding the lee shore in a storm. Their talent at spinning was legendary.
Any journalist who ever tried to call a Clinton aide for a comment on a negative story was inevitably treated to a master class in double-talk. The bad thing didn’t happen, or they didn’t do the bad thing if it was done, or even if they did do it you shouldn’t report it, because it helped worse people, and so on. They were like junkies: They always had a story. Their confidence was unshakeable and exhausting, their will to persevere a thing to behold.
But in the end, they ran out of stories, except one last one: They lost because there was no hope. They went from optimism, to fatalism, to absolute pessimism, all in the space of 25 years.
The pessimism of the Democratic leadership is like that of a person in a catatonic crisis. Once they were heroes for finding a way to win by selling out just enough on race and economics. But now that that strategy has been closed, they seem stunned to the point of paralysis by the seemingly incurable divisions of our society, as if they’re seeing them for the first time.
Meanwhile the pessimism of Trump’s revolution is intentional, impassioned, ascendant. They placed a huge bet on America’s worst instincts, and won. And the first order of business will be to wipe out a national idea in which they never believed.
Welcome to the end of the dream.
Taibbi is right that the Clintons should have left politics when they decided to concentrate on making money, regardless of how unethically. It is possible to see how such greed and lack of ethics would have compelled Hillary Clinton to remain in politics, as this is what enable the Clintons to make their fortune in influence peddling. What is even harder to understand is how the Democratic Party, which claims to be so shocked by the corruption under Bush and now under Trump, was so willing to ignore their actions.
The nomination of Hillary Clinton by a major political party was ethically inexcusable. It was even stranger that they would rig the process to enable her nomination. Party rules established after the loss by McGovern, and reinforced by the loss of Walter Mondale, supported the nomination of a more conservative Clinton-type candidate who they thought was more electable. The party further changed their rules and policies in 2016 to virtually rig the process for Hillary Clinton–who still managed to be challenged in the nomination battle despite all the factors in her favor.
Rigging the nomination for Clinton backfired as the party establishment failed to understand that times have changed since McGovern and Mondale lost badly. Instead Clinton was now the type of candidate least likely to win, and a liability against a perceived outsider such as Donald Trump. The party rigged the nomination for the candidate who could not win, and ignored how an unexpected candidate like Bernie Sanders who could have led the party to a major victory.