Saturday, November 12, 2016
Was It A Mistake To Nominate Hillary?
Well, one thing's for certain: we all underestimated how unlikable Hillary Clinton is.
Was it a mistake to nominate her?
I've got a number of friends of mine gloating on social media about how they were right all along about Bernie Sanders being the better candidate. It's hard to look back and not wish we'd done things differently. But if Bernie had been the nominee, would he have won?
I don't know, and neither does anybody else. Whenever I play it out in my mind's eye, I see Bernie getting attacked as an atheist. Even the DNC toyed around with the idea, according to hacked and leaked emails (although nobody followed through on the idea, and the RNC surely would have). True, he's a secular Jew, but the redneck caucus doesn't know the difference. All it would take would be for one reporter to ask, "So, Senator Sanders, when did you last go to Synagogue?" The answer would likely be something along the lines of "not recently," or "my nephew's bar mitzvah last year," and that would have been it. It would have been over. Maybe the stigma against atheists would have been weakened, just as the stigma against socialism was weakened, but that would have been a small victory in the face of stunning defeat. On the other hand, hindsight is 20/20, and because we don't know for certain Bernie would have lost, it's tempting to think that he would have won had he been the nominee instead. Maybe even made atheism cool. The argument has literally nothing to lose.
Do I owe my fellow liberals an apology?
I think it's a good idea to go back and recount exactly why so many Democrats felt Hillary was the better pick, and to do that, we have to go all the way back to the 2008 elections. Obama won the nomination over Hillary back then, but not until after a bitter and contentious primary that was every bit as divisive as the one that pitted Bernie against Hillary eight years later. There were many Democrats who were saying, "I don't know if I'm even going to vote now," after Hillary lost. There was no email scandal back then, and no Benghazi argument, but even so, there was plenty of baggage and sleaze attacks to be made against Hillary. She was damaged goods, and so the majority picked Barack Obama, pretty much for similar reasons so many flocked to Bernie later on. Plus, there was the immense benefit of having the first African-American president. The Democratic majority went with a black male over a white woman.
So then Obama won, largely thanks to Republicans having thoroughly fucked up the economy. It was happy days, was it not?
Well, not quite. Almost immediately, there was a racist backlash the likes of which we'd never seen before. The dog-whistle racism was becoming an actual whistle, and many heeded the call. The Republicans obstructed literally everything Obama did, regardless of how rational, or even conservative, the proposed legislation was. They brought the national budget on the brink of collapse more than once.
And Barack? He kept extending the hand of friendship. He kept insisting that we can and should work together.
And all the Democrats could do was scream, "Dude! Fight back! Counterpunch! Play hardball! If you want the Republicans to work with you, you have to win your respect!"
But Obama was just plain too nice a guy. It was his greatest virtue, and also his biggest fault. He should have brought back the fairness doctrine Reagan destroyed back in 1988. But instead of bringing it back, he gave orders which strengthened its removal.
So we were justifiably pissed off at the lynching of our first president. To make matters worse, in 2014, under the mismanagement of Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic platform ran away from Barack Obama, and the economic successes he achieved in spite of obstruction.
Fight, Barack! Fight! But there was no fight. Barack met his lynching with the stoicism of Socrates.
So, by the time the 2010 election had been lost, we Democrats looked back on the 2008 election with a pang of regret. We wished it could have been Hillary instead, and Obama the vice president, so that her ruthlessness could bring the Republicans to heel, and then pave the way for Obama's nice-guy approach to have tremendous success. In retrospect, that would have worked out much better. But instead, we got Obama first.
Hey, we could get Hillary back for the next eight years, and then really let the Republicans have it!
And so the campaign began, almost as soon as 2010's election was over, to draft Hillary and make her the nominee in 2016. Fundraisers were launched on Facebook and other social media sites. I was one of the ones who supported this. For four solid years, we asked Hillary to run.
This is the part that gets forgotten. From 2012 until late 2014, Hillary gave no indication that she even wanted to run, in spite of countless hordes of her fans begging her to do so. During that time, her popularity soared in the high 70% to low 80%. Even Republicans praised her accolades during unguarded moments. Eventually, she caved in to her demands, and prepared to run.
We drafted her.
And then, in early 2015, when it looked like Hillary might finally announce her bid, the email thing hit.
I don't know how much I can describe how it hurt to see Hillary's numbers go from 80% approval all the way down to the high 20% range in only a few months. But I can say this much: we all - ALL - felt it was a hatchet-job.
And we were right. While it was dangerous for Hillary to set up a private email server, it was not illegal. And we have to remember, the very reason she insisted on having a private server was to prevent Republicans from launching exactly the sort of hatchet job upon her time as secretary of state which they did! Back then, it made perfect sense, if she wanted to run for president again, to have that extra hedge of deniability if she needed it!
And boy, did it backfire!
Those of us who really knew what was going on saw it clearly, and we were going to be damned if we would let Republicans destroy a good woman's name over nothing.
Then, along comes Bernie Sanders. Another nice guy.
"Oh, no!" we thought. "Not again! Four more years of a Mr. Goodbar president getting walked all over? No way!"
But Hillary's old chestnuts kept coming back to haunt her. When you've been a target for decades, you build up a lot of scars. Whitewater, travelgate, the suicide of Vincent Foster... so many bogus and yet effective character assassinations had been levied against her that the entirety of the youth vote rejected her. Democrats who valued positive branding over experience and strength flocked to the Bernie Sanders camp. And, let's be honest, they valued straight-forward liberal honesty instead of measured and guarded remarks that reeked of insincerity.
And ultimately, they may have been right.
But what then followed, you all know. The divide in the Democratic party was close, but a clear majority chose Hillary because of everything I just described above. Those who supported Bernie screamed at us that we were wrong. They began hurling all the Republican attack-points at Hillary in an effort to dislodge her hard-won support. Some of them, such as Lee Camp, even sided with crackpot conspiracy nuts, like Richard Charnin, or Election Justice USA, or even that bogus "Stanford" study. With no consideration whatsoever to the damage it would do to Hillary come November, they lent credence to the Republicans' worst character assassinations.
Do I owe my fellow liberals an apology for backing Hillary after all that? Hell, no!
But I do owe an apology regarding one thing, and that was believing so fervently that it was not possible for Donald Trump to beat Hillary. I was wrong. He had to cheat to do it, and he had to (again!) win by gerrymandering a minority of the vote through the electoral college instead of winning a true majority. But he did it. I underestimated the power of branding, and misjudged how easy it was for Republicans to resurrect old hatreds toward the Clinton legacy. I apologize for that.
I hope my fellow liberals will forgive me, even as I forgive them for attacking Hillary more viciously than Rush Limbaugh ever could. And even for resorting to regurgitating the conspiracy theories of the tin-foil-hat people to do it. I forgive you.
But what I will never, EVER forgive, is the Bernie Bros staying home in disgust! It was bad enough assaulting Hillary's character with Republican false attacks. It was another to fuck over the entire country, and put millions of innocent people in abject terror, by not voting for "the lesser of two evils" as it was so wrongly put. Many of those who stayed home are now feeling the guilt as they march in protests denouncing the Trump presidency.
Was it a mistake to nominate Hillary? Ultimately, I have to conclude that yes, it was. But we wanted the first woman president so badly, we could just taste it! We wanted a ruthless fighter so badly, and we needed it! It was really the only conclusion we could come to at the time. Can you really blame us?
No matter which woman we nominate for president (and I believe we will do so again very soon), she will be character-assassinated the way Hillary was by James Comey. Or swift-boated like John Kerry. Or misquoted like Al Gore. So we have to realize that the truth doesn't matter. All that matters is whether it sticks. And if it does, we have to reject that candidate, no matter how qualified or loved. It hurts, but that's how slanted the field is in the Republican's favor right now.
We couldn't elect Lady Titanium. Next time, we need Lady Teflon.
We learned the hard way. We learned that branding is more important than truth. We learned that Old Blood is unacceptable in politics anymore. We learned any Democratic presidential candidate has to be so clean he/she squeaks. And we also learned that we can't count on young people to vote when the choice is unpalatable.
And we also learned that the focus should not be on the elections, or the candidates, but the electorate. Republicans have focused on the electorate for decades, and been allowed to gain a monopoly over the A.M. talk-radio airwaves with no counter-argument from the left to balance them out. And so cities, the only places left with alternative voices, are the only territories left where liberalism thrives. That must stop! The farmers, the coal miners, and the small towns have GOT to hear our message about how to really create jobs, and why abortion really isn't murder, and why racism is unacceptable.
AND we can poison the Republican and conservative brand forever. Trump can and should be the ultimate pariah! The dog whistle became a referee whistle, and now it's a klaxon horn! Republican equals racist! It's now official!
We have two years, assuming Trump doesn't destroy it all by then. Let's get the word out to the countryside and the suburbs as well as the cities.