Hillary Clinton and the Conservative Book Club

Hillary ClintonMatt Yglesias wrote a great article and Matt Bruenig followed up on it. The bottom line of it is that Donald Trump became president because Hillary Clinton was unpopular. There are some striking facts to chew on, like that Donald Trump won a smaller proportion of whites than Mitt Romney.

Long History of Clinton Hate

I know this from my personal experience. My father voted for Donald Trump. This is despite the fact that he was not going to vote for Donald Trump after reading David Cay Johnston book on Trump. But in the end he voted for Trump because he hate Hillary Clinton.

I’m not saying that his hatred of Hillary Clinton was right. The truth of the matter is that conservatives via the conservative book club and right-wing hate radio and Fox News have turned Hillary Clinton into some kind of evil figure.

If you have any questions about this I highly recommend that you read David Brock’s book Blinded By the Right. It explains all of this. But the truth is that a great section of America simply didn’t trust Hillary Clinton. And it had nothing to do with her or what she had done. But that’s politics, right? It isn’t fair.

The Smart Democrats

Sad to say, the Democratic Party should have known not to run Hillary Clinton. But Hillary Clinton was extremely liked by most of the people in the party. I am an extremist. In a parliamentary system, I would definitely not be a Democrat. And yet I like Hillary Clinton very much. There is no question in my mind that she would have made a great president.

But she was the nominee because those in power in the Democratic party wanted her to be. They were her friends. If they had been objective they never would have allowed her to be the candidate. But they weren’t rational. They liked her just as most Democrats like myself like her.

Lost Opportunity

And this is yet another lost opportunity for the Democratic party. As I have noted many times, in 2008 the Democrats were in the perfect position to nominate a real liberal, but instead we nominated a moderate. In 2016, we could have nominated a socialist (a real one — not Bernie Sanders) but again, we nominated a moderate. The big problem this time is that we didn’t even win.

As Matt Bruenig noted, “If you had replaced [Clinton] with almost anyone else, they would have beaten Donald Trump. Bernie would have won. O’Malley would have won. And Barack Obama would have dominated in an absolute landslide.” This is, of course, assuming that the Democratic Party establishment hadn’t sabotaged any other campaign. But as we saw with the Labour Party in the UK, the establishment only has so much power.

Conservative Book Club and the 1990s

One thing is clear: Donald Trump won the election in the 1990s. He won via the sustained attack on Clinton as a new and dangerous kind of woman — a feminazi — a woman who didn’t think her place was staying at home baking cookies. And in addition to the things Clinton actually was, there were all the ridiculous stories made up about her like the murder of Vince Foster.

But ultimately, it is our fault — Democrats. It’s not that I didn’t know there was this weird belief that there was something wrong with Clinton. In the minds of many Americans, she represents everything that was scary about the 1960s. Donald Trump might be a racist sexual predator, but that’s something Americans are all very familiar with.

Should we have known? All I can say is that the thought occurred to me several times. But the polling and Trump’s vileness made me push it to the background. I shouldn’t have.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

28 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton and the Conservative Book Club

  1. Politely disagree with Bruenig that O’Malley had a chance in hell. He was a non-entity. Trump ran entirely on personality, and O’Malley had none. I think Trump would have beat Gore or Kerry for the same reason.

    I wish Clinton had gone more feminist, more angry. But I don’t blame her for not doing so. She’s 70 (or so). She’s had a long career in law, politics, and charity. It’s funny that people criticized her for being “phony” when she was being actually true to her background by not pretending to be someone she wasn’t. She’s not a rousing speaker; she’s a policy nerd.

    I thought 18 months ago, and think now, that Clinton would have destroyed Rubio/Cruz/Jeb etc., the guys who want to destroy government and look “presidential” in the process. Trump wasn’t interested in seeming like a rational world leader. He was appealing to everyone who just wants any kind of change, be it because their hearts are full of hate, or because their frustration level at American government letting them down had hit a tipping point. (Obviously, there is overlap; these explanations are rarely neat & clean.)

    I think Sanders would have lost in McGovern-style numbers to a conventional Republican, but would have wiped the floor with Trump.

    You’re on top of your game identifying that Trump’s real victory came decades ago, when he positioned himself as a take-no-prisoners success story. As opposed to someone like Clinton, who admitted past regrets and said she learned from them, Trump is the comic-book superhero who’s never been wrong. Of course, he’s been wrong far more often than right, and only saved from jail/bankruptcy because of what his father gave him, but that’s the persona he’s sold for 30 years. Trump is the lingering idea of manhood insecure men idealize; Clinton epitomized our changing feelings about feminism over the last several decades. (Warren, who nobody knew before a few years ago, would have done better.)

    The funny thing is, if it wasn’t for that damn NBC show, Trump wouldn’t be president today. He grabbed a following with his birther nonsense, yet certainly didn’t have a patent on it. If not for that show, which reinforced the comic-book mystique, other, more well-known Republicans would have run with the birther stuff and Trump would have slunk back into the forgotten-celebrity nothingness he so completely deserves.

    • I think the point about O’Malley is just that people were looking for anyone to vote for other than Trump. So they would have voted for a non-entity because that was better than Trump. And really: he isn’t so bad. Remember that politicians get better over time. We only saw him at 2-3 debates. But I think that Kerry would have easily beat Trump. I think Gore also suffered from the Clinton syndrome, but I tend to think he would have won.

      And let’s not forget: if we lived in a democracy, Hillary would be president. She beat Trump by roughly 1 million less people than Obama beat Romney. (BTW: I’m completely against the Twenty-second Amendment.)

      I just remember the 1990s well. I was a libertarian then, and thus more conservative. And to me, the Clintons were about as good as you could hope for. So all these stories about how awful and liberal (Socialist!) they were didn’t make any sense. But this is yet another case where the establishment told us we must vote for the “electable” candidate, only to see them lose. Look at 2004: Kerry was the most electable candidate? Sorry. Dean would have won. It’s a fool’s game to try to decide who is electable. Just vote for who you like. You don’t have any special information that allows you to decide who is electable. And the experts aren’t any better. In fact, I’ve come to believe that they are worse. They’re just highly paid idiots.

      • The boundaries of electable are generally congruent with New Democrat ideological preferences. As far as the pundit class and the press are concerned, it’s more than just being dumb, which they often are. It’s that they are bought. Their financial interests are the same as Jamie Dimon’s. Short of a nuclear war (don’t rule it out) nothing Trump and his government does in the next four years will touch them at all.

        • Just look at the Dennis Kucinich types; they always get rolled out to “prove” Democratic voters don’t want anything “radical.” It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Sanders basically intended to run a Kucinich-style protest campaign and was utterly unprepared for how successful it was.

      • The experts are useless. What was Kerry’s proudest legacy? Being a member of VVAW. The experts told him to play up his military record, play down his protest record — this during a war which was fast becoming hugely unpopular. It’s almost like Democratic strategists believed the myth that working-class people supported the war. Utterly untrue. Support for the war was highest among the rich, lowest among the poor — they were more likely to die in it, after all. And I’d be surprised if that’s changed much for Wars ever since.

          • Exactly. My brother got stuck in both Iraq wars; he’s no fan of the political decision-makers who put him in either.

            David Graeber, a British anthropologist, noted that in modern America, if you want to devote your life to serving others, your choices are limited by your income. If you’re rich, you can intern at some big-name charity or think tank. If you’re poor, you can join the military or the church. Poor people rightfully respect churches and the military as places individuals go who do not wish to compete in the rat race.

  2. Coupla thoughts.

    1) The Democratic Party had such a dearth of leadership in 2016 that the only viable challenger to Clinton wasn’t even a Democrat but a “democratic socialist” that caucused with them in the Senate. O’Malley? Really? Every time I hear the joker’s name I dredge my memory and can’t even recall who he was (or is, assuming he’s not dead, which I couldn’t swear to…). Biden was and is pretty much a party hack.

    2) This whole “Berniewoodawon” stuff is ridiculous. The basket of deplorables that makes up about 30-35% of the voting public thought OBAMA was a socialist and it drove them utterly batshit. Imagine the field day Faux News would have had with a REAL socialist. The wingnuts would have come screeching out of the brush like the gorilla army in the “Planet of the Apes” remake. We never got a chance to see what would have happened when the plutocrats that run the GOP got to deploy their army of reprogrammable meatbags against Bernie.

    The whole BWW argument depends on taking the whole “economic anxiety” explanation for the Trumpkins seriously. But pretty much anyone who has spent more than ten minutes talking to and looking at these muttonheads realizes that it’s all racism and resentment of lib’ruls all the way down. They really WERE deplorables. Hell, if they’d really been worried about offshoring and automation like the pundits claimed these poor “anxious” jokers could have joined the Democratic Party and put Sanders over the top back in May of ’16. Did they? Did they hell; they hate everything and anything with a “D” (or an “I”) after it’s name. Bernie promised them all the economic populism but with 100% less racism and chest-beating and, guess what? The racism and chest-beating was what they came for.

    Hunter Thompson was right about us all along…

    • You really think that 20-30% of American are ‘reprogrammable meatbags’? Whoa.

      You really think that Trump voters are all one monolithic group? I don’t. There is a (worryingly large) minority of people who will vote for the Republican candidate, no matter what. But yes, people are poor, struggling to make a living, and some of them went for Trump as a wild card.

      The racist voters always go for the Republican candidate. Therefore, while it is undoubtedly true that Trump is the most racist-friendly candidate to come around since Wallace, racism does not explain Trump winning. It only explains why a Republican would win. It’s not clear that Trump got any more racist support than Romney. The racists can’t be engaged. I don’t actually believe that upwards of 20% of America are hardcore, unambiguously bigoted racists. [Do you believe that 25% of America openly uses the n-word as a pejorative? Really really? Whoa..] But they don’t explain why Trump won, because they were there before.

      Clinton lost by a very small margin, in numerous states. There are many different groups of people in modern society. Most of them are doing badly economically, or at least worse than 20 years ago, and most pay little attention to the detail of modern politics. The way it’s dressed up in the media (he says/he says) and the demonstrated inability of traditionally leftist/progressive parties to deliver anything since 1971, conspire to make the obviously-crazy choice of Trump seem not-crazy. Because of these small margins it’s quite possible, maybe even likely, that they put Trump over the top in Michigan.

      What about the very large contingent of non-voters among the poor and unemployed? Economic anxiety – “Trump is nuts, but the other one’s more of the same – fuck it I’ll just update my resume that day.” Maybe there’s lots of voters Clinton did not pick up, because of economic anxiety.

      I don’t view my arguments as conclusive but I view this issue as far more nuanced than you seem to.

      I think Bernie Sanders would have won. But I don’t think it’s near a slam-dunk, because as you say, he never really got much of Republican noise machine pointed at him. While I disagree with you, I also disagree with people saying Sanders would have won with a high degree of certainty.

  3. I don’t know where the idea of “baggage” came from. Clinton had no reason to assume she would be subjected 1. a serious effort on the part of Russia to undermine US democracy or 2. a repeated effort by the supposedly non-partisan FBI director acting in a partisan way or 3. the media would go completely off the rails to smear her for doing literally nothing that was illegal or against government rules at the time (like when her aide repeated refused to give preferential treatment to her husband’s team when he went to North Korea to rescue to journalists.)

    Clinton’s favorables were sky high in April of 2015 when she announced. It was logical to assume they would go down with the Republicans doing their best to smear her and the media being willing to do the usual going along. What was not logical to assume was an FBI director breaking all previous rules by having a press conference then releasing a letter filled with rank speculation or a foreign agent would be trying to interfere with voters along with the continuing problems of Shelby Co and voter suppression.

    A politician who has been on the national scene for a long time is going to have things in their past they wish where not there. For instance a certain Senator’s essays on women or his wife’s continuing legal trouble. That’s normal.

    What is not normal is what happened to Clinton and there is literally no way that anyone could have assumed that this was going to happen. So this idea that the Democratic base should not have voted for her is flat out wrong. Because despite your repeating Sanders’ line about the establishment, the base voted for her.

    • IMO, the “baggage” was from 1992, when Hillary said she wouldn’t bake cookies for Bill’s campaign. The press painted her as a ball-cutting harpy, and never relented. Once the media classifies someone in a particular way, it’s all but impossible to shake the image. Trump is perceived as a great business success, even though he certainly is an incessant failure, and it’s been proven repeatedly that running government “like a business” is a terribly wrong idea. Doesn’t matter. Once established, media memes are almost unbreakable.

      Which “base” are you writing about? So far as I know, Democrats have two long-memory bases and one very transient new base. Low-wage workers remember the 1940s; Democrats abandoned them under Carter. African-Americans remember the 1960s; Democrats abandoned them under Clinton.

      The Democratic Party I know today stands solely for liberal-leaning office workers. Which, it believes, is a eternally-growing subset of the population. Hence appealing to them, and only to them, will eventually become a winning strategy. I do not think this is a winning strategy. I think shitty low-paying jobs are going to grow far faster than swank positions in cubicles.

      Republicans have a solid base. Hardcore Christians (whom we should be trying to reach) and hardcore bigots (whom we should absolutely ignore). What is the Democratic base? If it’s just office liberals, I’d feel safe in declaring the party officially dead. Might take a while, as the Warrens and Frankens are doing their best to keep it alive; but if the party only cares about office liberals, it’s dead in all but the formalities.

      • This was one of the most offensive things I have read from you James.

        Thank you for 1. telling me to go fuck myself for being a cubicle worker and 2. telling the black women who have shown up consistently for Democrats for decades they don’t exist and 3. saying the only people that matter are white working class voters.

        • If I offended, it was mostly accidental. However, there is a degree to which I am genuinely angry.

          I worked 20 years with tears and sweat and backache helping people with disabilities. That experience makes my resume absolute shit; I’m unhireable. Office workers joke about how much time they waste doing nothing, and are eligible for other office jobs doing nothing. I can’t get a job where it’s funny to do nothing. I’m only eligible for jobs that risk sending me to the damn hospital again. Am I jealous? Sure as hell, I am. I’m mad as shit about this.

          I’d appreciate not being categorized as someone who doesn’t care about Black women just because I’m further to the left than you. My nieces drive me fucking crazy at times (they are teenagers, teenagers exist to drive adults nuts), however they are beautiful Black women and, as far as annoying teens go, I cannot be prouder of them.

          • Most minorities ans especially black Americans are by definition working-class. Benefits to working-class Americans would go disproportionately to them – rightly.

            How about the black women who don’t show up because the candidate is more of the same?

            Mr. Fillmore did not tell Ms. Rogers to ‘go fuck herself’. Nor did he, in any way, seek to pit the interests of white working class voters, a group he did not name, against the interests of black Americans. Maybe somebody else is doing this!

            The whole cookie thing seems to me an irrelevant distraction. Anyway, discussion of the person is not necessary: the real ‘baggage’ is being a right-wing liberal who openly refuses to force a haircut on the 1%. It should not be necessary to say, but I’ll remind Ms. Rogers that neither myself nor Mr. Fillmore has made any criticism of this candidate on a personal level, nor from the absurd Republican talking points thrown at her.

      • Hardcore Christians and hardcore bigots are not separate groups. Racism is what got the band together in the beginning. But, allowing your premise, how are you going to reach them? If you think they are open to appeals to the Sermon on the Mount or something like that then you don’t know them.

        • Agree to disagree, here. I was raised in about as fundamentalist a household as you can imagine; if it’s a crazy-ass thing believed by many conservative Christians, I know it in my bones.

          Obviously, there’s no way of reaching most conservative Christians. Most would vote for Genghis Khan if he had R-State after his name.

          However, I do think there is a possibility of reaching out to Christians who take their religion seriously. Who believe in kindness and mercy, the stuff their founder espoused. Not a large number, to be sure. Large numbers, though, are not necessary to sway elections.

  4. “a woman who didn’t think her place was staying at home baking cookies”

    “1992, when Hillary said she wouldn’t bake cookies for Bill’s campaign.”

    More context and less PR mythology, please. That remark wasn’t made as a defense of feminism, it was a defense of Hillary’s involvement in shady business dealings like Whitewater, Walmart, and cattle futures. From her Goldwater Girl days down to her current “I wuz robbed!” tour, Hillary’s sense of personal entitlement has outweighed everything else about her. THAT is why she was such a lousy candidate and is ultimately what motivated the decisions that cost her the election.

    • Whitewater? For real? You forgot the Rose Law firm and the Christmas card list. And the Goldwater Girl thing? My politics were a hell of a lot different when I was that age.

      • I’ll rephrase, Lawrence.
        Her remark was an attempt to divert attention from accusations of shady business dealings.
        Hillary’s been working that misogyny victim thing for a long time and it seems to me she neither learns from her mistakes nor changes her tactics much.

        As for Whitewater, of course it was a witch hunt. However, according to Wikipedia (I’m lazy), it nonetheless resulted in multiple felony convictions of fraud, bribery, embezzlement, etc., including those of close friends and political supporters of the Clintons, four of whom were pardoned by Bill Clinton. And while your politics may have changed over time, I don’t see much evidence that Hillary’s have. Just her position papers.

        • OK, I’ll defend Clinton and Clinton again. Whitewater: let’s stipulate that there were shady business dealings. If boy Clinton was somehow guilty of something in these dealings, the Republicans would have articulated it at some point. But they never did; all they ever had were nonspecific innuendo that never even reached the level of accusation. Whitewater! Whitewater! Benghazi! Benghazi!

          I therefore accept the conclusion that boy Clinton either did nothing wrong in the Whitewater affair, or else nothing different from every other politician. A lukewarm defence, I’ll admit, but it’s not like he’s my boy.

    • I’m no fan of the Secretary’s feminist bonafides. I think a real feminist would have eaten her for dinner; the girls I know don’t understand why she didn’t divorce Bill one instant after the 1996 election. I was trying to be considerate to those who think of Hillary as a sacred hero. I failed. It’s not the first time.

      • Perhaps I spoke too soon, farther up. I’m afraid I cannot view girl Clinton’s decision to stay with boy Clinton as any sort of feminist litmus test. Unfair and irrelevant.

        There are good reasons to challenge Hillary Clinton’s feminist bonafides. This is not one of them.

        The ‘star’ system in politics, especially American, is toxic and a disincentive to honest policy-making, regardless of the political polarity of the candidate. But this sort of comment feeds the star system.

      • James F –
        Just in passing, I hope you don’t feel I’m been picking on you, it’s meant to be collegial. Anyway, I’ve been avoiding getting sucked into these pro/anti Hillary things, but certain zombie memes still manage to set me off. It’s no secret that while I’m unhappy that Donald Trump is sitting in the White House, I was ecstatic that Hillary and her posse were denied. Long term, Trump was not the worst outcome… in my opinion.

        • No worries. We have different opinions on some issues. That’s not insulting. That’s democracy. But good of you to check up and make sure you didn’t come off the wrong way. (You didn’t, not at all.) I need to remember to be equally kind online. Sometimes I forget this.

  5. I think that we have two things happening at the same time and they are both absolutely true.

    The GOP is, without a doubt, a white identity party. At the same time, the Democratic Party has a working class problem, not just white working class but working class people of color as well. Combine Clinton’s (and various Democratic Senatorial candidates’) poor margins with working class whites and poor turnout among working class people of color and it is obvious that low wage workers are just not as enthusiastic about the Democratic Party as socially liberal professionals.

    We need to pursue social democracy not so much to flip working class whites from GOP to Dem but rather to flip workers of color from non voting to Dem. As a bloc, the white working class may be lost to us for a generation but we can still win back Congress and the electoral college if we can get the black and brown working class to feel like the Democratic Party has their back.

    • Agreed — but to get the black & brown workers to support this party, we need to offer them something. Right now, we ain’t offering workers any of shit. Except “we’re not as bad.” That’s not very motivating.

    • I’m inclined to believe that if there was some really life-transforming legislation like single-payer, a large fraction of those white-identified voters would move to vote for the party bringing it in. So the DNC should thank their lucky stars that Trump was full of it when he said he could bring a real healthcare plan.

      Labour 1945 single-payer – in power 10 years – Conservative government after did not dismantle their programs.
      CCF 1962 single payer – 3 straight victories in the 70’s; single-payer remains
      Liberal 1968 – 1968 single-payer – in power 22 of the following 30 years

      People love affordable healthcare. Their children die less, they are happier. At some point this becomes more urgent than hatred of the other for all but the hardcore.

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