Posted Thursday afternoon, April 20, 2017.
The fatally-flawed candidate nobody liked demonstrating her inability to be warm and personable with voters. (Hillary Clinton helping the Wellesley crew team celebrate the school’s first NCAA Championship. March 3, 2017.) Photo courtesy of HRC.
In her review of Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Michiko Kakutani compares Clinton’s campaign for President to the voyage of the Titanic. The implication being that everything that could go wrong did go wrong but that all of it was foreseeable and preventable and if only someone in charge had noticed and fixed just one problem or corrected one mistake---thinking to ask if anyone remembered to bring the binoculars, for instance---the ship would have been saved. That someone, of course, should have been Clinton herself. Which makes the whole disaster her fault.
Kakutani’s metaphor gave the headline writer ideas of a nautical bent:
‘Shattered’ Charts Hillary Clinton’s Course Into the Iceberg
Going by Kakutani’s review, though, what Allen and Parnes left out was the part where the political media steered the iceberg into Clinton’s path.
I’m sure Shattered isn’t as egregious an intellectually dishonest exercise in 20/20 hindsight as it sounds. It just happens that it confirms every bad thing the political press thought about Clinton and that their inept and wrong-headed coverage of her and Trump had nothing to do with her losing. Must come as a relief to the New York Times’s political desk, especially, to know that their relentless effort to kneecap Clinton didn’t cause her to lose the election. Since her campaign was “doomed” from the start, and it was all her own doing, the incessant negativity of their coverage of her, their obsession with the “email scandal”, and their final hysterical hyping of the Comey letter didn’t matter, so there’s no point in criticizing the paper or its editors and reporters.
Same goes for most of the rest of the national press corps.
It wasn’t just the emails. It was the whining about her not holding press conferences. It was the “questions raised.” To the media, the “questions raised”---as if those questions raised themselves or were raised by people outside the media’s bubble of anti-Clinton suspicion and bias---by the Clinton Foundation’s dealings with foreign governments---dealings necessary to the delivery of the aid the Foundation facilitated---were more of a scandal than the fact the Trump Foundation was at best a tax dodge. They thought it was as bad or worse than anything Trump said or was revealed to have done that she didn’t tell them she had walking pneumonia and her collapsing and putting out that it was the heat that got her was proof of...of...of...well, of whatever they thought was wrong about her or her campaign already.
But you’d better believe that if she had told them and then asked them not to report it that would have made their weeks. Damn the public’s right to know! Clinton’s mistake in handling the press wasn’t not keeping them informed. It was not making them feel like players on her team.
Shattered has given most of the political press corps the excuse they’ve been looking for to pile on Hillary for “losing” the election they were determined from the outset she shouldn’t win and absolve themselves from all culpability for the still hard to swallow fact of President Donald Trump.
Yep, she had flaws. What candidate doesn’t? Yep, she made mistakes. What candidate hasn’t? But a loser’s flaws are always fatal and her mistakes were always foreseeable and avoidable. And she had virtues. Many and significant ones. She did plenty of things right. She won the damn debates, just to name one thing that was both the result of the things she did right and a demonstration of her virtues. But the media focused on her flaws and mistakes from the outset of her campaign---and even before that, when they practically warned her not to run because they didn’t like her and weren’t about to let the country forget it---and glossed over her virtues and explained away her successes.
Meanwhile, for almost a year they glossed over Trump’s flaws or even treated them as kinds of virtues or having the effect of virtues---apparently not noticing that he’s singularly lacking in any virtues while possessing a surfeit of vices---and ignored his many, many mistakes, until he himself made that impossible. Kellyanne Conway thinks awfully well of herself these days, but she has reason. Until she took over, Trump and his campaign were on auto-destruct.
She won the popular vote. Doesn’t that count for something? No. Because she should have won it going away. Look who she was running against! How could she not have beaten the likes of him in a landslide? But voters didn’t know who she was running against. They thought her opponent was “Donald Trump”, the character from The Apprentice. How were they supposed to know otherwise? Who was to tell them? For all of 2015 and through the spring of 2016, that’s who the media covered him as---when they weren’t covering him as a likable rogue, a refreshingly disruptive provocateur who cheerfully flouted the old, fusty political norms, the outsider come to shake up the establishment and yank everybody’s chain, or just a clown good for a provocative quote or soundbite.
They didn’t take the real Donald Trump seriously, until it was too late. So went the mea culpas after he won the nomination and then the election. But they did take him seriously. They took him seriously as a celebrity performance artist who brought eyeballs and the clicks. They might have taken him seriously as a politician to be reckoned with if they’d taken his voters seriously. I don’t mean the idealized White Working Class who are supposedly his base. Them the media took too seriously or, rather, they took their own sentimentalized version of them too seriously. And too much was made of the fact that some of them had voted for Obama. So what if they had? He wasn’t running again. And, anyway, the important question I never saw asked, never mind answered, was who else did they vote for?
Two presidential votes don’t make someone a Democrat. Who did they vote for for Senator, US Representative, Governor, state legislators, town board, school board? And how far back does their voting Democrat or Republican go?
Asking them about that would have been taking them seriously as voters and citizens rather than as the long-suffering working class heroes and heroines of a media-invented folktale of blue collar victimization.
But even if there were many disaffected Democrats among Trump’s base, there weren’t that many of them. They may have provided Trump his margin of victory in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Depends on how you see it Looked at from another angle, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who stayed home or voted third party cost Hillary what would have been her margin of victory. Right Wing Evangelicals are certain they delivered him to the White House and their proof is they’ve been rewarded for it with Neil Gorsuch.
Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter who put him over the top. He was that close because 62 million other people voted for him, and the vast majority of them were regular Republican voters who’d been voting reliably Republican all their adult lives. And here’s the thing.
Whether they thought they were voting for “Donald Trump” or Donald Trump, they knew they were voting for someone who’d put racial resentment, xenophobia, anger at and fear of THOSE OTHERS at the center of his campaign.
And the media let him and them off the hook.
His voters kept telling anybody who with a microphone or an open notebook that it was, basically, all about the Wall, and the media said, No, that’s not it, you’re economically anxious. You’re just poor working stiffs who are tired of getting the shaft from the Washington political establishment and being sneered at and brushed off by the East and Left Coast intellectual elites. You’re not racists. You’re not sexists. You’re not know-nothings. You’re just folks with problems that make you mad and frustrated and liberals should sympathize with your anger and frustration. So all that scary, crazy, and hateful stuff Trump says is just stuff he’s saying and we don’t have to take him or any of it seriously. The point is he’s the only one in this campaign speaking up on your behalf.
Ok, if you say so.
I always took Trump seriously. I say that for my own satisfaction and in the hope it’ll reassure you that it’s not a complete waste of your time to read what I think about politics. I didn’t expect Trump would win, but there was never a moment when I didn’t think he could win and there were plenty of moments when I became realistically afraid that he might very well win. And in the end I wasn’t surprised that he did win. Shocked. Stunned. Horrified. Heartsick. Disgusted. Depressed. But not surprised. And that’s because I knew there were a lot of Republicans in the country and that they vote and I knew what they were and what they want. I took Trump seriously because I take Republicans seriously and I take them at their word.
America for Americans.
If you don’t like it here, go back where you came from.
Not with my tax dollars you don’t.
I got mine, you get yours.
They want their country back, and by their country they mean they own it and the rest of us, those of us who aren’t them, who are THEM to them, should get the hell out. America is theirs. They want it for themselves and to themselves.
All my adult life I’ve been watching Republicans become more and more Right Wing, reactionary, racist, xenophobic, outwardly misogynist and homophobic, fearful, angry, hate-filled, and nihilistic. Those who couldn’t move far enough and fast enough to the Right, stopped being Republicans. The “moderates” left in the party were Right Wing corporatists whose politics were only moderated by their greed. You can’t make money in a global economy if your only market is made up of small town-dwelling racist white Americans, after all.
This is Richard Nixon’s party. Ronald Reagan’s party. It’s also Jerry Fallwell’s party. Anita Bryant’s party. Pat Buchanan’s party. Jesse Helms’ party. It’s Rush Limbaugh’s party. Newt Gingrich’s party. It would have become Sarah Palin’s party but she couldn’t keep her focus. Trump is late to the party’s party. He didn’t make it what it is. He just saw an opportunity and pounced.
And the political press didn’t report any of that. They’ve never reported it or at least they haven’t since Reagan won re-election. They’ve covered the Republican Right, which is pretty much the whole of the Republican Party as if they were just folks and in ignoring what they are have been able to ignore what their political leaders are and what they’ve been trying to do on behalf of those good plain folks.
And now that those good plain folks have elected a racist lunatic president to go along with all the racist lunatics they’ve elected to Congress and the state houses, the political journalists are stunned. How did it happen? What went wrong? Where did Trump come from? Why didn’t we see him coming sooner? What could have been done?
Shattered provides them with an easy answer.
She should have been their idea of perfect.