Voting for Hillary Clinton was not easy. As you will soon find out, I did not have a favorable opinion of the Secretary, and a cross section of exit polling data would seem to suggest that millions of Americans, including Democrats, shared my animosity. However, in the wake of her remarkable loss, Clinton partisans have castigated Trump and his supporters as bigoted ignoramuses. To some extent, these accusations are valid. But they are easy and ultimately futile platitudes that serve us little in the war for the soul of America. In uncertain times, we need hard truths to move forward, and the hard truth for the 2016 election was this: Clinton lost because she was bad.
The merits of the Democratic platform are not in play in my analysis of Clinton’s badness. Believe me, I resent strongly the sanctimonious manner in which the Democrats approach many key issues. Nonetheless, their agenda is one that I agree with more so than the lunacy offered by the Republicans.
No, the argument for Clinton’s badness can start and end with her flawed character: her political inauthenticity, her gluttonous appetite for special interest money, her disastrous unauthorized email server, her lies, her shifting positions, and her overall incompetence as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Secretary Clinton gives the awful impression of being willing to say or do anything for power, including jeopardizing the integrity of elections, the safety of the country, and the interests of a free and open society. Perhaps this is no mistake, given who Clinton says she looks up to. When asked about how she would improve the government, Secretary Clinton boasted about her cozy relationship with a previous Secretary of State, a man by the name of Henry Kissinger. That Clinton would accept and flaunt the assistance of a war criminal with the bloodthirst and malevolence of Kissinger, I believe, says everything you need to know about her character.
There are purely aesthetic reasons why she is disliked, too. With apologies to Mr. Bush, few presidential candidates could have used a speech coach more than the Secretary. Clinton never realized that she does not need to yell into the microphone to be heard through the loud speaker. Her fake laughs and contorted expressions seemed to exist on the uncanny valley, especially when dancing around personal failings (“Wipe the email servers? What, like with a cloth or something?”). Furthermore, her smugness and sense of self-worth were repellent when defending such a lackluster and overpraised resume. Lastly, I was tired of gender being used as a means of voter outreach, as though having a female president were an end in and of itself.
But in the end, measured against the prospects of a Trump presidency, I held my nose and relented. Somehow, Trump and his supporters managed to be even more intolerable.
First, there were Trump’s insane policy recommendations: building a concrete wall nearly 2,000 miles long, deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants, introducing religious tests for entry into the country, allowing punishments for abortion, renegotiating American debt etc. All self-evidently ridiculous and immoral ideas, all disqualifiable.
Then, of course, there was Trump’s general detachment of reality: his denial of statements he previously made on record, his stated belief that climate change is a Chinese hoax, his suggestion that vaccines could cause autism. Perhaps the most pernicious of these beliefs was that somehow the election was getting fixed against him. This led to Trump’s dangerous suggestion that he might not accept the results of the election (not unlike the #NeverTrump movement)
Still yet, you had Trump’s trademark moments of mental psychopathy and/or sexual depravity: his inability to ignore criticism on Twitter, his impersonation of a disabled reporter, his flippant endorsement of sexual assault. These moments struck me as the actions of a man totally unhinged and unpredictable. Yet they only seemed to embolden the resolve of Trump loyalists, who saw his public failures as humanizing in the face of Clinton’s robotic inauthenticity.
Finally, the cherry on top was the pick of Mike Pence as Vice President, by all accounts a bible-thumping lunatic. Even before I got to consider the future of the Supreme Court, the decision had already been made for me.
So, who could be happy when President-elect Trump gave his vacuous acceptance speech on Nov 9th? I certainly was not, yet the silver lining of the occasion is not lost on me.
Beyond her “badness,” Clinton’s loss is just deserts for her behavior in the primaries. Her collusion with the DNC—to rig the primary process and extirpate all challengers because it “was her turn”— was unforgiveable. Could there exist a more cynical attitude towards the will of the people? And if the DNC’s glorified coronation does not represent an existential threat to democracy, what possibly could?
Her loss is also justice for the crimes and ineptitudes of the Clinton presidency preceding the turn of the century. It is back pay, owed for the blood of hundreds of thousands of Slavs who were massacred under Clinton’s watch, following the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is a justice for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters in this epoch who tried to serve in the armed services (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell) or get married (The Defense of Marriage Act), and were treated like second-class citizens. It is a justice for the disastrous corporate deregulations which helped spur our nation into the Great Recession. And finally, it is a fitting end-of-legacy for a man who lied to the American people and perjured himself under oath. Secretary Clinton touted her husband’s record, so the fact that America rejected it would speak volumes for our righteousness if not for the alternative of Trump.
There are less spiteful reasons why we can be glad that the Democrats lost last month. The result hopefully spells the death of the Clinton-Obama era of corporatist shills, who, by my money, have been completely discredited. Maybe the Sanders coalition now has a shot at life, and the left might finally have champions worth fighting in the trenches for.
I should touch on the desire to blame outside forces for the loss. I have already started hearing the whines about Director Comey, Gary Johnson, and the Electoral College. I urge Democrats not to buy a word of this bad-mannered self-pity. Secretary Clinton had every conceivable structural advantage she could have asked for: the unilateral support of her party, favorable coverage from the media, the endorsement of most major newspapers and celebrities, double the spending of Trump, an organized ground game, and the help of one of the most popular Presidents in recent memory. If the Democrats had a problem with Comey, perhaps they should not have supported a candidate with an ongoing criminal investigation. If they had a problem with the existence of third parties, they should have pushed for national rank-choice voting. If they perceived the Electoral College as problematic, maybe the Democrats could have fought for an amendment in 2000.
It would be imprudent of me to put all the blame on Clinton and the Democratic elite, however. The left in general have unknowingly sowed the seeds of a populist backlash for years now. We earned this loss the day we decided to ban speakers we did not agree with, to push around journalists, and to call our political enemies racists and bigots. If this election tells us anything it all, it is that people are tired of censorial and dogmatic PC culture. If you’re a leftist, by all means, denounce Trump and purge the DNC. That should at least maximize your chances of success in the elections to come, and it might just satisfy a vindictive urge that only failure can brew. But save a little bit of resentment for yourself as well. You have earned it.
We are in trouble. I truly believe Trump’s brand of authoritarian and capricious lunacy is dangerous. You would be an ahistorical fool to trust blindly in the robustness of the United States bureaucracy and institutions. Just last week, Trump proclaimed on twitter his belief that those who burn the flag ought to be jailed or even stripped of citizenship. Leftists, you must brace yourselves. Now do you understand why the enlightenment ideals you sought to weaken and make exceptions for ought to be indivisible and universal? It is for our own sake that we unconditionally protect the speech and rights of bigots and the malcontent. Because if we don’t, who will defend our rights when WE become the malcontent? Take care, the first thing they will go after is our right to a free press, unmolested by private or government intrusion. Defend this and the other universal freedoms you once besmirched in the name of sensitivity and progress. Because these freedoms, our cherished universal and liberal and secular freedoms, are all that stand between us and the precipice.