I knew for months that I would need to hold my nose and vote for Hillary on November 8th, but christ, I didn't think it would be this hard. Is there some kind of hermetic memory-foam shit I can cover my whole face with? Has NASA gotten enough funding to develop some new space paraffin? This is bad. Worse than I expected.
Here I was thinking I was already maximally jaded on the Clintons. We knew Bill was a teflon rule-breaker who left a string of improprieties wherever he went. And early on, Hillary made it clear she was operating out of the same playbook. She knowingly hid her emails from the public. She violated the Obama-imposed terms of her State Department job and accepted international money that anyone this side of Dr. No would classify as unethical.
Still, part of me hoped Hillary was the better of the two Clintons. She strikes me as smarter than Bill and lacks his proclivity for pulling her dick out. If nothing else, I thought at least the strictures of the social media era would keep her in check. Governor Bill Clinton couldn’t have gotten away with half of what he did in today’s surveillance state.
Then this weekend happened. Somebody hacked the DNC, gave their emails to WikiLeaks, and Julian Assange put down his book of poetry on what sunlight feels like long enough to press ‘send’ on a tweet that forever cemented what we already knew. In an instant, the illusion of Hillary’s innocence was shattered.
Can anyone profess shock that the Democratic primary was rigged? Though the emails didn’t prove a conspiracy to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination, it’s clear the process was always going to have one outcome, fair or not. And you know what? Given the nominee on the other side, I think the DNC might even have been right to make sure the more electable candidate won. May god have mercy on us all.
But that other candidate gives this email revelation a special stink.
Donald Trump, as we know, is a retrograde moron who openly aspires to be a strongman. A serious person’s option to run the country, he is not. You know what else he isn’t? Politics as usual.
Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is politics as usual. So is the DNC. Hillary Clinton definitely is. Strategizing an attack on Bernie Sanders’ agnosticism (and, let’s be honest, Jewishness) is the kind of identity politics we’ve come to expect from professional politicians. Trump is a pig in shit, but Clinton can get in the mud too. Raise your hand if you remember her attempting to portray Obama as unacceptably Kenyan in 2008.
At a time when the work of high-priced Washington operatives looks quaint, it was a bit of a throwback to see such brazen “politics as usual” this weekend. As coverage of the email leak started to spread Friday night, the Clinton campaign parried by hurrying out the news that she’d picked Tim Kaine to be her running mate. The tactic actually worked for a while; the VP story was lapped up by a compliant media that had far more party-insider guest panelists at the ready than they did Sanders conspiracists. Kaine’s unveiling bought Hillary and the DNC a critical day of crisis management. It was a deft maneuver — exactly the kind of media manipulation we expect from career politicians.
That stands in contrast to what Trump would have done had emails leaked about his internal delicacies. You can see it now: he would have denied everything, conspicuously stood by Hope Hicks by way of complimenting her appearance, and retweeted a bunch of phrenology-based conspiracy explanations until regurgitating one of them on the stump.
Funny? Sure. Embarrassing? Cringeworthy. But in terms of the democratic process, is it bad, necessarily, that the Trump campaign would never have had the wherewithal to execute a feint like the DNC did?
In the sense that politics is a spectator sport, it’s true that skilled players make for better viewing. But what about when the sport is South American soccer, and all the players are skilled at is diving? Is expertise at violating the integrity of the sport, good for the sport? Better yet, is it wise to watch politics passively at all?
Hell no. Conceding the political arena to professionals is how you end up with a country run by a single elitist party that’s cleaved in half and called two. Corporate personhood and increasing wage inequality didn’t come from nowhere. They came from a class of professional manipulators delivering governance to an even more monied political class. Partly due to the professionalism with which American politics is conducted, journalists have indeed turned into spectators groveling for access when they should be pissed off, or at least vigilant. Did we get so wrapped up in opposing the alt-right’s nationalism that we forgot how bullshit this is?
It’s incredible that we on the left have the gall to wonder where Trump’s appeal came from. In retrospect, he was inevitable.
It’s been said that the country just got lucky with Obama. That by 2008, some politician was bound to figure out how to win with social media tactics, and we were just fortunate it was a remarkably rational, forward-looking man. In that light, we just got unlucky with Trump. Someone was bound to offer the red pill after decades of the working and middle classes getting shafted by the blue pill. It’s an indictment of the political class — and their teams of strategists — that no one really tried an unapologetic no-bullshit campaign before this.
One of the refrains I’ve heard from people amenable to a Trump presidency has been the idea that “Hillary lies.” I’ve wondered how that idea can find such traction when her competition is a man who literally has no use for the truth.
The answer lies less in a wonkish definition of factuality than in that most base of human impulses towards honesty: fairness. In order to protest the falsehood of any given Trump statement, you need esoteric knowledge. Every three-year-old in the world, meanwhile, knows the indignity of an unfair competition. For all the lies he’s propagated, Trump is correct on the most existential plank of his candidacy. The system is rigged.
Starting tonight, we’re going to see a much better convention than the one put on by the Republicans last week. It will feature higher-caliber speakers, better ideas, and the kind of positivity a society needs to actually grow into the future. But undergirding it will be the knowledge, bothering you, that all of this is the work of professionals. Slick, faceless fixers who have the same relationship to working stiffs as Ivanka Trump. Clinton may be the only option for competent governance, but the case being made against her, in the long term, might be the right one.
On November 8th, we need to be prudent. November 9th, I’m getting pissed off.