Now we must listen to the post-mortems; the analyses of why Hillary lost, brought to us by people who have as much belated insight as a drunk who’s just been mugged. “Somethin’ hit me.” In many cases, they are too heavily anchored in the rational to understand the pounce of the irrational, so their analyses, doggedly aboveboard, are paper constructions next to the meat and bone of the hungry beast that slinks in the bushes, waiting to tear them apart any time opportunity fills the air and the blood calls.
Talk radio was part of the cause of Hillary’s loss: it had created a unique, enthusiastic, and indeed fanatic audience over the last quarter-century and trained it to think like a wolfpack. Talk radio spilled over into the middle mainstream and colored the water. Ostensibly talk radio was a forum for people to discuss the nation’s problems. But it had trained people to think in a manner that cannot lead to any problem’s solution. Let me do a comparison.
Rational people, like myself, see problems here there and everywhere, and we lean back and look over the situation and use our common sense to home in on the source of the problem. Always the problem has multiple sources. This much of it may come from trends that have gone too far, this much from popular ignorance, this much from neglect, this much from our Western cultural goals, this much from technological advances, this much from outworn legal structures, this much from the weight of money on the scales of justice, this much from alienation, this much from the pursuit of advantage at all costs, this much from the laws of nature, and so on. We assign relative weights to the various causes and seek precision in their relations to one another. But the talk radio enthusiast has no such balanced viewpoint. All problems to him have only one cause. The lib’ruls did it. The host’s job is to rile the listeners up and point them in this one direction. In his rush to turn the slavering dog-pack loose on the hapless lib’ruls all attempts at thought must be rudely shouldered aside, and if the listeners feel any such rational inclinations they must be silenced, lost in the tumult & frenzy.
The audience that has been trained to think in this way --- to form their thoughts around a pre-determined cause --- to plunge after the red meat that has been laid out before them --- has been degraded in its mental processes and its spiritual. Any proposition that serves the yapping herd as an ameliorator of conscience --- any accusation that energizes the dogpack’s baying attack --- is welcome and taken to heart immediately. Truth does not matter. The allegation must be true because it serves our purposes. It heartens our just cause; it puts power in our muscles and frenzy in our brains. Now, all focused and revved up, we snap into avenger mode, no longer hindered by annoying doubts. Thus, the idea that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a child-sex operation out of a pizza shop was welcome and believable because it was useful. It oiled the engines of purpose. It fed coal to the firebox. It sent the power of outrage pulsing through their veins and blood pumping into the brain. The dogpack spread the news far and wide over the internet. Righteous aggrieved patriots grabbed their guns.
Accusations of this sort had been circulating through the right-wing body politic and accumulating in its brain for years. Through spillover, through osmosis, they had seeped out and colored and poisoned the public mainstream. So many things out there, thought the Average Citizen; must be something to it. At the very least, she’s Awful Shady. I don’t trust her.
So the Democrats meandered on, tending their little gardens of hope for Hillary-as-president all through the Bush administration, and on through the Obama years, spading a little here, watering, trowelling there; while the Republicans dumped gallons of dioxins into the ditches and hoped they’d percolate on down through the groundwater and poison the general supply. They did. Hillary’s strategy was to serve well and faithfully in every capacity, first as senator then as secretary of state, to use her iron-butt wonkiness to research every issue, study real hard, and devise every problem’s solution within the bounds of the possible, for the art of politics is the Art of the Possible. Meanwhile, the Republicans spread every faked-up slander they could think of, turning her into the most massive uncaught lawbreaker in the United States. The Average Citizen, once again, could only assume that the miasma of corruption that followed her --- pumped into the air by the Republican stink machines working night and day --- the stink in the air could only have issued from honest citizens like themselves concerned for the country’s welfare. Where there’s smoke there’s got to be fire. The fact that hundreds of public prosecutors, both state and federal, were always on the lookout for politicians to take down --- from Edwin Edwards to Rod Blagojevich to Jesse Jackson Jr. to Tom DeLay to Bob McDonnell to Ken Paxton --- and would have seized happily on Hillary had she been even one-tenth as criminal as the stink machine put out --- it’s an easy matter to turn lesser fish to testify against big fish by frightening them with long prison terms --- this only proved how effective the Clintons were at intimidating prosecutors at every level, or buying them off. Truly she (and Bill!) were Criminal Masterminds on a scale previously unknown in this country. They ran a conspiracy as widespread as the Kennedy assassins (still uncaught!) and NOBODY COULD BE FOUND TO TESTIFY. Nobody except the fearless talk-radio hosts. And their slavering listeners, who would not be intimidated. Despite the Clinton murder machine’s record of 150 kills.
“There’s got to be something to this,” says the Average Citizen, and shakes his big head sadly.
Now, we’ve got to ask the religiously inclined: doesn’t this bother you? Don’t you have a commandment somewhere, Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness? Does it EVER bother you?
The Real Hillary was a high-IQ study freak, a little shy, a little unworldly, given by nature to public service, to writing legislation to make things a Little Bit Better. She did not have the left-wing’s big-picture view of capital boring its way through the block of the world, with the shavings --- the displaced peasantry --- dropping to the floor; she did not see capital plunged like an eggbeater into primitive economies and --- whirr! --- pureeing them. If she did see it, she knew there was nothing she could do about it, because to fight that fight one would have to cut loose and become a red-flag-waving Sandinista, and she was a Southern politician’s wife; she had achieved conventional respectability among a small circle of bourgeois Arkansans, who liked her and took her in as one of their own. But nevertheless she was a liberal, and when she could she gave her time & legal ability to Good Causes. Among the investor/developers, she was a bit of a wallflower, but despite her thick glasses they protected her, because they knew Bill was the chief horndog of the State of Arkansas and they did not want to see her hurt unnecessarily or the marriage of two people they liked disrupted.
When Bill became president, she could not be held back from falling like a whirlwind on Good Causes, or, really, on the one Good Cause that her formidable analytic ability told her was most needed by the American people: health-care reform. Good low-cost health care for all. She had the brains and the pent-up ability. No more demure First Ladies with their little toy projects: highway beautification or libraries or Just Say No To Drugs. She saw herself as Eleanor Roosevelt, espousing the cause of the Little People, Tom Joad and the downtrodden Negroes, goading her husband on to do better by them.
The insurance industry paired with the Republican Party in 1993 and the two used their clout to destroy health care reform. Lessons were learned. On Hillary’s part, she learned that good intentions and good plans were not enough; that the big boys would use their resources to destroy both. She learned that nothing could be done unless the Big Boys were Cut In. And the Republican Party learned that Hillary was someone to worry about.
Both the Democrats and the Republicans have to rely on large constituencies that do not work hard enough to have informed thought. Instead, their voters rely on emotional identification; on dim impressions mixed with weak conclusions. Thus, it is easy for either party to lampoon the other’s voters by sticking microphones in their faces. Nevertheless, it is these dim impressions and emotional investments that connect the two groups to a deeper understanding or, in serving their inner interests, block them from it. Hillary’s sin, to a considerable public, was that she wanted to be president, not the Little Woman in the Kitchen, not the hostess, not the facilitator. Early on, Bill had counseled her, and melded his ambition with hers, and under his Svengali-like influence, there was no other way for her to go. Public-interest lawyer, no; president, yes. So she took a big deep breath and opened up and took the big bite.
The Republican stink machine did not quite believe she could really do this, but while she was the president’s wife she was a convenient target for rousing up the troops and setting the dogs to baying. Thus, she was portrayed as an unnatural woman: coupling with male and female staffers, managing the Clinton hit squad, coldly set on public prominence, a very outrage upon nature and nature’s benevolent intentions. Certain cultural archetypes were invoked. The scheming rich-bitch vixens of Dynasty and daytime soap operas were transferred to her body and pasted on: ladies with broad hats and cruel clever eyes who blighted the lives of the young and the restless, the beautiful and the innocent and the e-street shuffle, ladies who would invite you to tea while slowly the glassy web of their Vast Plan folded and scraped around you. Thus, promoting this stereo/archetype, the ‘Soldier of Fortune’ publisher went on Nightline and called Bill Clinton “Hillary’s vegetable.” Bill was the amiable dunce; she was Arachne.
All this was useful in arousing and satisfying something dark, shallow, and cruel in the female population; a way of creating an image that enabled them to deal with and dramatize and project on a wide screen the drama they lived with in every small town and medium-sized town and provincial capital and commercial center. We know women like that!
Once this image had been created and set in motion it had a life of its own. It circulated through the world of people who had low-minded interpretations of everything, who hugged these interpretations like teddy bears and relished them. This world of caustic vulgarity (based on personal disappointment) was largely invisible to people who worked with the real world of fact. But the soap-opera world of fiction had a strong and less visible hold.
Character matters. Character determines destiny. In the world of the novel, this adage is fundamental. And along with the novelists, we hope that it is true. So let us look at character --- at what is in character and what is out of character. For Hillary Clinton, and for you and me. And for all those people who live in the world of caustic vulgarity, who devour supermarket tabloids, who bought the ‘Trump That Bitch’ t-shirts and shouted “Lock her up!” at the convention. They are unable to understand the real world, because part of their character is missing. They are not playing with a full deck, because one suit is gone and cannot be found. Insofar as they do not see Hillary accurately, they do not see you or me accurately. They do not believe we exist. Or if we exist, then we should not. We are abominations before the Lord, scary, and need to be sacrificed on the altar of Jehovah --- bled out, set afire, a burnt offering.
We may look OK. We may hold jobs. We may raise families. But all along our daily treadmill, as we walk to lunch or drive home, in the city streets and in the workplace, as we pick up the vibes from strangers and acquaintances, as we review the latest world problems on TV, we are worrying out solutions, teasing them out of the wreckage, floating above the problems like pure intellects or compassionate angels --- we are motherly. Your problems make us bleed. This is precisely what the right finds objectionable about us. You are BLEEDING HEARTS. They have said this for seventy years. They say it in derision. They cannot understand something so unnatural, or so foolish . . . something that is not centered on self. They cannot understand how disinterested compassion can be woven into the fabric of a perfectly functional & efficient life . . . how a part of the mind, guided by the soul, is always looking for the best outcome for everyone and considering how to bring it forth. And since we can only help those in our immediate circle, we give to organizations and causes and people that promise to do so on a bigger and more impersonal scale. Some of it may be misguided, but most of it is not.
So this generalized all-purpose liberal is Hillary Clinton, with all her plans, analyses, and practical solutions, all carefully designed by work-groups crunching the data and aiming for improvement in the realm of the possible. When the Big Boys crushed her health-care initiative back in ’93-’94, they taught her that she could get nowhere unless she took them into consideration. We may not like it, but it’s true. So she dialed back and focused on what was achievable. No sweeping crusades that go nowhere. Just work for what is realistic and don’t get the Big Boys against you.
So far as her character goes, she is the student of every problem, the researcher of every odd point, the test-taker at her desk, the answerer of every question. She hopes to advance by getting A’s. She wants to get all her boxes checked. She wants to Do Right, and get stamped Passed With Honors. She wants to keep her nose clean --- not a speck of dirt on her blouse. Someone hoping to achieve higher office by these means will not set up a clandestine criminal enterprise and LIE ABOUT IT. Will not smirk and pass money under the table like a Governor of Louisiana. She is not one of your species. She is one of ours, and we know our own, and the fact that you find it unbelievable that we exist says more about your corruptions than anyone else’s. I am real and I exist. The jubilation that you low-lives show at the prospect of tearing her apart says plenty about who you are. Says more than enough.
There were people who found Trump unacceptable but found Hillary even more so. On the internet they do not elaborate but as I try to read them the theme of dishonesty/corruption seems to run behind their comments, as if ‘dishonesty’ were her root, a fundamental building-block of character, a reflexive stance preferred to honesty, and all else were arranged around it; and ‘corruption’ meaning the trading of advantage for money, position for favor, short-circuiting the public good for private enrichment. And of course, to cloak this, one had to LIE ABOUT IT continually. As one offended woman said, echoing the Dynasty meme, “She’s only out for herself.”
Truly it would take too long an essay to counter this: going over every inflated accusation, every monstrous caricature to show behind it a normal person, somewhat better than average, trying to live a normal life and do justly by all concerned. The millennial kids who hate her, all of them in shameful & unnatural embrace with the Republican stink machine, I can only say, in your lack of knowledge of life, you demand too much. You are childish. The real Hillary has ideological shortcomings --- from the time she married Bill, she was isolated from the main streams of left-wing thought; she remained a 60’s liberal, and that’s not a bad thing. As Bill’s protégé, she accepted her fate. There is something of the classical drama in all this: whether I win or am slain, I do the gods’ bidding. Not my will but Thine. She was a sacrifice to the Dark Forces, to the blind mockers who feast on the bones. Not just her bones but ours.