The Destruction of Hillary Clinton – And Its Irrelevance
I have recently read the book, The Destruction of Hillary Clinton: Untangling the Political Forces, Media Culture, and Assault on Fact That Decided the 2016 Election,” by Susan Bordo. Therein, as the title indicates, Bordo undertakes to defend Hillary Clinton against what she argues was a cartoon character version of Hillary that emerged before and during the presidential election of 2016. This cartoon version of Hillary was created by Bernie Sanders – who only focused on certain aspects of Hillary’s politics – by the mainstream media – who seemed according to Bordo to buy into the prevailing myths about Hillary – by political actors like James Comey – who did a great deal of damage to Hillary’s campaign with his strange revelations about Hillary’s emails. The cartoon character Hillary was also embraced by younger women who, according to Bordo, saw Hillary as a mainstay of the establishment and too much like their mothers.
The book is interesting although its greatest fault for me was Bordo’s tendency to present another cartoon version of Hillary, namely, of an experienced, always honest, deeply committed, wonderful mother, stand-by-her man woman. Bordo seems at times almost at a loss for words in explaining how the Hillary she knows and has followed for some time could be replaced by the “untrustworthy,” “dishonest,” “insensitive,” and “disingenuous” Hillary that was embraced by many, otherwise thoughtful and knowledgeable people.
I believe in large part Bordo’s confusion in this regard stems from the fact that she does not give enough consideration to Hillary’s politics and what they represented to many of those who rejected Hillary’s campaign for the presidency. Put differently, the distrust of Hillary was or reflected a distrust of “the establishment” and “establishment politics.” And, of course, this distrust is easily understandable given “The disastrous track record of the past three decades of neoliberal policy [which] is simply too apparent.” [Klein, This Changes Everything]
This track record is why a person like Donald Trump could not only get a hearing from the American people but also helps explain why he was elected president. Surely Bordo is correct when she argues that Trump was in many ways far worse than Hillary. But that doesn’t make Hillary relevant. Given our situation after three decades of neoliberal politics, saving Hillary from destruction won’t do much of anything to address this situation. And neither would have electing her president done much to change, to improve our situation.
Consider, briefly, one of Hillary’s alleged virtues according to Bordo, viz., the Clinton Foundation. As Bordo points out, the foundation was criticized for being used by other nations to funnel money to the Clintons in hopes that there would be a payoff after Hillary won the presidency. Of course, it would be simply naïve to deny that motivations like that were not present for those giving to the foundation.
But it also necessary to ask, and ask seriously: What role does this foundation, or any foundation or philanthropic project, play in improving in a substantial and long-term way the current situation where a very few control a lot of wealth while very many have little or no wealth? It is just too easy to assume, as Bordo does by ignoring this issue altogether, that the Clinton Foundation is doing anything to change this inequitable and unjust status quo. That is, for all its apparent good will, the Clinton Foundation is irrelevant when it comes to reforming what the neoliberals have created.
And this irrelevance explains a lot of the opposition to Hillary, for example, from Bernie Sanders and, more interestingly, from younger women who did not, according to Bordo, appreciate Hillary and what she has accomplished in her career. But that’s simply because Hillary’s career and the battles she fought are no longer relevant to these younger women, who are fighting different battles, for example, paying off huge college loans that, for the most part, did not exist when Hillary went to college. Nor when Hillary graduated college was the unwritten “contract” with employees of corporations what it is today. I use to tell students that when I got my first job out of college, with a corporation, no one asked me, ”Did you get benefits?” Then I would ask them why that question wasn’t asked. The most common answer was, “Because no one got them.” “No,” I would say. “Because everyone got them!” They were stunned. That was not their world, just as Hillary’s world, even in the 90s, was not the world of the “Me Too” movement and she could, because it was more acceptable then, “stand by her man.”
Again, that Hillary has a better resume than Trump doesn’t make her relevant. Where the nation is now is not where it was during the Vietnam War or during the Nixon administration. The issues have changed and the perception was that Hillary’s politics had become, generally speaking, irrelevant. For me, it is impossible to understand why Hillary lost to Trump without taking into account the issues that ordinary Americans are dealing with, economic, social, and political issues and asking whether or to what degree Hillary was perceived as addressing those issues. In other words, her politics were more important than her resume. Relying on her resume against Trump, as Bordo does throughout her book, was not a winning strategy because it was, quite literally, irrelevant.-->