The Hunting of Hillary: A Review of Sorts
Michael D’Antonio has written a book entitled The Hunting of Hillary: The Forty-Year Campaign to Destroy Hillary Clinton. It is very much a book worth reading, as it chronicles how, over four decades, Hillary Clinton has been attacked repeatedly and dishonestly in order to destroy her political career and her personally.
But what D’Antonio describes as a campaign to destroy Hillary wasn’t only that in fact. To be sure, Hillary was attacked and her political and personal demise sought. No doubt about it. But the real campaign wasn’t directed only at Hillary or the Clintons. Rather, it was directed against popular government in the United States.
This might seem to be a strange thing to write but those attacking the Clintons were – and are – elitists, people convinced that they are, with or without popular support, entitled to govern the United States and control its government. Their attacks on the Clintons and especially on Hillary were not made on behalf of the people or popular government, even though they like to pretend they are by charging the Clintons as elitists. But the elitist charge against the Clintons was not a charge against elitism itself. Rather, it was a charge against the Clintons’ alleged corruption, their personal corruption. The Clintons represented a corrupt elite, while those making the charges represented a decent, an American elite.
And this distinction helps us understand the prevalence and implications of what has been called, appropriately, “the politics of personal destruction.” Such a politics is prevalent because it allows existing, predominant elites to pretend they are opposed to elitism and if favor of a popular politics, when in fact their goal is to fortify their own elite status, even at the expense of popular government.
One measure of a genuinely popular government is the fact that its policies change to reflect popular desires and needs. Another measure is a capacity for changing institutional arrangements when the existing arrangements prove to be obstacles to political change. The politics of personal destruction, however, points away from such changes toward personnel changes. If the Clintons – or Trump – are corrupt, get rid of the Clintons. Problems solved. As a result though, despite personnel changes, the existing policies and institutional arrangements don’t change, which is why people turn off to politics as a futile activity. And these people are correct because the politics of personal destruction has short-circuited popular government.
And because human beings have a seemingly limitless capacity for capricious, immoral, or amoral behavior, there will always be fuel feeding the fire of a politics of personal destruction. Add to this the capacity of human beings to embrace, even wallow in scandals, and the fuel for the fire of a politics of personal destruction seems never ending.
That Hillary was “hunted” for forty years is both shameful and despicable. Hillary deserved better, to be sure. And the US is worse off as a result of those who sought to destroy her political career, as well as her personally. Like so many Vietnam vets, Hillary must feel that she’s been betrayed by her country, a betrayal that might be more traumatic than any personal betrayal she has suffered. How she copes with such trauma – as she has obviously done – is beyond my imagination.
But “the hunting of Hillary” has political implications that go beyond the injustices to which she has been subjected. That hunting reflects a politics of personal destruction that undermines popular government and serves to fortify the elites and their policies that have brought us to the quagmire that currently characterizes our politics. Replacing one “hunter” with other “hunters” only solidifies and fortifies a kind of politics that will not and cannot rescue us from our quagmire. And unlike in Vietnam, we cannot “pull out” to go home. “The hunting of Hillary” was shameful. The politics it reflects is just as shameful and even more dangerous.