- Susan Bordo: There’s a strange effort afoot to muzzle Hillary Clinton when she discusses her failed 2016 campaign
- Clinton may have been a lightning rod, but we need to face the threats to democracy that thwarted her candidacy
Every day, we hear fresh reports of the extent and insidious nature of Russian interference in the promotion of fake news stories and nasty accusations about Hillary Clinton’s character — a smear campaign that was bound to have had an effect on voters’ perceptions (why else would the Russians invest so much energy and money?). But when Clinton mentions the Russians, she’s accused of shuffling responsibility away from herself.
But she dare not talk about that, lest she be seen as boo-hooing about unfair treatment by the press.
Instead we’re told — and what we’re told Clinton herself refuses to acknowledge — that the real problem was Clinton herself. It’s usually a one-dimensional narrative. She didn’t reach the “working people.” She had no “economic message.” She was too “establishment” in a year when people wanted change. She didn’t go to the right states during the last week of the election.
And, of course, the old go-to: she just wasn’t likeable enough. (Let us pause to recall here, that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over Donald Trump by 2,864,974 votes.)
And now, because she’s published a book in which she has the audacity to present her own multi-dimensional account of the election, she’s being advised, by colleagues as well as pundits, that she should stop “re-litigating” the past, and that it’s time to “move on.”
Why are people so angry with Clinton for having the chutzpah to tell her story? Gender certainly plays a role — but words like “misogyny” and “sexism” require much more precise analysis than I can provide here (I get into it in my book), and without that precision are dull weapons that shut down people’s brains.
So let’s put those in the background, as atmospheric elements that conditioned virtually everything that happened — including the daily drumbeat of media mantras: “untrustworthy Hillary,” “unpopular Hillary,” “evasive Hillary,” Hillary who couldn’t command the crowds of a Sanders or a Trump, who didn’t know how to “reach people.”
And let’s also acknowledge that the 2016 election wasn’t the first time that Hillary Clinton, who has been a national presence since the early 90’s, has drawn fire from the mass media.
But at the same time, there have also been broad periods in her recent political career — strikingly, when she was elected (twice) to serve as a US senator from New York, and then appointed Secretary of State — when her approval ratings were dazzlingly high. At that time the first lady who had the temerity to request an office in the West Wing while she tried to garner support for universal health care was forgotten — a dim historical reference to a new generation of voters.
Then Hillary announced, and the attacks began — attacks that introduced Hillary for the first time to generations that knew little about either her past achievements or the backlash that her feminism and progressivism had elicited.