I had a moment of genuine shock a couple of days after the election. (The election itself wasn’t shocking so much as being gradually overtaken by a creeping sense of existential dread.) Still blankly trying to process how the nation could have elected the world’s emptiest combover, still fixated on the part how everybody, even the combover himself, was certain he was going to lose, my wife and I were asking each other how everyone had gotten it so, so wrong, and I brought up “Dilbert” creator Scott Adams.
If, like my wife, do not follow Scott Adams on Twitter, you may not know that he picked Trump from the very beginning of the primary as the winner, based on Trump’s superior skills of persuasion. Adams, it seems, is a trained hypnotist and a student of the Art of Persuasion. Onstage with the other 16 Republican primary candidates, Trump’s persuasion tactics were so obviously superior, Adams said, that he’d easily win the GOP nomination and eventually the big chair.
This was not a common or popular opinion when Adams started with it, but he stuck to his premise and analyzed every twist and turn of the campaign through the filter of Persuasion Tactics, and he turned out to be right pretty much soup to nuts. His approach early on was detached, like a scientist, but when Trump moved into the general against Hillary and still found Trump the better persuader, he got so much shit from Clinton supporters on Twitter that he started openly advocating for Trump, finding the Hillary people intolerant bullies. He confidently predicted a Trump victory all the way to the end and I don’t have to tell you how that turned out.
Anyway, I was telling my wife all about how the Dilbert guy was the only one who called the election from the beginning, and she looked me in the eye and said, “YOU called it from the beginning.”
Hillary Clinton will never win a national election, she reminded me I said and said constantly from the beginning of her 2008 campaign all the way through the end of the 2016 primary. They hate her too much. There is no scenario where they forget about the 25 years of horseshit she’s carrying and make her president.
Hillary Clinton, to the Republicans, is the Boogeyman. The absolute worst case scenario. Over the last 25 years, they have tried to pin so much crap on her over the years, from mishandling files to shady real estate deals to murder, treason, drug dealing and poor email security, none of it ever sticking, that they have built her up to be this 10-foot-tall supervillain, wantonly committing every crime under the sun with total impunity — or did you not know that Hillary Clinton is a serial murderer with ties to the underworld and is selling secrets to ISIS? She is the personification of everything half the country hates about politics in general and Democrats in particular.
Now — is it fair that Hillary Clinton is the Boogeyman? (Should it be Boogeywoman? Boogeyperson? … I’m sticking with Boogeyman.) No, it’s not fair. If you ask me, she’s a generally well-intentioned, highly driven, uncommonly competent old lady, no more or less muddy than anyone else in the pigpen. She doesn’t deserve the insane, outsize level of scrutiny and hate coming her way. Not based on anything I’ve ever seen, and I pay pretty close attention to this stuff.
But as William Munny once said, Deserve’s got nothing to do with it. She’s the Boogeyman. That’s it. Nobody to the right of Dianne Feinstein will ever vote for Hillary Clinton, not ever. She’s the Boogeyman. Twenty-five years of sustained, targeted hysteria have seen to that. Nobody can really point to any specific criminal deed — I still don’t understand what her supposed crime was in Benghazi — but they see her as a criminal, and she is the one person who will get people off the couch specifically to vote against her.
It’s not fair, it just is. Hillary Clinton can’t ever be president, not because of any glass ceiling or any rigged election but because she’s the fucking Boogeyman. Arguing about how fair that is is totally beside the point. You can’t expect to solve complex problems if you can’t confront reality, and reality is that there is a hard core of voters that would never, ever vote for her. The merits of how they came to feel that way are totally beside the point, and nominating such a person is sending them on a suicide mission.
I’ve been saying this for years, my wife reminded me. And the point is not to brag about how I called it — it didn’t exactly take a crystal ball. The point is, I FORGOT I EVER SAID IT, and I said it all the time for years. Not because I hate Hillary, because I don’t. I voted for Bernie last spring, but I voted enthusiastically for Hillary last week, felt great about having our first woman president, and like everyone else I fully expected her to win.
Because the troubling thing about Trump, even more troubling than his many well-documented troubling comments over the course of the campaign, is how completely and obviously out of his depth he is. He strongly indicated this through his non-answers throughout the campaign, and now that he’s been elected he seems determined to prove it before he’s even inaugurated. He has no apparent appetite for learning at all, he bullshits his way through every answer like a kid doing a report on a book he didn’t read, he has a demonstrated lack of tact, reserve, and impulse control, he is erratic, given to grudges and pointless dick-measuring, and secretive about his finances. Even if you’re super pro-life or pro-Second Amendment or anti-taxes, or WHATEVER your pet Republican issue is, doesn’t a person’s basic personality and obvious tendency toward rash decisions and ceaseless bluster make a difference? I get it, you don’t like the Teacher’s Union, but this guy is nuts, right? Based on his tendency for Twitter grudges, he seems likely to nuke the first foreign leader who asks why his tie hangs down so far past his belt. Can’t we agree that’s a bigger deal than supporting a 2% increase in your tax rate that would never pass the Congress anyway? I didn’t see how anyone could vote for him, whatever they thought of Clinton. That’s what I thought. Because I forgot that Hillary Clinton is the Boogeyman.
Imagine it the other way around, if the Republicans nominated their Boogeyman. Who’s the Republican Boogeyman? (And don’t say Trump, because there’s definitely worse.) Based on the fuss he caused when he endorsed Trump, I am going with former Louisiana State Representative and KKK Imperial Wizard David Duke. (Also considered: Ralph Reed, Dick Cheney, Ted Cruz, Antonin Scalia’s decaying corpse.)
(Please note that I am in no way comparing David Duke with Hillary Clinton on any of their relative merits other than the extremity of the reaction they cause on the other side. And their tendency to wear pearls in the evening.)
So anyway, imagine: The Republicans have nominated David Duke. The worst-case scenario, the Boogeyman. In response, after a long and brutal primary, the Democrats nominated the guy who through his continually outrageous behavior made the whole unbearable process kind of fun: Kanye West.
Are you serious? the Republicans would say. Kanye? Kanye doesn’t know anything about foreign policy! Kanye doesn’t know anything about anything! He’s dangerously unstable! He’s up all night minding his Twitter grudges! Does he even sleep? AT LEAST DAVID DUKE HAS GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE!
And we would reply, sure, Kanye’s got his faults. But David Duke is the fucking Boogeyman. And after impulsive, erratic Kanye won that election despite his repeated threats to call a drone strike on Taylor Swift and change the US Army’s uniform to include leather jogging pants, we would not be apologizing for sending David Duke home, just as the GOP sees Hillary’s loss as a giant meteor that just barely missed the Earth.
We’re all tearing our hair out wondering why so many people voted for Donald Trump, but what we should be wondering is why we nominated the only person that literally any Republican could beat. (Except Ted Cruz.) The only person who would motivate an otherwise disillusioned, apathetic voter to get off the couch to go and vote against her. How did we all forget this? It is a truly troubling example of groupthink.
We’ll never know if Bernie Sanders could or would have beaten Trump, but he would have had a better chance than Hillary for the simple reason that he’s not carrying 25 years of baggage. Stupid, overblown, mostly made-up baggage, but baggage just the same. He’s not the Boogeyman, and he was talking about a lot of the same things as Trump, minus the pussygrabbing, the xenophobia, the science denial, and the pathological need to answer slights.
I do not, by the way, think much of the idea that the Democratic primary was “rigged” by the DNC or anyone else. Bernie lost because a) Democrats don’t have the courage of their convictions, and chickened out when the opportunity to vote for their ideals finally came along because they’re so scared of losing and b) Hillary Clinton came into the election with the highest name recognition of any non-incumbent candidate in the history of the world.
Likewise, it’s hard to blame FBI Director James Comey for bringing up Clinton’s email woes again a week before the vote for her losing the election. The email thing, while effectively harmless, was a totally unforced error that fed directly into Hillary’s reputation for opacity. There are times when the appearance of wrongdoing is just as bad as actual wrongdoing, and this was one of them — a colossal blunder from the one person on Earth who should have known better. Comey couldn’t have brought it up a week before the election if she hadn’t done it in the first place, and I think that anyone inclined to believe there was anything there was already convinced before the end of the primary.
Where do the Democrats go from here? How do they bounce back and reclaim the Congress and the White House? For one thing, the Republicans had 17 people in their primary, most of whom were at least somewhat familiar. Who do the Democrats have coming up that can run for president next time? Cory Booker and… who? We spent the last few years hearing all about how the demographics increasingly favor Democrats for the foreseeable future, how Republicans are an endangered species, and yet the Democrats’ two serious primary candidates were 68 and 74. Where’s the bench? Where are the new draft picks? Where is the young talent? Can you think of even one realistic contender for 2020? (And don’t you fucking dare talk to me about Chelsea Clinton.)
Even if she had won, Clinton presided over the total failure of her party to plan for the future, to develop new talent on the left, and that’s obviously now something they’re going to have to start immediately. But the good news about that talent drain is, now that Hillary has finally given up the crown, it’s not immediately obvious who the new Boogeyman is. Eventually that person will reveal him or herself, and when it happens we should do our best to remember not to nominate that person for president.