I supported Hillary Clinton right out of the gate. I have voted in every election since 2004, and I never made a faster decision in a presidential primary than I did in 2016, which said more about my choices than my vote. After the Anointed One was blindsided by an outsider in a crowded 2008 primary, the Democratic Party decided to leave nothing to chance, and cleared the 2016 field so that Hillary simply had to beat Martin O’Malley, some rando whose platform centered around switching us to the metric system and an insurrection lead by Bernie Sanders. Given that there were only two real choices to make, I begrudgingly went with the candidate who more closely fit my political views.
I am probably the most conservative writer here at Paste politics, and Bernie’s entire platform was simply too far left for me—plus the number one issue I always vote on is foreign policy (because that’s the aspect of the gig that the president has the most direct control over), and any isolationist candidate is basically a non-starter in my book. I am far more hawkish than the leftist wing of modern liberalism, even though I came of political age in opposition to the Iraq War, and continue to lament our aimless warmongering across the globe. It’s a delicate balance, but we can’t simply end all war by refusing to fight. Your enemy gets a vote too.
So ideologically, I certainly fall into the cohort of “Hillary Clinton supporters” who she claims that “a lot of [Bernie’s] supporters continue to harass and really, um, go after my supporters, all the time and that feeds in—I think—to the whole sexism and misogyny part of this campaign.”
I voted for Hillary Clinton. I wrote things like this last summer in the wake of the DNC hack to try to convince the so-called “Bernie Bros” to vote for her come November.
Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat. He only turned heel because he wanted to run a real presidential campaign—not a spoiler gunning for double digits in the popular vote…But why should the Democrats be any more beholden to Bernie than he is to them? Other than the racist “taco bowl” e-mail and the one suggesting they attack Sanders' faith, these revelations unearthed by Kremlin forces cheerleading the rise of Donald Trump really weren't that bad. These leaks revealed a political party conspiring to turn events in their favor, which is shady, but that's also their entire point of being. They will always tilt the playing field in favor of those who they think have the best chance to win. This isn't a scandal.
At no point during the election did I ever feel the unadulterated scorn that Hillary describes above, or the aggrievement that Peter Daou—he of Verritt fame—acts out every day on Twitter on her behalf. The sexism part of this ordeal obviously is not mine to experience (nor is it Peter's, but he clearly didn't get the memo), but I never felt belittled for my more center-left political beliefs while writing for a magazine filled with socialists. I do think that leftists have gone a little overboard with their “centrism is dead!” exhortations, but the important takeaway from this election is that the self-described “non-ideological center” has now been ideologically identified—largely through Hillary Clinton's failure. Now we can actually debate the future of liberal policy (as some centrist Dems like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris have begun to do), but many of the Hillary sycophants still want to relitigate 2016.
Hillary has legitimate gripes about this election. The press coverage of her e-mails was exactly what Wikileaks (Russia) wanted to happen. When you release a few thousand documents at a time instead of dumping the whole thing (like a real leaker interested in transparency would), you do it to control the narrative—and the mainstream press did a perfect job of playing the role of Julian Assange's lapdog, turning the story back towards DNC gossip in October after the “grab her by the pussy” Access Hollywood tape dropped. The entirety of 2016 is up there with building the case for the Iraq War as the lowest moment in the mainstream media's history. They essentially turned into a Super PAC for Donald Trump.
Russia also intervened, and given the massive scale of their disinformation campaign, it's impossible for it not to have had an impact. Russian meddling almost certainly helped depress turnout (because that's the point of almost all negative advertising: to depress the enthusiasm of the other side). However, even if the wildest conspiracy theories are realized and Donald Trump willingly accepted help from the Russians and conspired with them to rig this election, it wouldn't have THAT much more of an impact than what we already know. It's bad, but it's not “swing an entire election” bad. The only reason the argument that the Russians cost Hillary the election has any merit is because the election was close enough to be swung in the first place (which had nothing to do with the Russians).
Hillary Clinton also faced an unprecedented level of sexism in this campaign…just as Barack Obama faced an unprecedented level of racism in 2008. And this is where the “poor Hillary!” argument tends to run out of steam. Aside from Russian meddling, it's difficult to argue that Obama didn't face equally difficult challenges to Hillary Clinton, and the “Bernie Bro” “problem” of 2016 was present in 2008 as well. Hillary just couldn't be as indignant about it back then because she actually lost to a candidate running to her left. Comparing Obama's support in 2008 to Bernie's in 2016 destroys the narrative that Hillary is trying to create, because it demonstrates that the split in the Democratic Party has been around far longer than one election.
I wrote this in my column about cryptocurrency, and I will continue to write it until the Democratic elite finally chisels it into their brains.
The 2008 global financial crisis is something of a dividing line between past society and present.
Packaging underwater mortgages into AAA-rated securities nearly destroyed the global economy as we know it, and the sins of 2008 exposed fissures within the Democratic Party that had been hanging around since Bill Clinton was sworn into office. The rightward turn of the Democratic Party alienated its left flank, and as we have gotten further away from the 1990's, we have come to realize that much of Clinton's “economic wizardry” was mainly just being in the right place at the right time. The dot com boom—like the Industrial Revolution and other great technological leaps before it—was so powerful that anyone could have presided over a good economy then. The Democrats had come to define themselves through a mistaken lens.
As we have moved further away from Clinton's presidency, his legacy has turned from one of economic security to being the guy who rapidly expanded the (privately owned) carceral state, and destroyed the firewall built between regular banks and investment banks in the wake of the Great Depression. The central fissure in the Democratic Party is a war over the neoliberalism (read: diet conservatism) that emerged during the 1990s, and what kind of future (if any) it will have in the Democratic Party. Barack Obama beat Hillary in 2008 as the electorate's preferred candidate to challenge the establishment, and he likely would have been unseated in 2012 had the GOP not nominated the walking embodiment of Wall Street. The 2012 Presidential election tricked the Democrats into thinking they had a mandate, and hid the truth that the country was still looking for radical change in Washington.
Hillary promised more of the same in an era defined by the rejection of traditional norms. She coopted Republican language like “ensuring access to health care”—which inspires absolutely no one on the left, and the Democrats are already learning from her mistakes on this subject.
The far-left was around before Hillary Clinton ran for president, and in the near-year since the election, it has demonstrated that it is not going anywhere. If the Democrats want to win elections, they need to embrace their left flank, and the de facto adoption of Medicare for All on to the party platform is proof that they are beginning to understand that fact (this is also true in reverse, as the leftist coalition demonstrated it is not large enough to win a Democratic primary on its own). By labeling those who oppose Hillary Clinton as “sexist Bernie Bros,” we keep the Democratic Party stuck in the past—a past where it's not good enough to defeat Donald fucking Trump.
I get the frustration with parts of the Bernie wing. I witnessed it myself when I went to vote in the primary and a young man with a Bernie Sanders sweater on was asked to take it off before stepping into the polling place, because you know, state election laws and all. The whole point of democracy is that democratic spaces are for everyone, and Massachusetts law requires that partisanship be left at the door. This guy proceeded to freak out and scream that his rights were being trampled on, and ranted about how this was all a plot by the DNC. He refused to take his sweater off, and never voted.
But that's the price to pay for expanding political movements, and the overall effect is still good: it brings new people into your party. That kid probably didn't have much of a formal education in politics, and was inspired by Bernie's economic message—either motivating himself to go to the polls for the first time, or it was his first time being eligible to vote. Either way, this naivete is a net benefit, because it means that the party is expanding. Characterizing these newbies to politics as “sexist Bernie Bros” simply because they reject the oligarchic politics represented by Hillary Clinton only helps to ensure that the Democratic Party remains the fetid geriatric turd that it presently is.
In order for the Democrats to move forward, leftists must accept that despite their best energies, they still legitimately lost to a candidate who came up short against the worst candidate in political history. On the flip side, Democratic partisans need to stop relitigating 2016, and accept blame for their historically pathetic inadequacy. This is the opposite of helpful.
Losing an election to Donald Trump takes more than rank incompetence, as the perfect confluence of events conspired to put our commander-in-cheeto in the Oval Office. However, the ONLY reason those events had as big an impact as they did is thanks to the ineptitude of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton’s book tour is basically a traveling safe space/shade thrower that hurts the party—all in the name of trying to preserve the legacy of someone who lost to Donald fucking Trump, and has never been and never will be the leader of the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton is the past, and if Democrats continue trying to make her the future of the party, then they should also prepare to battle Donald Trump through 2024.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.