Democrats, Stop Saying “But Her Emails”

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Politics Features Hillary Clinton
Democrats, Stop Saying “But Her Emails”

I’m new in Atlanta, so last week I went to Drinking Liberally, which is a get-together for, you guessed it, persons of liberal persuasion who want to drop sick references to sweet Springsteen songs without wondering if the people around them are into the Boss or not.

About one hour in, as everyone around me was talking about what fresh hell Trump was unleashing, the dude next to me said, in mock exasperation:

“But her emails! But her emails!’

It was like the Pastor had called for a response from the congregation. “But her emails!” replied the rest of the group. Not all at once, but staggered, as if all parties were concluding that they, too, were Spartacus. It was like the scene in Hot Fuzz where the group of villains intones “For the greater good,” except with more assurance and le ironic flavor.

“But her emails” is a meme in liberal circles. There are a couple of mutations, but when people say “But her emails,” they are usually referring to a particular image that I first saw after Secretary Clinton’s loss in November. The picture is of a drowned town: water everywhere, with the tops of trees and houses visible in the background. In the foreground, there is a highway sign, sporting, in all caps, “BUT HER EMAILS,” with Arthurian flair. The sign is mostly underwater.

Whether in spoken or pictorial form, the phrase “But her emails” is meant to imply that everyone was incredibly dense for focusing on Secretary Clinton’s server. Because of the complaining, Trump won, and we’re all about to die. The idea is that if you’re still kvetching about the Secretary’s emails, you’re missing the point. If you are retrospectively finding fault with Clinton, you are enabling the Orangeman.

Clintonistas, stop saying “But her emails!” Knock it off. I know what you’re doing. You’re saying that the emails were dumb stuff to focus on, and that lost her the election. If only we hadn’t focused on—as Bernie put it—”Your damn emails,” then we would now have Bill Clinton as First Gentleman and dank sax solos would echo through the Executive Mansion.

The emails were a distraction. Of course they were. But that isn’t really the point, is it? The real claim you are making is that Secretary Clinton Did Nothing Wrong. The world wasn’t good enough for her. There is no need for accounting or to clean house; the emails did it. An outside force.

You are living in fantasy camp. Her emails didn’t lose the election. Hillary Rodham Clinton did. The awkward idea which bubbles below the surface of “But her emails” is that Clinton cannot fail, she can only be failed. As a wise man once pointed out, Hillary does not have supporters, she has fans. And the fandom goes one way. There is no criticism allowed, and she has become a martyr-in-chief.

Stop passing the buck to her emails. Scandals didn’t do it. Russia didn’t do it. Emails didn’t do it. She lost. The Clintons were the people who introduced means-testing to welfare—and yet for people who have lived on the public trough for years, they will never be subjected to means-testing themselves.

Hillary Clinton didn’t lose because of her emails. She lost because she was a dislikable candidate with a lame record who ran an incompetent campaign as part of a spineless party, in an America that was desperate for change. She ran so poorly that Trump beat her.

Trump. Think of it. This half-witted, goonish, barely-literate toddler was able to magic up a victory out of his army of Confederates, suburban weirdos, prehistoric racists, and desperately heart-sick Americans; he did it in the face of the Obamas supporting her, in the face of huge amounts of capital. He was, is, and will remain an incompetent hack with a terrible history managed by a shadowy nationalist, and he still beat her. If you lose a soapbox derby to a man whose vehicle is on fire, then maybe the problem is you.

Her emails didn’t lose the election. Her emails didn’t make her choose bad policies and cross the wrong constituencies for the last thirty years. She lost because the Obama coalition didn’t show up. They didn’t show up because she didn’t give them anything, and because she didn’t go to Michigan. They called her a robot because on the trail she sounded like a robot, and that was actually apt—because, it turned out, her campaign was being run by an actual algorithm, Ada.

But her emails! I can hear the way you capitalize “Her” when you say it. But her emails! Please. But her neoliberalism. But her super-predators. But her not coming out for Fight for $15. But her lack of economic message. But her galas. But her Kissinger. But her “Well, why don’t you go run for something, then?”

But her emails!

But her.

The sooner we get over this, the better.

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