The Hillary Hate Machine has been with us for over 20 years now.
As has been well-documented (here at my place and elsewhere), it has become a cottage industry for the right-wing media machine. The professional right has found it quite profitable to peddle Hillary Hate through a string of “documentaries” and book titles, and it’s natural that after decades of this bullshit, a good bit of it has filtered into the American consciousness.
Few political figures have been served up as a national punching bag so religiously and relentlessly as Hillary Clinton. That she hasn’t retired from public life but instead continued to push forward in the political arena, finally making history as America’s first female presidential nominee of a major political party, is a testament to her strength and resolve. This in itself is impressive.
I’ve heard every horrible thing one can say about Hillary Clinton: corporate whore, warmonger, cravenly ambitious, manipulative, crooked, incompetent — and that’s the nice stuff. Let’s ignore the lesbian, murderer, cat-killer stuff. I am really going to enjoy hearing what those folks have to say when Madame President serves out her two terms and ends up not be any of the things the far-left and far-right have said about her.
Yes, Hillary Hate is a real thing, has always been a real thing, and has now been turned into an actual profit center by the right-wing establishment (the Kochs, the DeVoses, the Vigueries, the Adelsons, the Perries …). We’ve got D’Nesh D’Souza’s “Hillary’s America” playing at the local multiplex in my neighborhood, despite the fact that his predictions in “2016: Obama’s America” were hilariously off-base. It seems there’s no shortage of financing for a right-wing smear campaign, no matter how outrageous.
It’s a technique rarely employed by the Left, perhaps because there is no “professional Left” of the same institutional vigor as exists on the right. Regardless, now that this strategy has been institutionalized and monetized, it will be used to attack every subsequent Democratic leader — indeed, it already has. God forbid any member of the Obama family should aspire to anything in public life after January 2017; if they do, expect the Wingnut Wurlitzer to be cranked up to full speed.
But where did the Hillary Hate start? It’s a question many have pondered lately. We’re a nation of short memories, after all. So, thank you, internet, for bringing us this old piece from 1996, which is now making the rounds. (Hat tip: I saw it over at DailyKos, a place I rarely visit anymore. Might have to change that…)
So let’s jump into our time machine and go back to 1996, a year many of today’s young voters don’t even remember. But I remember it well, and this article brings it all back. Remember the time when the right feared Hillary was a far-left Socialist? Remember the establishment’s disdain for her as a feminist, at a time when feminism was under attack? Of “Backlash” and the kewl kids saying, “I’m not a feminist but …”?
The fact that Hillary was a working woman reshaping the more traditional “wifely” role of First Lady, the fact that she had an office in the Old Executive Office Building and was concerned more about policy than china patterns, was enough to set the Sally Quinns and other Washington social elites off their rockers. And it’s tempting to say that Hillary Hate was just another piece of the anti-woman/anti-feminist “backlash” making its way through the culture at the time. I think there’s some truth to this.
But I’m also reminded that Hillary Hate really started as Clinton hate: Hill and Bill were the “white trash” outsiders, who thoroughly pissed off the Washington establishment with their brashness. The Beltway media hated them from day one, and wasn’t even self-aware enough to question why.
Speaking more generally, a close friend of the Clintons’ brings up yet another theory: “The President thinks that they are treated so harshly because he is ‘white trash,’ as he puts it. The way somebody put it is, Imagine Washington as a country club, and Clinton as the golf pro. They think he’s perfectly competent at what he does, they think he is a good guy. You want him to have a drink at your table with you and your friends, and maybe even come to dinner. But the golf pro is never ‘one of us,’ never a real “member.”
The Clintons were never one of the Beltway establishment, and yet they had the nerve to crash the country club. I vividly remember the tsk-tsking about Bill Clinton’s McDonald’s runs. Quelle horreur! For the record, we saw the same reaction when the Obamas came to power in 2008. They were outsiders, they weren’t part of the establishment, they were different. It’s really funny to see how the outsider Clintons became the establishment — even criticized for it in 2016 — but 20 years of public service allows one to build a network. The Clintons reshaped the Democratic Party in the ’90s, and it’s the party we have today: one of inclusion, one which brought us our first African American president and, God-willing, our first female president. This is something to be proud of. The outsiders are now the insiders and yes, it took 20 years, but this is how it’s done. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is imploding into a festering cesspool of rage and hate.
So the next time I hear someone tell me any of the dozens of awful things about Hillary Clinton that I’ve been hearing for the bulk of my adult life, it bears remembering where this vitriol comes from. The Clintons were originally outsiders, who came in and reshaped the political establishment. Upsetting the tea tray at a time when America was undergoing a cultural shift of its own sparked a good bit of backlash. That the right was able to sprinkle all of that with for-profit fairy dust and political opportunism only cemented the deal.