Yesterday, the Rude Pundit was talking to a millennial dude who will be voting in his first presidential election this year. He sure hates Donald Trump, but he doesn't like Hillary Clinton because "she's so shady." That's one of those things that trigger a gut-level reaction in the Rude Pundit because it's a belief that's based on a heaping mountain of horseshit. So he went off on the millennial.
"No," the Rude Pundit snapped, "that's completely fucking wrong. The only reason you think Clinton is shady is because 25 years of conservative media shoved it down your throat. She's been accused and accused and investigated and investigated and guess what? Not a goddamn thing has ever come of it. It's all shit made up to damage her. If you keep saying over and over that someone did something wrong, did something wrong, did something wrong, but you never prove it, then you're just an asshole."
As Henry Louis Gates more politely put it in the New Yorker, "[F]or all we know, Hillary Clinton may be guilty of everything she’s accused of and more. You might say the point is that we don’t know. And it’s in those dark gaps in our knowledge that the political unconscious makes itself felt: you can’t tell a gun from a cigarette by the smoke alone. Which inference you prefer depends on which story you prefer—assuming you’ve been given one."
By the way, Gates wrote that twenty fucking years ago. The article is titled "Hating Hillary," and it's fascinating to reread it now in the context of an election in the middle of our third decade of thinking that Clinton must be dirty from some scandal and worthy of hate.
And this is not about her donors or her paid speeches or whatever, although the way we think about those things are colored by one of the most successful right-wing smear campaigns ever. No, this is the Hillary Scandal Industrial Complex, the nexus of Filegate-Whitewater-Travelgate-Benghazi-EmailServerGate and more, all fantasies conjured by conservatives in order to punish her for the sin of being a First Lady who tried to get health care reform passed and didn't shut the fuck up and order drapes for the president's bedroom.
You think that's oversimplifying it? Then you didn't fucking live through it in the 1990s. You didn't watch as men in both parties tore themselves to pieces over what they viewed as Clinton's lack of decorum, her failure to merely be an adornment for her husband (see the reaction to Eleanor Roosevelt for this level of intense hatred). The scorn that Michelle Obama gets for just saying that American fat fucks should exercise a little and stop eating piles of shit is horrible, and its racist elements are disgusting, but, to be sure, it doesn't come near the level of Hillary Clinton because no one could write an article titled "Hating Michelle" and have it be about anything more than a bunch of cranky yahoos.
This was universal. "Hillary-hating has become one of those national pastimes which unite the élite and the lumpen. Serious accusations have, of course, been leveled against the President’s wife, but it’s usually what people think of her that determines the credence and the weight they give to the accusations, rather than the reverse," Gates wrote.
Clinton herself in 1996 offered a prescient explanation of the why she was a target for such animosity: "I believe that we’re going through a significant transition—economically, politically, culturally, socially, in gender relations, all kinds of ways—and so someone as visible as I am is going to get a lot of attention. I think if the spotlight were turned on many of my friends in their own private lives somebody could make out of it what they would: ‘My goodness, she didn’t take her husband’s name,’ or ‘She’s the one who travels while her husband stays home and takes care of the children,’ or ‘She has a very traditional role—does that mean that she’s sold out her education?’ There could be questions like that raised about nearly every American woman I know."
What pissed people off about Clinton is something that still pisses them off. Sometimes, she just sickens of all the bullshit and she lets you know. In the early 1990s, when it was still unusual to see a male candidate's wife as anything other than supportive arm candy, Clinton wasn't afraid to step in it, like with her famous remark about working instead of staying home and baking chocolate chip cookies (which led to the degrading act of publishing her cookie recipe to show sexist traditionalists that they needn't be scared of the big, bad lawyer lady).
The Rude Pundit has one other theory for why conservatives have kept up their hatred of Clinton. See, when Bill's affairs started to be known beyond Arkansas, during the 1992 campaign, she famously stuck by him. That enraged the right because they hoped the feminist governor's wife would dump him and do in Clinton's pursuit of the White House. The fact that she never threw Bill under the bus when, really, who could have blamed her, undid damage to Bill every time a new sex scandal erupted. So it exacerbated their hatred because the right could never bring Hillary Clinton to heel, even when they thought her own beliefs would make her do what they wanted.
You have to understand that history in order to understand Clinton. Read the Gates article. It's all there, twenty years ago: her hatred of the press, the small circle of confidantes, the warmth that people say she has on a personal level, all the accusations of Machiavellian manipulation, and, especially, the so-called scandals that never became scandals.
"So," the Rude Pundit said to the millennial, "it's just being dumb and ill-informed to not vote for Hillary because of fake scandals. However, there are lots of reasons not to vote for her that have nothing to do with that."
And that is where we will pick up in part 2.