Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Clinton Problem

Hillary and Chelsea Clinton campaign in Haverford, Pa., October 2016. (Reuters photo: Brian Snyder)
C’mon Democrats, it’s time to move on.

Dear Democrats: You might not like what you’re about to hear, but here goes. You might need to get over the Clintons.

I know, I know. Breakups are hard. Many of you were hung up on this lady — this mysteriously humorless, occasionally cackling robotic lady with through-the-roof unfavorable ratings and a decidedly unimpressive left-wing policy record — who you thought would somehow be a shoo-in for the presidency.

She was a woman, as you relentlessly reminded us all, and the job was clearly her due. You thought she would waltz right into the White House, leaving Donald Trump in a pile of sawdust and casinos and confusion and shiny escalators. You were so certain, so cocky, so breezy. You were an heiress driving too fast, laughing giddily for show, yet failing to have any fun. You thought you didn’t even need to visit places like Wisconsin!

Well, we all know what happened next. If I said it once during the campaign, I’ll say it again: If you want to understand why Donald Trump is in the White House, you only need to glance at Hillary Clinton. She was a grim and mediocre candidate. She inspired few. She terrified many. And yet, in certain circles, this reckoning has failed to sink in. Meanwhile, the Clinton hagiography continues.

Hark! There’s Hillary, accepting a “Champion for Girls Award” in New York City, celebrating her “life-long commitment to advocating on behalf of girls and women.” (Clinton’s hard-core abortion fandom, no doubt, is considered a crucial part of this package.) There’s Hillary speaking at the Kennedy Center for International Women’s Day. (Does anyone sense a theme?) There she is dutifully working on her upcoming book, supposedly filled with wisdom, predictably purchased by Simon & Schuster for an undisclosed, undoubtedly mind-boggling advance.

“No one ever said that Hillary Clinton doesn’t have resilience, grit,” close Clinton friend Mack McLarty recently told CBS News. Ha! No kidding! Witness the rumors that Hillary Clinton might run for mayor of New York City. Here’s the bad news: A new Rasmussen poll shows that a meager 23 percent of likely voters want her to run, while 58 percent would prefer her to stay nestled in the woods of Chappaqua. But never fear, for there’s also good news: According to polls, she’s a lot more popular than the disastrous Bill de Blasio!

This “good” news, unfortunately, also translates into bad news for the Democrats, who appear to have a painfully thin bench. Which leads us to supposed political up-and-comer Chelsea Clinton, the much-hyped heir apparent to the Clinton political dynasty. The young Ms. Clinton is, as a reminder, a rich person who once complained that she tried to care about money but couldn’t. This is the same person who once received $600,000 for a largely fake job at NBC News, and who also recently terrified countless innocent Americans by sending out a tweet extolling the virtues of spinach-flavored pancakes.

If you follow the news, you can’t miss Chelsea these days: Like feminist darling Lena Dunham, she’s media-omnipresent, for reasons most normal people cannot discern. Do you want to know Chelsea’s opinion on the GOP’s Obamacare replacement? How about her thoughts on the latest Ben Carson kerfuffle? Want to hear what she thinks about International Women’s Day? No? Well, too bad. Clinton is on the menu, folks. Political gold!

The Hill has led the pack in crazed Chelsea coverage, tweeting about her 70 times since the beginning of the year. Chelsea’s personal Twitter feed, which largely consists of her writing comments like “Wow, wow, wow (not in a good way)” over various news stories, also gains breathless press.

If you follow the news, you can’t miss Chelsea these days.

“Clinton’s Twitter account has lately been getting saltier,” noted the Washington Post; according to CNN, Clinton “is bringing the fire on Twitter lately.” Clinton boasts a “spicy, sarcastic online personality,” Politico informed its readers in February. In the same month, the San Jose Mercury News took the Chelsea-boosting up to eleven, asking in an editorial: “Is Chelsea Clinton Donald Trump’s Most Formidable Twitter Foe?” (The answer, in case you’re wondering, is probably no.)

To be fair, we live in a celebrity-driven culture — and unfortunately for America, we’ve extended that celebrity to politics, the most embarrassing of team sports. But 2017’s odd Clinton-related frenzy reflects something more: Namely, the failure of the Left to recognize their Hillary problem.

In late January, two New York University professors decided to recreate the Trump–Clinton debates, but with a twist: The genders were switched. “We both thought that the inversion would confirm our liberal assumption — that no one would have accepted Trump’s behavior from a woman, and that the male Clinton would seem like the much stronger candidate,” Joe Salvatore, one of the organizers, reported.

Things didn’t go as planned. There was a “disruption — a major change in perception,” Salvatore continued. “We heard a lot of ‘now I understand how this happened’ — meaning how Trump won the election. People got upset. There was a guy two rows in front of me who was literally holding his head in his hands, and the person with him was rubbing his back.”

Well, I’ll be. Perhaps she wasn’t that great of a candidate after all. Well, no matter. Let’s move on to the next Clinton! The lessons of Hillary, it seems, are taking a while to sink in.

Heather Wilhelm is a columnist for National Review. Her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, RealClearPolitics, the Washington Examiner, Commentary magazine, the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, and the Kansas City Star


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