Back in the 1990s as the right reeled from the fact that Bill Clinton actually won in 1992, and some on the fringes launched a mythology about him and his Presidency that gathered a life of its own. Rather than just being a superb politician from Arkansas with a hard driven intelligent wife, the Clintons were portrayed as the essence of evil, akin to an organized crime gain or mafia gathering power. How else could one explain their rise, how else could one explain why the Americans rejected the Republicans for the Clintons?
This myth gathered steam. He sold us out to the Chinese! (Note: the Clinton policy towards China was essentially the same as that of George H.W. Bush and later George W. Bush). When a family friend committed suicide, it was called a murder, ordered by Hillary to hide improprieties of a land deal (eyes rolling), and when a Treasury Secretary was killed in plane crash in Bosnia they claimed it was some nefarious plot. Everything the Clintons did was interpreted through this narrative. To these Clintonophobes the Clintons were not merely the first family, they were something like a James Bond villian, powerful and running an organization that could manipulate scenes around the world.
So when Bill left office and it was clear that Hillary had her eye on the White House, they became convinced that the deal had been made, that this would be an inside job, that nothing could stop here except, perhaps, an heroic effort by the Republican party to save the country from her — that (in their minds) evil, conniving, amoral powerful hungry she-beast. Der Rodham. And, of course, her desire to campaign ultimately on strength and experience fed into this. She was a machine, not a woman, a villian, not a human.
When Obama made his move, most of the Hillary haters chuckled. She’d make quick work of this punk from Chicago. She was the Godfather, he was some young hood in waaaay over his head. The predictions were that she’d steamroll him so fast he wouldn’t know what happened. This was her party and her nomination, how could a James Bond villian be bested by an inexperienced neophyte? The idea Obama had a chance simply showed the naivite of Democrats who somehow didn’t realize that their party was being led not by political leaders, but by cold hearted ruthless beasts.
Yet, that didn’t happen. Obama persisted. The superdelegates shifted to him. The Democrats in a close race (and if Hillary was that horrific creature the far right paint her as, she’d have been able to sway a close race) ultimately chose Obama. There remained tensions, but mostly from Hillary supporters who had gotten caught up in a kind of personality cult (ironically accusing the Obama supporters of such a cult). Bill seemed put off, but compared to say, Ted Kennedy in 1980 or Ronald Reagan in 1976, she embraced Obama like a champ. What gives?
Well, the Hillary haters figured that she was just letting Barack hang himself. Clever, this one. She would allow him to self-destruct from some scandal or mid-summer tragedy, so she could save the party and not be seen as having pushed out the black man. A scandal involving Michelle or Barack’s alledged ‘anti-Americanism’ would break on Independence day, a video tape would emerge with racist rants, or something would come up to utterly deflate the Obama candidacy before the convention in Denver. There is no way Der Rodham, the powerful she-beast, could possibly let Obama take away her candidacy.
So caught up was the right wing in this bizarre myth about the Clintons that they took it up until the convention, convinced there would be ‘blood on the convention floor’ as Hillary would pull out all the stops to get “her rightful” nomination. But last night, that myth was laid to rest, as were the fantasies of the far right that the Clintons were some kind of mafia like evil force. Hillary’s campaign had been mismanaged, stories came out, and strategic errors had been made. Obama had a plan B that allowed him to pull it off. Of course in a close campaign there were hard feelings, but Hillary recognized reality, embraced Barack Obama and gave a stunning and powerful speech for him last night. She couldn’t pressure herself onto the ticket, and didn’t try.
She’s human. She’s a politician. She’s not a beast, not der Rodham, not some kind of cold blooded powerhungry bitch from hell. She’s a hard nosed, intelligent politician whose values are those of Ted Kennedy, Barack Obama and the Democratic party. And while Hillary haters may legitimately disagree with those values, they need to let go of their fantasies about some kind of evil Clinton machine that has occupied the naive Democratic party to unleash its horrific plans. People caught up in those fantasies betray more of how their own minds work than anything about the Clintons — and its not pretty.
The Democrats have celebrated two fantastic speeches so far — Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton (though I also enjoyed Montana Governor Brian Sweitzer’s talk — even as he seemed to be channeling Louis Black). Those looking for division and rancor are finding the Democrats on the same page. This leaves the Hillary haters puzzled. Rather than realizing their view of the Clintons has been silly, they are now thinking its a plot for 2012, or there is some other angle here. No. It’s just that however good or bad the Clinton Presidency was, the kind of weird mythology some embraced about the Clintons was, in a word, silly.