Opinion

Hillary Clinton's hatchet job

As Sunday night's Democratic debate showed, Clinton can be utterly shameless when cornered

In a sign of exactly what world we're living in, a Vine of Bernie Sanders' side eye was the most retweeted tweet during Sunday night's Democratic debate. There, it was the youthful and blandly futuristic Martin O'Malley who was irrelevant; Sanders, the throwback to the anti-corporatist liberalism of old, radiated a principled gruffness too authentic to be merely earnest, supplying a dose of earthy reality that social media often treats ironically but genuinely longs for.

Nobody, of course, genuinely longs for Hillary Clinton. This ought to be seen as more than the product of bias, but the signal of a much deeper political cancer — and the reason for Sanders' side eye perfectly captures why. Cornered in a losing fight, Clinton is utterly shameless in her counterattacks.

In this case, Clinton accused Sanders of undermining President Obama. Sanders had dared to say the obvious in 2011 — that Obama was systematically disappointing his own base — and, this cycle, he has had the gall to be honest again, about how far ObamaCare has fallen short of universal health care. These marks of coherence and courage Clinton recast in terms of the greatest sin in Clintonland: betrayal. Pungently enough, Clinton is convinced she can salvage her malfunctioning campaign by pandering this way to the same kind of black South Carolina voters she disgraced eight years ago, dispatching her husband to slither in and out of the trashiest kind of race-baiting innuendo.

Here as elsewhere, Clinton is buoyed by the knowledge that enough of the national media will portray her as wise and reasonable. If O'Malley offers an abortively postmodern vision of chipper neoliberalism and Sanders an almost premodern communitarianism, Clinton's brutalist, Brezhnev-like modernism is the political press' style of choice.

Exhibit A: for The New York Times, "it was enough to note Mr. Sanders's changes in policy" to leave Sanders "appearing frustrated." The Times joined with Clinton in pretending "[t]he competition to claim Mr. Obama's political mantle was the dominant theme of the night," when, in fact, the night's dominant theme was how Hillary Clinton is more than willing to wrap herself in the legacy of the man who politically crushed and sidelined her in 2008 — in order to crush and sideline a new competitor who is even more of a principled outsider than the first.

Then again, as observers have noted, Hillary Clinton has never, not once, won a competitive race. Her career is an inside job through and through — not because, as her enemies say, she was the beneficiary of political affirmative action, but because she rose to power in accordance with her fundamental vision of what power is and how it should be exercised.

Sanders, meanwhile (as media mainstreamers warn that even his plain victory last night might not be enough to win primaries) has drawn accolades even from non-Democrats, a veritable rainbow coalition of libertarians and others impressed with his firmness. "Does it say something about the country or me that the candidate I like best among both sides right now is socialist Bernie Sanders?" asked Shikha Dalmia, a senior analyst at the libertarian Reason Foundation and contributor to The Week. "At least the man speaks the language of justice, equality and in an unapologetic Brooklyn accent to boot!"

At a moment when Martin Luther King, Jr., is on many of our minds, Sanders' unbowed debate performance serves as a fresh reminder of the power of an individual who displays and defends honorable humanism in politics. To Hillary Clinton, it is anathema. If Democrats insist on making her their nominee out of some polluted sense of loyalty, it will eventually become anathema to them, too.

More From...

Picture of James PoulosJames Poulos
Read All
If Trump goes down, everyone wins
President Trump.
Opinion

If Trump goes down, everyone wins

China's digital nightmare
Xi Jinping.
Analysis

China's digital nightmare

America's failure in Afghanistan is going to be worse than Vietnam
U.S. troops outside their base in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.
Opinion

America's failure in Afghanistan is going to be worse than Vietnam

The hard truths of Mosul's 'liberation'
An Iraqi Federal police officer walks among the ruins in Mosul.
Opinion

The hard truths of Mosul's 'liberation'

Recommended

Sen. Ben Sasse will likely soon resign to accept job as university president
Ben Sasse.
time to say goodbye

Sen. Ben Sasse will likely soon resign to accept job as university president

Biden pardons thousands convicted of marijuana possession
Joe Biden
Blaze it

Biden pardons thousands convicted of marijuana possession

Does a bombshell abortion report spell defeat for Herschel Walker?
Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock.
Briefing

Does a bombshell abortion report spell defeat for Herschel Walker?

Woman who says Herschel Walker paid for abortion also had his child
Herschel Walker
Another shoe drops

Woman who says Herschel Walker paid for abortion also had his child

Most Popular

Survey reveals less than half of Americans plan to get flu shot this season
influenza vaccine syringe photo
Masks trump flu vax

Survey reveals less than half of Americans plan to get flu shot this season

Russian war bloggers warn Ukraine is threatening Kherson defensive lines
Ukraine inroads in Kherson
War on the Rocks

Russian war bloggers warn Ukraine is threatening Kherson defensive lines

Lizzo invited for an encore flute performance at James Madison's home
Lizzo
play it again sam?

Lizzo invited for an encore flute performance at James Madison's home