Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Hillary?

I always thought Democrats were the ones who excelled at being delusional!  You know, as in believing that if there were more gun control laws passed, violence would be curbed.  Or if yet more money were thrown at our failed educational system, kids would stay in school and graduate with honors.  Or if more windmills were subsidized than even Don Quixote could tilt at, the earth would be restored to greenness.  Liberals have always considered spending synonymous with solving – as long as it’s somebody else’s money they’re throwing around. 

But I’ve noticed lately that a fog of delusionary thinking has settled glumly over too many Republicans.  And compared to the unreality of Democrats, who seem unable even to imagine defeat, the Republican brand is marked by an ill wind of pessimism that can only blow no good.

Take, for example, the 2016 election.  And while you’re at it, why not just hand it over to Hillary as a fait accompli?  “I’m afraid she’s going to win,” said a long-time Republican friend who called the other day from Arizona – which has trended Republican in recent elections.  From a conservative Connecticut pal came an e-mail with this admonition: “Hillary is running around as if she were already the president.  I’m afraid.” 

Maybe the GOP body politic needs to take a deep breath – and a reality check – before it lies down on a psychiatrist’s coach to express its angst.  A Republican standard-bearer has not yet been tapped, and still there’s a worrisome presumption that whoever it is will enter the race at a disadvantage, the cards already stacked heavily in Hillary’s favor.

It’s an apt analogy, considering how Ms. Clinton has chosen to structure her campaign strategy around the idea that the economic cards are unfairly shuffled in America and that she will single-handedly right that wrong.  The problem, of course, is that Hillary isn’t playing with a full deck these days.  And to an even greater extent, neither is Bill.

But they didn’t call him the “Teflon president” for nothing.  And now it appears that his skill at deflecting criticism has been passed along to his wife.  This may be one of the things that most confounds and discourages Republicans.  The Clintons have been implicated in scandal after scandal after scandal, none of which appears to be taken seriously enough by voters at large.  Why? 

Some would point to the change in America’s culture.  The character and behavior of public officials no longer seem as important to the electorate as other factors.  Now the big question for some Americans is whether a candidate for president feels our pain or drinks our brew.  In any event, the consensus is that all politicians are dishonest and contentious anyway, so why the big fuss?  We may not particularly like that unflattering assessment, but we have come to expect it.  Our choice for president may be based not on who tells it like it is, but on who tells us what we want to hear.  Those in our society who covet the hand that someone else is holding will support a candidate like Hillary, who promises them a “new deal.” 

Class warfare plays well in a culture where citizens have become increasingly self-absorbed, and unconcerned about what transpires outside their immediate world.  Many Americans no longer believe that our country is exceptional.  Yet at the same time, they may feel that they, as individuals, are pretty amazing.  Hence, the selfie culture, where every happening becomes about them, where what matters most is their input, constantly expressed through ever increasing avenues of social media.

Yet while our society is becoming more diverse demographically, there is less toleration for diversity of thought.  Birds of a political feather tend to flock together and feed on mutual ideological reinforcement.  Opposing political viewpoints are rarely debated, and preferably avoided.  Nobody wants to hear opinions that differ from their own.  Unpleasantness could result. 

Minds fill up and close early when universities teach young people what to think rather than how to think.  As a result of political biases, each side has come to regard the other as unreasonable and even dangerous.  So it is easy for Hillary to make the case that Republicans lack heart, hate women, start wars, and even cause Amtrak train wrecks. 

We also live in a society that more than ever venerates celebrity, both good and bad.  Liberals rail against high-salaried CEOs but don’t begrudge entertainment or sports personalities for raking in the dough.  That’s because they are, after all, celebrities.  Our culture pretends to admire egalitarianism, yet we celebrate our elite.  If they err, we forgive them.  If they bend the rules, we still think their hearts are in the right place

Put simply, the Clintons have arrived at celebrity status, and they are treated accordingly, even if they hover above the law.  It apparently does not matter to some Americans that Hillary wiped her server clean, lied about Benghazi, falsified the contributions to the Clinton Foundation, charged outrageous personal fees for speeches, refused to answer questions from the press, and engaged in all the other hypocrisies perpetrated by the Clintons now and in the past.  Hill and Bill have joined the pantheon of celebrities, and that places them in a privileged category entirely, facts be damned.   

That is a big part of what worries so many Republicans.  It’s not that Hillary doesn’t have a glass jaw.  She does.  But the fear is that is that none of the jabs from GOP contenders will even reach it, much less cause it to crack.  For the time being, Hillary’s handlers have decided to keep that jaw shut.  They’re coddling their candidate under wraps.  Too much exposure to the elements is bad for her thin political skin.  For now, they are willing to let the dozen or so Republicans battle it out among themselves – to the death, they hope.

But here’s the deal.  Republicans simply cannot buy into Hillary’s inevitable election as president.  No matter how “celebrated” she is, especially by those yearning for a female president, Hillary can be beaten.  Remember this: in 2008, the presumption was that she would easily win the Democrat primary.  Then from out of left field came Barack Obama.  How did a relatively unknown challenger manage to beat Hillary?  Not just because he was black and charismatic and articulate.  Hillary, too, was a larger-than-life personality already back then, a former first lady and the darling of many liberals.  She was beaten in the primary because a significant segment of the Democrat party considered her unelectable.  She was regarded as too divisive a political figure. 

Isn’t she the same Hillary now as she was then?  Do we really suppose she has changed?  Has she done such an outstanding job in the Obama administration that she deserves a win?  There are still plenty of Americans who can’t stand her, and the challenge will be to offer them a better alternative and get them in droves to the polls.  

If we continue to gnaw on the bitter pill of Clinton’s inevitable victory, we are weakening our chances in 2016.  It is much too early – and far too debilitating – for feelings of pessimism to ripple through the Republican ranks.  Look at it this way: if we’re “afraid” now that Clinton will win, think of the far greater fear when she does.