not in our stars, but in ourselves
I have been too depressed by the campaign to write anything, but now the campaign is over, and we are faced with four years of hellfire. This isn’t to say things aren’t already apocalyptic now – they are, and have been for a while – but now the keys are about to go from a group of sociopaths to a group of psychopaths. Donald Trump is an idiot, a racist, a sexist, an abuser – and, it appears to this observer, actually terrified that he’s won the presidency. He didn’t want to lose, but he was utterly unprepared to win. But he has indeed won, and he’s getting ready to stack his cabinet with some of the worst fucking ghouls alive, and it is going to be a disaster for every single person in this country (to say nothing of the likely oceans of blood he’ll unleash abroad; not all that different from current foreign policy, of course, but his will probably be turned up to eleven). Think about how he’s going to make America great again, with all the newly muscular invasions of privacy and vastly increased drone warfare abroad, enshrined via executive orders by the outgoing president. Thanks, Obama. Thanks a fucking bunch.
As you might guess: I’m incandescent with rage, as well as straight-up depressed. For months, as you know, I’ve been arguing with anyone who would listen that Clinton’s campaign was dogshit. It was tone-deaf. It was incoherent. It didn’t speak to a single issue that any actual human actually cares about. It was focus-grouped, buzzword-heavy, elite-friendly gobbledygook. Anyone who dared voice such criticism was either ignored or shamed and hectored for perceived sexism. Anyone who questioned the logic of relying on endorsements from the most depraved natsec creeps, as well as from the most loathsome Buzzfeed-friendly celebrities, was hounded by the avenging furies of Clinton’s mostly Manhattan- and D.C.-based team of pundits and surrogates. The Podesta emails proved that everyone working for her was a goddamn hack and a moron – but of course, her own campaign proved that, too. Consider this, for instance:
Clinton’s campaign strategy, especially when it came to appealing to white women, indicates that she and her staffers didn’t quite grasp these dynamics. Her campaign employed a candy-colored brand of female empowerment seemingly based on the assumption that white women’s political priorities are influenced by the pop culture they consume. White working-class women weren’t going to vote for Clinton just because Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Lena Dunham, and Sheryl Sandberg were.
These celebrity overtures were out of step with the priorities and concerns of white working-class women. How can you “lean in,” as Sandberg implores working women to do, when it’ll cost you your minimum-wage job? And if you can’t afford HBO, how likely is it you even know who Lena Dunham is, much less care about her political opinions?
Now, I suppose you could argue that Trump’s surrogates were far worse, in that they were all unhinged maniacs – but his supporters never cared about them. They were in it for Dangerous Donald himself. Clinton’s team decided it would be wise campaign strategy to try to make her seem “cool” by association with celebrities that their focus group subjects assured them were all very cool, while occasionally forcing a grandmother of two, a former secretary-of-state and senator and first lady, to debase herself by doing the nae nae or by appearing on the Comedy Central show for white female stoners.
Sam Kriss wrote the best and most devastating post-mortem of the failed Clinton campaign, in my opinion. Here’s a sample, but read the whole thing:
Hillary Clinton had nothing to offer people; all she could give them was fear and herself. Her campaign was the most cack-handed and disastrous in recent decades, managed by a gang of simpering imbeciles pretending to be Machiavellian strategists; it was all on the flimsy depthless level of TV. Now watch her whip, now watch her nae nae. Yaas kween, slay kween, slay. Clinton was to be carried through her path to the White House on the shoulders of irritating media celebrities; Lena Dunham’s Instagram feed, Beyoncé’s stage shows, Robert De Niro’s menacing monologues. Clinton strategists actively and deliberately abetted Trump at every stage of his rise through the Republican primaries, dignifying his candidacy with every statement of disapproval, because they thought that he was the enemy she had the best chance of beating. Clinton spent the final weeks of her campaign against a parody toddler obsessing over weird conspiracy theories, painting her opponent as a secret Russian agent. Clinton decided, as a vast country fumed bitterly for something different, anything, that she would actively court the approval of a few hundred policy wonks. Clinton all but outrightly told vast swathes of the American working classes that they were irrelevant, that she didn’t need them and they would be left behind by history, and then expected them to vote for her anyway. Clinton was playing at politics; it was a big and important game, but it could be fun too; it was entertainment, it was a play of personalities. Her campaign tried to reproduce the broad 500-channel swathe of TV: an intrigue-riddled prestige drama and a music video and the 24-hour news; they forgot that trashy reality shows always get the highest ratings.
There are other good post-mortems, all better written than I could ever attempt: Ryan Cooper in The Week, Jim Newell in Slate, Alex Pareene in Deadspin, others, plenty of others. They all touch on something that, in my opinion, is undeniably true and absolutely infurating: if Bernie Sanders had been the Democratic nominee, we would be unlikely to face the next four years with a goddamn Verhoeven character for a president. I’m angry about that. I’m miserable about it. It doesn’t matter anymore and nothing can change what’s happened, but I will be bitter and sad and angry about this until the day I drop dead – possibly in an internment camp for independent thinkers, possibly after Supreme Overlord Thiel has harvested all my blood for his immortality project.
In the meantime: I don’t know what to do. I’ve joined the DSA, and you should, too. I recommend listening to the latest Delete Your Account for great information and advice, regarding leftist organizing. I went to Chapo Trap House’s live election night show, and will continue to do whatever I can to boost their profile. (Also, I met them all, and they are excellent people.) Mostly, I want to leave the country. I think it’s extremely noble to stay and fight, as many fellow leftists are urging. I admire that impulse. I guess I’m trying to do that in my way, via the DSA. But at some point, you have to acknowledge that the ship is sinking, the plane is flying into the mountain, and there’s no coming back.