Tuesday, January 21, 2020


I understand why Hillary Clinton might have felt she could freely criticize Bernie Sanders for a documentary series: The Clinton interviews for the series were presumably done a while back, when it might have seemed that Sanders would be treated by Democratic primary voters as yesterday's man, assuming he ran at all. But I don't understand why -- apart from being all out of fucks to give -- Clinton might have continued the attack in an interview conducted earlier this month for The Hollywood Reporter, a conversation in which she threw gasoline on the fire that would have started when the film premieres at the Sundance Film Festival this weekend, then debuts on Hulu in March.
In the doc, you're brutally honest on Sanders: "He was in Congress for years. He had one senator support him. Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him, he got nothing done. He was a career politician. It's all just baloney and I feel so bad that people got sucked into it." That assessment still hold?

Yes, it does.

If he gets the nomination, will you endorse and campaign for him?

I'm not going to go there yet. We're still in a very vigorous primary season. I will say, however, that it's not only him, it's the culture around him. It's his leadership team. It's his prominent supporters. It's his online Bernie Bros and their relentless attacks on lots of his competitors, particularly the women. And I really hope people are paying attention to that because it should be worrisome that he has permitted this culture — not only permitted, [he] seems to really be very much supporting it. And I don't think we want to go down that road again where you campaign by insult and attack and maybe you try to get some distance from it, but you either don't know what your campaign and supporters are doing or you're just giving them a wink and you want them to go after Kamala [Harris] or after Elizabeth [Warren]. I think that that's a pattern that people should take into account when they make their decisions.
She's right about the worst of his supporters -- but please, not now.

And yet it's a mild form of the trash talk that many Very Smart People regard as Donald Trump's superpower. Imagine a parallel universe in which Hillary Clinton is president and Donald Trump is the candidate who almost beat her. He'd have spent the last three years talking this way about everyone who ever got crosswise with him, including many Republicans. He might be talking this way about a 2020 contender -- John Kasich, say, or Mitt Romney, or perhaps a Marco Rubio who'd spent the aftermath of Trump's defeat blaming his toxic personality for the 2016 loss. How would we react? We'd just shrug, because that's Trump. Even though, in this scenario, he'd have chosen not to run again, he might still have a devoted army of deplorables, possibly inspired by the TV channel he reportedly planned to start if he lost, and he could well be seen as a potential kingmaker whose endorsement was coveted and whose criticism was feared. And even if his influence was minimal, we'd just think it was more of the same from him, because that's his style.

But why is Clinton doing this? It doesn't seem to be her style There's another exchange in the interview that's not seen as controversial, even though it seems like a clear dig at Sanders:
Who do you hope sees this film and how does it impact them?

I really hope young people watch it. Especially young women because I want young women to have some idea of the arc of what we've all gone through over the past 50, 60 years because they have to save [women's rights]. They have to defend them against constant attacks. Some of those attacks are subtle, but some of them are pretty blatant. I'd also love for young men to watch it and go, "Oh, I didn't know that. My God, they burned her in effigy because she wanted universal health care? Whoa." I'd love for some of that to penetrate so that people understand that making change is hard and it doesn't happen overnight with a snap of the finger. I'd love for that to spark a conversation that could really inform how people think about politics and tough policies and maybe even this election.
Clinton tells "young people ... especially young women" that change "doesn't happen overnight with a snap of the finger." That's a shot a Sanders and his bases. Clinton has a point -- a Sanders general election victory won't instantly and effortlessly lead to the Revolution. On the other hand, I think she may be overly resentful of voters hoping for large structural changes. Clinton is, I think, an instinctual progressive (or was, at least, in her youth), but she and her husband learned compromise until compromise became a conditioned reflex for them, and they often seemed to do it preemptively. Realism, to the Clintons, means that you have to let Ricky Ray Rector die or sign the Defense of Marriage Act. I imagine Hillary resents Sanders and his base -- including young women she thought would be inclined to vote for her -- not just because of 2016 but because Sanders and his base don't appear to believe that politics requires compromise. Hillary and Bill seem to have compromised too often, but they're not wrong to think that Sanders tells his base that compromise can largely be avoided.

But it doesn't justify this sort of grudge-nursing. I don't think this will matter in November, no matter who's the nominee, but it's not helpful.

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