The Marketing of the Democratic Candidate

What's left to justify a Hillary presidency?

Bruce Thornton is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

The Democrats’ convention ended after striving mightily to persuade most of America that Hillary Clinton is somehow more human, likable, caring, and accomplished than the public record of her scandals and behavior would suggest. Unfortunately for the Dems, not Bill, not Obama, not Hillary herself can transform Hillary. There is no political alchemy that can turn that base metal into gold.

For years, armies of political consultants, publicists, and marketing geniuses have not been able to make people like Hillary. We’re on at least the fifth version of Hillary, and all the oxymoronic advice like “act naturally” or “be likable” has not been effective. She’s still inauthentic and unlikable, and 56% of voters disapprove of her. She’s like New Coke or Betamax, a bad product no amount of advertising could sell in the real world of market accountability. Yet the mainstream media have labored like Trojans on this project, downplaying her crimes and failures, believing her lies, and rationalizing her faults.

We had a representative example recently in Scott Pelley’s interview with Hillary on 60 Minutes. After she whined and whined about the invidious “Hillary Standard” –– the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy version 2.0––Pelley gently asked in therapeutic Oprah tones, “Why do you put yourself through it?” In other words, he accepted the ridiculous premise that her negative image is the consequence not of her actions, but of “Unfounded, inaccurate, mean-spirited attacks with no basis in truth, reality,” as she put it. A real journalist would have challenged her by asking about the long catalogue of financial improprieties from the Whitewater scandal to the Clinton Foundation, or the self-serving lies from “landing under sniper fire” in Bosnia to telling the grieving parents of the four Americans murdered in Benghazi that an obscure Internet video was responsible. But skilled courtiers know that royalty can’t stand too much reality.

This year’s Democratic Convention speakers didn’t do much better, when they could be heard above the Berniacs’ booing and jeering. Their catalogue of lies about Hillary’s résumé––her alleged achievements on Middle East peace, “climate change,” getting Iran to negotiate over its nuclear weapons program––smacks of desperation, given how many light-years from the truth they are. The Middle East has descended into a Darwinian jungle in which ISIS, Russia, and Iran are the alpha predators. Even if Anthropogenic Global Warming is true, all the much touted international agreements from Kyoto to Paris have done and will do nothing to cool the planet. As for Iran, it takes remarkable shamelessness to tout this disaster, given the mounting evidence that the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism has been serially cheating and is likely to obtain nuclear armaments within a couple of decades.

Bill Clinton, the fading Big Dog of the party, gave a tedious convention speech that spent a lot of time trying to “humanize” Hillary by talking about their courtship and marriage and other random acts of compassion and caring. Apart from the preposterous premise that they have had a happy and loving marriage (see Crisis of Character), humanizing Hillary is a fruitless task. She obviously lacks her husband’s political brilliance and powers of empathy. Of course, his empathy is phony, but like Truman Capote’s Holly Golightly, Bill is a real phony. He believes all this crap he believes. Hillary has been in the public eye for 25 years, and in all that time she has consistently appeared mean, entitled, insincere, vindictive, petty, elitist, money-grubbing, and insatiable for power.

Then came the big gun, Barack Obama, who in between mentioning himself 119 times said the following with a straight face: “I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman––not me, not Bill, nobody––more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.” And just what are those qualifications? In her eight years in the Senate, the only successful legislation she sponsored was renaming a courthouse for Thurgood Marshall. Eleven other bills were passed in the Senate, most of them small beer. Four of them proposed renaming post offices, one proposed to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Purple Heart, and another the 275th anniversary of the American Revolution. The rest weren’t much better, and none were passed by the House.

How about her tenure as Secretary of State? Let’s see, there’s the groveling “reset” with Russia, which for all its appeasement of Putin failed miserably. There’s the ill-conceived overthrow of Muamar Ghaddafi, which left Libya a playground for ISIS and other jihadist outfits, and swamped the region with weaponry looted from Ghaddafi’s arsenals. There’s the debacle of Benghazi, when repeated requests for security by the consular outpost were ignored, four Americans were left to die, and Hillary responded with blatant lies and political spin about the cause of the terror attack. Don’t forget the private server, through which classified material was passed and likely ended up being read by hackers. And the biggest failure was already mentioned, the deal with Iran that will spark nuclear proliferation in a region already riven with violence and disorder.

Obama was correct about one thing, though––she is more qualified than he was in 2008, an embarrassingly low bar. But more qualified than George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln? Only if you define “qualified” as possession of a résumé filled with the occupation of government offices she never used to accomplish anything meaningful.

Finally came the Grande Dame herself to tell us that only she can fix the problems that Obama says don’t exist in the sunny uplands of America, and that only she can be an agent of change who will govern exactly like Obama.

There were Mr. Rogers bromides about “we will fix it together” and “it takes a village.” Oprah bumper stickers like “love trumps hate.” Smug references to her years of “public service,” a euphemism for holding offices without really doing anything. Maudlin family history and anecdotes about sick children. A revisionist history of the Obama era that leaves out the inconvenient truths that his tenure has seen the worst recovery from a recession since World War II, and a retreat of America that has left a vacuum filled by our rivals, enemies, and terrorists.

Then came the chum for progressives. Evil corporations and income inequality. Attacks on the same Wall Street that has given her foundation and campaign millions and millions of dollars. “Comprehensive immigration reform,” the code word for amnesty and minting new Democrat voters. Job-killing minimum wage increases. The same “investment in new, good-paying jobs” that Obama spent nearly a trillion dollars on, only to discover that “shovel-ready jobs were not so shovel ready,” as the president laughed. Gun control, though it’s been repeatedly proven to have little impact on crime or terrorism. The threat that “Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich are going to start paying their fair share of taxes,” even though the top 1% already pay 38% of income taxes, and those making at least $250,000 pay more than half. As for corporations, their tax rate is already one of the highest among advanced economies. And of course, “the precise and strategic application of power” in order to deal with ISIS––which in practice means continuing Obama’s habit of doing the least possible tactically in order to avoid the political blow-back from risky strategic action.

So after a three-day advertisement of her achievements, policy chops, qualifications, compassion, and experience, her speech was a catalogue of sentimental blather and stale progressive clichés, delivered to a crowd as easy to please as drunks at a comedy show.

In the end, after these mendacious speeches, all that’s left to justify a Hillary presidency is the specious argument that nominating a rich, white, Ivy-League-credentialed woman from an affluent family will correct a cosmic injustice akin to slavery, a “milestone in the fight for equity in postwar America,” as the Wall Street Journal wrote. Given the huge gains made by women over the last several decades, it was inevitable that a woman would be nominated for president. But as the Journal continued, women’s “progress has become so widespread that some women voters appear indifferent to another glass ceiling shattered. More women graduate from college than men. They are the main breadwinners in four of 10 U.S. households. They run General Motors, Co., PepsiCo Inc. and IBM Corp.”  Nearly half the enrollees in law and medical schools are women, and they are projected to surpass males in a decade. Women are Senators, members of the House, and Cabinet members in historically unprecedented numbers.

Moreover, it would be a more believable ground-breaking achievement if it were a woman whose climb to prominence hadn’t depended on marrying the right man and then publicly sacrificing her feminist dignity when he serially humiliated her with his sordid philandering, a scenario straight out of Mad Men. Perhaps that’s why Donald Trump gets more support than Hillary among white women between the ages of 35 and 64. “I think we have gotten away from the historic nature of this campaign because Hillary Clinton has become an exceptionally polarizing candidate,” admitted Democratic pollster Peter Hart.

Nor can Clinton count on progressive millennials who flocked to Bernie to get excited about her supposed historic achievement. Writing for The Weekly Standard, Alice B. Lloyd surveys an anti-Clinton collection of essays by leftist feminists who see her as a “token” of the rigged establishment rather than a ground-breaker for leftist change. They resent her reliance on “corrupting corporate intervention” and her habit of “favoring the politically and diplomatically expedient ‘imperial feminism.’”  According to one contributor, “What we need is not a woman for president; what we need is a movement.” As Lloyd writes, “Progressive feminists say they see right through this manipulative messaging, and aren’t falling for it.”

Many women, in short, don’t buy her “outsider” rhetoric and claims to victim status based merely on the accident of her double x chromosomes. And for all her pandering to Black Lives Matter, Hispanics, and the party’s loony left, Hillary’s choice of a bland, middle-aged, straight white male with a record of political opportunism merely confirms that she is an entrenched insider comfortable with Wall Street and the party establishment. Playing the “woman card” cannot compensate for her personal flaws and slight record of achievement. Perhaps that’s why only a fifth of voters are enthusiastic about the possibility of electing the first woman president.

So what has Hillary got instead of charisma, character, achievements, and even the thrill of first woman president? Voters who favor big government, increased entitlement spending, higher taxes on the “rich,” and continuing American retreat abroad. Voters who belong to public employee unions and are confident Hillary will bail out their states when publicly funded pension plans bankrupt state treasuries. Rent-seekers who benefit from green energy boondoggles based on global warming hysteria. Diversicrats who leverage identity politics into social and political capital. Battalions of economic ignoramuses who think you really can get something for nothing and socialism is cool. Bicoastal elites who compensate for their privilege by espousing federal policies and programs the cost of which they never, ever have to pay.

In other words, all those factions that want their “passions and interests” served rather than the security and interests of the country. The only question is, are there 65 million of them?