At this point, Hillary Clinton is less a political figure than the subject of a Lost Cause myth. She turns 70 next month, has no plans to run again, and her influence within the party seems to be waning. The triangulated platform she pitched just last year already feels like a relic now that dozens of mainstream Democrats have embraced the goal of single-payer health care. Given her limited relevance, forward-looking elements of the Democratic Party are annoyed with Clinton’s continued presence in the headlines. Her new book, What Happened, is set to dredge up old intra-party conflicts; Clinton blames her loss on James Comey, Bernie Sanders, Barack Obama, Matt Lauer, the New York Times, and, of course, the voters themselves. This misguided PR campaign (which includes Peter Daou’s vociferously pro-Clinton website Verrit) marks Clinton’s final transformation — from a politician to an apolitical avatar of entitlement and resentment.
As D.C. journalists and Democratic Party apparatchiks focus their attention on 2018 and 2020, Hillary Clinton’s base is dwindling down to her most loyal followers. Modern-day Clinton zealots are a strange breed. There aren’t any unique policies that unite them, nor are there any future campaigns on the horizon. What ties them together is a general feeling that the events of November 8, 2016 were cosmically, historically unjust, and that the world can never be forgiven for allowing them to happen. Moving on is unthinkable. The experience of seeing Donald J. Trump elected president over “the most qualified candidate in history” was so monumental, so traumatic, so important, that it deserves no less than a lifetime of monkish contemplation. This is how religions start; the death of Christ was deemed so important that, after 4,000 years of biblical history, it simply couldn’t be topped. The narrative had to end. So traumatized the apostles were by the Crucifixion that the only future they could imagine was Revelation — the seas would turn to blood, the rivers to poison, and the deserving few would be eternally rewarded for their loyalty.
Clinton appears to have promised White House positions to quite a few young strivers in 2016 — enough that they make up a significant portion of her extant fanbase. Hillary in particular values loyalty over competence, a preference which brought her the royal court of dimwitted sycophants who tanked her final campaign. When the expected payoff of a high-profile job in the White House or the Clinton Foundation never materialized, they were left flailing. Adam Parkhomenko, the 31-year-old executive director of Hillary’s 2016 SuperPAC, has worked under the Clintons nearly half his life. At age 17, he impressed Hillary with VoteHillary.org, his effort to draft her for the 2004 election, and she hired him for her Senate reelection campaign. Parkhomenko’s 14 years of absurd loyalty to his boss amounted to nothing in the end, but he remains as loyal as ever. What else does he know how to do? On September 8, he lashed out at critics of What Happened and accused Bernie Sanders of being a Russian agent, citing no evidence. “You seem to ignore the Russia support online for Bernie during the primaries. The guy is hiding something. Not sure I want to know what,” he tweeted at someone who was critical of his political efforts last week. On Monday, he pretty much hit rock bottom when he tweeted a video of his car radio playing “Fight Song,” Clinton’s saccharine campaign anthem, captioned “when you get in the car at 2:30 am to get [ice cream] since you don't have a plan to lose the Trump 10 [pounds] & the radio is like hey reminder HRC book tomorrow.” Yikes.
I wanted him to release the same amount of tax returns as she did. Apologize for calling her unqualified, not play Dem. But, you know, life. https://t.co/LA4j9T20kC— Adam Parkhomenko (@AdamParkhomenko) September 8, 2017
Peter Daou, another longtime Clinton loyalist whom I wrote about at length last week, has taken her election loss almost as hard as Parkhomenko. Though he failed to receive any of the political spoils he was expecting, his unwavering commitment to Hillary persisted. Last week, he launched the self-funded website Verrit, a repository of quotes aimed at boosting Hillary’s image. Hillary herself tweeted a link to Daou’s creation, presumably under the impression that headlines like “Hillary Democrats Are the Heart and Conscience of America” and “Maligning Hillary Clinton From the Left Is a Conscious Embrace of the Far Right” would mend rather than damage her reputation. The Washington Post wrote that “Verrit has taken all the worst parts of today’s liberalism and turned them into a website.” Politico called it “a propaganda rag so shameless it would make Kim Jong Un blush.” In response to the backlash, Daou called his critics in the media a “digital mob” and sent off several increasingly unhinged tweetstorms with liberal usage of ALL CAPS. One of the more telling lines from his rants: “The Vox hit piece on Verrit actually does one honest thing: It admits the ENTIRE reason for ridiculing the project is we center HILLARY.” Okay, but why center Hillary in September 2017? It’s a little late.
Being told that positive headlines about the winner of the popular vote is "North Korean propaganda" is what erasure looks like.— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) September 8, 2017
The frosty reception given to Verrit and What Happened brought out an even stranger species of diehard Clintonite: seemingly ordinary people who simply project their own feelings of bitterness and quasi-feminist entitlement onto Hillary’s career. They popped up in 2008 as “PUMAs” — short for “Party Unity My Ass” — fanatical Clinton supporters, mostly older white women, who were so upset at Obama’s primary victory that they voted for McCain in the general. (25 percent of her 2008 primary voters crossed over.) PUMAs’ modern equivalents swarmed the political journalists who voiced legitimate concerns about the timing and purpose of Verrit and Clinton’s book tour. When Vox’s Dylan Scott tweeted “has anybody teased out what exactly Clinton is trying to accomplish with this book?” more than 1,000 replies poured in, accusing him of misogyny and demanding to know why he didn’t question the timing of Bernie Sanders’ book last November, prompting a sheepish response: “I clearly didn't know what I was getting into.” Few attempted to answer his question. Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur tweeted that, with What Happened, “[Clinton is] re-opening a painful wound for Ds at a crucial time.” The replies to this also exceeded 1,000, and they were even more spiteful: “So what. Not her problem how scared little white males react.” “So she's supposed to just go away? 66 million of us think she was ROBBED!!! SHE IS NOT GOING AWAY!! GET USED TO IT!!!” “It is important for millions of Hillary supporters like myself who need closure that she share with us her perspective. Catharsis.” What does any of this have to do with politics? Shouldn’t there be a loftier goal than pissing off our opponents? As the writer Roxane Gay tweeted, “If your political platform or candidate cannot withstand Hillary's book tour.... perhaps your platform or candidate is the problem.”
If your political platform or candidate cannot withstand Hillary's book tour.... perhaps your platform or candidate is the problem.— roxane gay (@rgay) September 7, 2017
For this set of ride-or-die Clinton fans, the entirely valid notion that relitigating the 2016 primary for three months and increasing the media presence of a deeply unpopular figure might hurt the Democrats is irrelevant to the more important goal: personal catharsis. For them, Clinton bears no responsibility for her loss. Her decision to surround herself with incompetent morons wasn’t a mistake, and neither was her failure to campaign in key swing states. Voting for the Iraq War? Convincing Obama to destroy Libya, creating an opening for ISIS? Not her fault. She was simply wronged by the world, and the world must suffer for its insolence. The midterms don’t matter. Public perception of the Democratic Party doesn’t matter. Even Hillary’s abysmal approval rating (39 percent) doesn’t matter. All that matters is that Hillary Clinton gets the glory she deserves, and that everyone who stood in her way is punished.
That being said, Clinton’s fans aren’t entirely wrong to perceive some unfairness. It is undeniable that sexism has dogged her throughout her career, and it was surely one of many factors contributing to Trump’s victory. But Obama won the popular and electoral vote twice in a country racist enough to elect a white supremacist in his place. And is the undercurrent of misogyny in America truly that much deeper than in other comparable countries — Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Ireland — that have elected female presidents or prime ministers? Even under the incredibly generous assumption that sexism alone destroyed Clinton’s 2016 campaign, is a former First Lady, two-term senator and secretary of state with a net worth in the tens of millions really deserving of our unending pity as she charges people to meet her on her book tour?
Fortunately, the Democratic Party itself is less than enthusiastic about settling Clinton’s personal grudges. With the 2018 midterm elections just over a year away, Democrats are taking steps to bolster their image with ambitious policy goals geared toward mobilizing young and working-class voters. Single-payer health care and the $15 minimum wage are now mainstream, and the Democrats are grooming several senators under the age of 65 (!!!) for 2020. With dozens of Clinton scandals now behind it for good, the party’s future looks brighter than it has since Obama first took office. Hillary Clinton will always have her loyalists, and they will continue to demand that the rest of us relive 2016 in an infinite loop. At this point, they can safely be ignored. For the rest of us, the name of Clinton’s own PAC sums it up — “Onward Together.”