These are just not happy times for Hillary Clinton, and just when she thought the worst was over, the worst is just now in sight.
She has had one of history’s steepest elevator rides, from once “the most qualified presidential candidates in history” (she told us so herself) to a “transcendent spiritual presence” (you could have asked any Democrat with a vocabulary) who could make grown women weep.
“But that was then, ” observes David French in National Review, “when the Democrats believed they were on the verge of a victory that would prove all their political theories correct. They were the ‘coalition of the ascendant.’ Demography was destiny. The arc of history was bending their way.”
Or maybe not. Maybe that arc was a lash, and it was about to bend not history but the little lady late of Little Rock. Her onetime permanent friends and allies, insofar as Hillary and Bubba have ever had permanent friends, are coming out of the cracks and crevices in the cathedral to tell their stories of how the great Democratic Party crack-up happened, and who’s to blame. No apologies yet; there may never be any of those. But some of the party stalwarts are stopping just short of saying mistakes were made.
Donna Brazile, the onetime chairman of the party and then a CNN contributor, who leaked the CNN questions at the second presidential debate to the party’s dowager queen, has written the inevitable book, called “Hacked,” and it’s a devastating account of what everyone suspected, how Hillary put her own interests first, and used fair means and foul (mostly foul) to absorb the Democratic National Committee into her campaign — before, not after, she became the party’s presidential nominee. She had the national committee in her pocket more than a year before the election, and months before the first party primary. Bernie Sanders was right. The nomination was rigged.
The gritty details of how it happened, which is the point of the book, will seem arcane, impenetrable and ultimately boring, not worth the candle for readers beyond the Capital Beltway, and to a lot of them inside that concrete necklace, but “Hacked” will be picked over by the party regulars and insiders who will never see the dowager queen in the same comfortable way again. The most qualified candidate for president in the history of the universe might be rendered unemployable by what’s behind that dam that’s about to break, but if she wants to be a comfortable college president to coast into her sunset years, she might have to be satisfied to be the president of a New England barber and beauty college.
None of the stuff Mzz Brazile lays out was illegal, but she calls it “unethical,” as if an ethic ever has a chance inside a political campaign. She says Hillary “compromised the party’s integrity,” which she says was inevitable, given the Clinton family motto, “Compromising Democratic integrity since 1992.”
Mzz Brazile’s book is the most dramatic wave coming over the top of the dam, but it follows closely on others. Stanley Greenberg, a strategist in several Clinton campaigns, details in the magazine American Prospect, widely read on the capital’s progressive (they mean liberal) ramparts, how Hillary’s errors, her mismanagement of the campaign, her inability to listen to anybody, including Bubba, and above all scorning — “sneering at” is not too strong — the party’s traditional working-class base. No one with a glimmer of smarts, for example, would have told the coal miners of West Virginia she was going to put them out of business.
Susan Glasser in New Yorker magazine makes the obvious point, which has not yet been noticed in most media salons, that while the pundits have been gloating over the aches and pains of the Republicans and the hammer that Robert Mueller is soon to bring down on Donald Trump, it’s the Democrats whose troubles are “getting nasty.”
But Mzz Brazile, like most Democrats, still doesn’t get all of it. The title of her book, “Hacked,” refers to the endless hacks of party computers and theft of emails leading up to the election. “If I had it to do all over again,” she told an interviewer on the eve of the election last year, “I would know a hell of a lot more about cybersecurity.”
The hacks hurt, no doubt, but losing the election — a lock for Hillary, everybody said — was not about stolen emails and pilfered messages, as important as the pilfering was. The election of Donald Trump was about how the voters, including those forgotten Democratic voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were finally fed up with a party gone to seed. They were looking for someone who understood that America needed to be put back on the rails, and they knew Hillary Clinton was not that someone. Mzz Brazile tells what Hillary didn’t about what happened.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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