The Media is Not Finished with Their Dangerous, Sexist Libel of Hillary Clinton

Tuesday, CNN's Chris Cillizza posted on CNN's website an email exchange between himself and Greg Krieg about excerpts of Hillary Clinton's book that are now making the rounds on the Internet. Try as they may have to couch the conversation in paternalistic benevolence about what they say Hillary Clinton "still doesn't get" about her vanquished primary opponent Bernie Sanders, the exchange is replete with libels against Hillary Clinton - many of the same ones the media pursued while they were ignoring the cults growing under Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Cillizza and Krieg admit that Clinton had by far the better-developed policy initiatives and that Bernie based his campaign largely on one-upmanship by suggesting the same thing Hillary Clinton was, only "bigger" with no actual feasible way to make his ideas into law. They even agree that Bernie Sanders was a back-bencher in Congress until he decided he wanted to be president.

But, they say, Clinton fails to grasp that Sanders was running a cause while she was running a campaign. They say setting deliverable, pragmatic goals building on the progress of the previous eight years was her shortcoming, while promising everyone a pony was Bernie's brilliance. They portray Clinton's view of Bernie Sanders' damage - at least what can be gleaned from public excerpts of her book - as a simplistic facade.

This is a lie. This is libel. And this is sexist.

Mindful that this is the same narrative the media produced against Clinton throughout both the Democratic primary and the general election campaigns (in both of which Clinton still won millions of more votes than her opponent), let's dive into this particular piece, which I think we can safely assume will be the general media narrative around the coverage of Hillary Clinton's new book.

Krieg: Perhaps it's comforting to dismiss his popularity and, implicitly, the desires/frustrations of his supporters, as being rooted in the desire for free ponies or "magic abs." But that really undersells the issue at the heart of this.

Sanders was, of course, coming at this campaign from a very different angle. By his and his aides' own admission, they were surprised at how quickly a movement-based candidacy turned into an electorally viable one. But even then, he was pitching a fundamentally different view of politics. Now, you can dismiss that as unreasonable or unlikely to happen, but it's a losing strategy, in broad terms, to quit the conversation there.

Or perhaps it's simply impatience and frustration with the utter bullshit of four-minute abs when the country was facing much, much bigger issues. For example, an open white supremacist was poised to become the nominee of the other major party. And losing strategy? As I recall, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary - you know, the part of the process that didn't award the top slot to the white dude who lost the popular vote.

And someone please, please, please explain to me how "stop talking about race because that's uncomfortable for the 'white working class' " is "a fundamentally different view of politics." This view of politics has been dominating American elections since 1788.

Anyway, Cillizza chimes in with his wisdom with another gem of an argument.

Cillizza: I think one of Clinton's biggest problems in the race was that she never understood that Sanders' appeal wasn't totally about his proposals -- which weren't radically different than hers -- it was about his tone and willingness to confront Republicans at all times and on all fronts. [...]

[Democrats] wanted confrontation. They viewed the GOP worldview as not just wrong but immoral. They didn't want carefully poll-tested policies designed to barely keep them on board while also peeling off moderate Republicans.
Sanders intuitively understood that because he has made charging at GOP-constructed windmills his life's work. All the way to the end, Clinton never grasped what Democrats really wanted from her.

Chris is right that Sanders' appeal wasn't totally about his proposals. In fact, I would say Sanders' appeal was almost not at all about his proposals. I would also concur that his appeal was his confrontational tone.

The only problem with Cillizza's point is that he is flatly revising history in recounting Sanders and Clinton's respective roles in confronting the GOP during the primary. Bernie Sanders wasn't using his confrontational tone to primarily take the fight to Republicans; he was using it to beat up on Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders - and his supporters - during the primary had been far more animated about Hillary Clinton's speeches to Wall Street than Donald Trump's Russian connections. Sanders had been far louder about bashing Clinton for refusing to commit to a single payer health care plan than he had been against the entire Republican field who'd uniformly promised to erase all progress made on health care under President Obama. Sanders and his backers were far craftier about harassing Hillary Clinton for "only" backing a $12 minimum wage than they had shown outrage at regular Republican suggestion that the federal minimum wage itself rested on dubious Constitutional grounds. Clinton - during the primary - went after Republicans far more often and with far more vigor.

So yes, Sanders and his fans wanted confrontation. But they were vastly more interested in confrontation against those within the progressive movement they saw as impure than they were in taking on the far Right.

Somehow, Cillizza completely and conveniently forgets Clinton's warrior form against one Donald J. Trump, whom she called a Russian puppet to his face while the media was still tickling its balls about her email nontroversy. Cillizza seems to have forgotten that Hillary Clinton went toe-to-toe with Donald Trump and warned everyone about Trump's vicious racism, sexism and xenophobia while the fourth estate was ignoring that threat. Cillizza needs to be reminded that Hillary Clinton bore the torch and spoke out in favor of confronting institutional racism, pervasive sexism, blatant and latent xenophobia, and anti-LGBT bigotry. Bernie Sanders barely paid lip service - let alone confront - these very real scars of America's national soul.

Hillary Clinton confronted Donald Trump and the real ills of American society that made Trump's rise possible. Bernie Sanders confronted Hillary Clinton because it got him free airtime.

It is also true that Hillary Clinton did not want confrontation for confrontation's sake. That only lends itself to machismo and grandstanding, and it eventually leads destructive polarization (evidence: present day) rather than actual effective governance, something a president is tasked with. To see proof, see Barack Obama, who in four years rose from State Senator to President, and in the following eight became the most consequential president of our time, vs. Bernie Sanders, who has been in Congress since before most of his loudest supporters had been born and had not a single piece of major legislation to his name prior to 2016.

But wait, there's more. These two wise pundits have yet more insult to throw on top of the national injury they helped cause by diminishing the role of racial justice in the election.

During the debates and in some interviews during his early 2016 surge, [Sanders'] lack of clearly defined foreign policy ideas sometimes made plain his shortcomings. As it happens, part of the reason he didn't win much in those post-New Hampshire weeks was that he didn't have the infrastructure or the time to develop a compelling enough message to win down South.

No. Bernie Sanders didn't win much post-New Hampshire because post-New Hampshire, the share of the Democratic primary voters who were white plunged. Sanders kept winning white-dominated primaries and caucuses long after New Hampshire.

Sanders did not lack the "time or infrastructure" to develop a compelling message for the South. He certainly could have utilized all the time he used to explaining why Clinton winning the black vote in the South didn't mean anything (because you know, the South doesn't vote Democratic in the general, so why worry about the black folk there...) to instead "develop a compelling message." Sanders didn't develop a message for the South - or for the midwest and the west with heavy Latino populations - because he never cared to. Trying to address racial inequities was a distraction from his economic message primarily focused to address white pain, and he wasn't going to bother.

Cillizza and Krieg, both white-privileged males, effortlessly ignore the predominant electoral disability of Trump as well as Sanders against Hillary Clinton: Their terrifying inability to attract people of color. Clinton cleaned up among voters of color in both the primary and general, and by telling us that Hillary Clinton simply doesn't grasp Bernie's appeal to "debt, economic inequality and medical bills" Cillizza and Krieg are telling the people most affected by these socioeconomic plights that we just don't understand. Worse, they are telling us that we need privileged white males like themselves, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump to explain it to us like we are children.

That is a libel against us.

The libelous narrative against Hillary Clinton, of course, would remain incomplete without the following representation of Bernie Sanders as the benevolent gentleman who did not go after the weak female as harshly as he could have:

Cillizza: I agree with Sanders' people who say he pulled punches. He refused to ever talk about her email server which was, literally, a hanging curveball that he could smash out of the park. And, on her speech-giving to massive corporations -- including Goldman Sachs -- Sanders went WAY easier than he could have if he wanted to portray Clinton as a corporate shill.

There is so much wrong with this statement. The part about Sanders going easy on Clinton for giving speeches as a private citizen is a blatant lie, and that should be obvious to any objective observer of the 2016 campaign. Sanders berated Clinton about this at nearly every campaign rally, drawing the kind of faithful jeers that Donald Trump would be envious of. He did portray Clinton as a corporate shill, but in much of the Internet's Bern-sphere, 'shill' was not the word that came after 'corporate' for Hillary. What was? I'll give you three guesses.

The only reason Sanders refused to talk about Clinton's email nontroversy was because this was the one issue ideologues Sanders needed to fuel his campaign were sympathetic to Clinton about. She'd been at the GOP's crosshairs about it for years, and she'd earned widespread accolades from the Left for the way she confronted it, including in a 11-hour testimony that wore out her worst Congressional critics. Had Bernie gone after Hillary on emails, he would have lost support on the Left and been seen as openly aligning with the Republicans. That is the only thing he could not do.

Sanders is not a political neophyte. He is adept at the art of disaster politics, ideological warfare, and much like Trump, selling his lack of accomplishments as an accomplishment. He knew where he could cause maximum damage to Hillary Clinton, and it wasn't on emails.

Before I close this writing, it should be noted that entirely missing from Cillizza and Krieg's "analysis" is a key factor that Clinton truly could not overcome: sexism. Sexism in the media and among the public. Research shows that women are more pragmatic, more cooperative, better multitaskers and more communicative than men, and that they command better memory and better language skills than men. Women use twice as many words as men during an average day and more than three times as many gestures.

In other words, Hillary Clinton's focus on developing workable, pragmatic solutions, and her preference for clearly communicating not just her broad vision but the particular policies using words are not just the result of decades of experience in being in the frontlines of the fight for progress but probably partially attributable to her gender. Dismissing this propensity on her part as her being just an aloof politician who just didn't know to tug at the heartstrings of America would be sexist enough, but dismissing it while extolling the typically male campaign tactics like singleminded focus on demands rather than process is even more stark.

The national media, for all its sudden awakening since Trump became president, is still incapable of true introspection into its own culpability in last year's disastrous election. They are still unwilling to admit their complicity the rise of utterly unqualified and underqualified men and the character assassination of a superbly qualified, dedicated public servant. They are blind to their own pornographic fixation on conflict politics, their portrayal of ideological dogma as principle, and their substitution of podium pounding for a coherent governing philosophy and policymaking.

And so, the sexist, libelous lies about Hillary Clinton still continue.

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