The Cardboard Cut-Out Cartoon Caricature Campaign
Hillary Clinton's win yesterday in the California primary, combined with the Democrats' notably undemocratic system of superdelegates—boy, is Reince Priebus wishing somebody on our side had thought of that—means that Hillary has pretty definitively wrapped up the Democratic Party's nomination for president.
Which is not exactly their finest hour.
Some of us have been sardonically congratulating the Republican Party for nominating a candidate who is "everything your enemies ever accused you of being." But if that's true for the GOP and Trump, it's just as true for the Democrats and Hillary. She is the living embodiment of a whole set of stereotypes about the cynical, corrupt mandarins of big government.
Let's count down the ways she takes this cardboard cut-out cartoon caricature and conforms to it.
1. Buying votes by pandering to pressure groups.
Sure, every politician does this. It's basically in the job description. But the distinction of the Democrats is that they do this by promising government largesse and protection in order to buy the votes of various party constituencies. And Hillary Clinton's distinction is that we know it's all pandering—that it's not a matter of ideology or core values—because she's previously taken the opposite side when it was convenient to her.
Nowhere is this clearer than on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would expand free trade with Asian countries. Embracing free trade was one of the ways in which her husband turned to the right in 1990s, pushing through the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his reluctant accommodation with markets and capitalism. But there is still a strong anti-free-trade constituency within the Democratic Party—basically, the labor unions—so Hillary Clinton has come out against the TPP. Even though she actually negotiated the agreement as Secretary of State. So how to square that circle? Get the State Department to delay the release of her official communications on the TPP until after the election.
After all, government has to be all things to all people, and you can't let your record get in the way of making those kinds of promises.
2. The cynical use of identity politics.
Did you know that Hillary Clinton is the first woman to be nominated as the presidential candidate of a major political party? Of course you did. And if you didn't, believe me, she's not going to let you forget it. (Nor are her water-carriers in the press.) It's all about "making history," and if there's one lesson Hillary Clinton took from her loss to Barack Obama in the 2008 primary, it's that Democratic voters just love to "make history" and vote for the historic first in whatever racial and gender category remains. It's going to get even lamer once they've ticked off all of the big ones and start going for the minor categories.
But it's all cynical, because Hillary Clinton has a less than pleasant history with women who get in her and her husband's way. She was the lead person in dealing with his "bimbo eruptions" and trying to discredit women who said he made unwanted advances or assaulted them.
But you have to understand the mentality of the left. The welfare of women as a collective—which is automatically assumed to require a lot of government programs—is way more important than the well-being of actual, individual women.
3. Corruption and special favors.
When Bill Clinton left the White House, Hillary has famously declared that they were "broke." In the decades since, they have made nearly a quarter of a billion dollars by getting paid ridiculous sums of money to give speeches full of political clichés and by "consulting" for big investment firms that just happened to need their political contacts.
Then there is the Clinton Foundation, which served as a slush fund for the family while raising money from dubious sources that had business interests affected by Hillary Clinton's State Department.
This is exactly what the Founding Fathers feared about a big and powerful federal government: that it becomes a preserve for special favors and corruption. It starts with a lot of talk about using power for "the people" but ends up using power for the benefit of people with the right connections.
4. Indifference to national security.
Compared to Donald Trump, Hillary looks like the responsible adult on foreign policy. But that's a pretty low bar to clear.
On her own terms, she looks like exactly what we tend to expect from a Democrat on foreign policy: someone who is naive, feckless, preening, and just not interested in the serious work of securing America's interests abroad. The sort of person who makes a lot of noise about a "reset" with Russia—then lets the Russians bulldoze our interests in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The sort of person who congratulates herself for championing a "humanitarian" intervention in Libya but drops the basic follow-up needed to prevent the country from collapsing into chaos, or even to protect our ambassador there. The sort of person who champions a deal with Iran that solves the problem of nuclear proliferation, not by preventing it, but merely by taking it off the administration's agenda.
It's almost like everything in foreign policy is just a feel-good photo op, not a serious long-term policy. Which is exactly what we feared.
5. She's the ultimate "limousine liberal."
The classic caricature of the "limousine liberal" is that they think money is the root of all evil—when other people have it. But when it's your family's turn to cash in, well, it's no less than they deserve, right?
So Hillary Clinton is the type of bleeding-heart welfare-statist who fights for the little guy while getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars at a crack giving speeches for Wall Street firms. She rails against privilege, while her daughter has a $3 million wedding and gets paid an extravagant salary at a make-work job—all while telling us she doesn't care about money. She gives a speech railing against inequality while wearing a $12,000 Armani jacket.
The common theme of Hillary Clinton's career is an arrogant sense of entitlement and a belief in power above all. The caricature she really fits is that every policy or ideal is just a pose and that the underlying impetus is merely that people like her should have the power to impose their will on others.
I happen to think there's a lot of truth in that view of the left. But if I were a Democrat, I would be eager to counter-program against it by nominating someone with a little bit of modesty, a little more integrity, and a lot more earnest idealism.
Then again, they kind of tried that. But Bernie Sanders is just a different kind of lefty stereotype: the woolly-headed washed up hippie who still thinks Communism is an untried ideal and wonders why everybody can't just have everything for free, man. And his family has still enjoyed their time at the trough. That's the problem when the only kind of "idealism" you have to offer is loyalty to a failed and corrupt system like socialism.
Alas, this year I can't say the Republican Party has a better alternative, either. We passed up on some better options to nominate our own negative caricature. Which is kind of instructive, in a way. It's interesting that we have a year in which both major parties have lived down to the worst expectations people have of them. Perhaps this is an indication that traditional attitudes of both parties—Hillary's reactionary defense of the big-government establishment and Trump's reactionary anti-PC posturing—are playing themselves out into a dead end.