A reflection on Clinton’s new book and what it can teach the left to go forward.
Intersectional feminism. Toxic masculinity. False equivalence. These are words all written by Hillary Clinton. Yet, this establishment puppet was out of touch, of course. The fact is Hillary Clinton was neither a true establishment puppet nor an ultra radical. She tried to balance the two, and she failed because it was the establishment that was set against her. Marginalised people would have given her the White House, the powerful refused.
The irony was that she was always called the establishment and yet it was white people who voted Trump, it was Comey who derailed her campaign in the latter stages and it was someone who promised the rich an easy ride who won. What Happened is full of anger, but don’t believe what the reviews say; it isn’t at Bernie. It’s at herself, and it is mostly aimed at toxic masculinity.
Sure, she highlights how her and Bernie disagreed, as well as his questionable commitment to equality beyond class and she scrutinises his record on gun control. But straight after that she also gives him credit for his work, for inspiring people and for being able to put out catchy messages that engaged young people. The book though was never going to get a fair review and that was kind of the point – Clinton is scrutinised much, but rarely with any fairness.
The media portrays the story as either Clinton the true progressive or Clinton bitter at Bernie. Well, neither is true. Clinton herself documents how she evolves on issues, and how other people sometimes forced her to see where she was wrong on equality. Those who paint her as bitter at Bernie are only telling half of the story for their own ends. She spends a good deal of time praising him too, but they were never friends and their entire mode of politics is different. There was always going to be criticism, rivalry and a good deal of competition.
It’s a book that might capture the devout attention of some. It was a fraught campaign and Clinton is so often painted as aloof that any insight into her world is jumped upon. However, Clinton’s words and actions often reveal far more about us than they ever do about her. Not because she is cold or distant – she actually is pretty straight forward – but the way she’s treated reveals something insidious.
“Clinton’s words and actions often reveal far more about us than they ever do about her”
We voted for Brexit, Le Pen did alarmingly well and Trump actually did win (although not the popular vote, that’s important to keep saying and to keep tweeting him with). The story then is perhaps not how strong our arguments are or how qualified left wing candidates are, but about what voters want. They were happy to embrace the abusive nature of Trump who has been openly misogynst and racist, they were happy to back Farage’s arguments about the EU and freedom of movement even at the expense of the economy and Neo-Nazis have managed to rebrand themselves as the alt-right. We all have our part to play in this. We all made it possible. That includes the left.
The left can often be a horrific place for those most marginalised. In other words, it’s an unsafe space for the people it claims to want to support the most. Trans exclusive radical feminists routinely harass trans women. 12% of Bernie supporters did switch to Trump and roughly the same percentage of LGBT people voted for Trump too.
Yet, people of colour in November overwhelmingly backed Clinton. It’s not because Clinton’s record was spotless by any means. But white people were still able to vote for Trump because of white privilege. This was true across classes. In the unverified ‘golden showers dossier’ (thank you, Buzzfeed), it was alleged that Russia targeted Bernie voters believing them to be easier to switch to Trump than to get them to vote for Clinton. This of course, can’t be backed up but those on the left did vote for a man who represents big business rather than a woman who wanted to try to support those worse off. It’s hard to see anything other than it being due to toxic masculinity. Clinton wasn’t perfect. She was a flawed candidate. But does that even matter when so much is at stake? Sarandon can talk all she wants about Trump triggering a revolution but it’s unlikely she’ll have to suffer in the meantime.
There are annoying aspects Clinton glosses over in the book, without feeling fully accountable but then there are aspects of the campaign where she berates herself when only hindsight offered any perspective. It creates a lack of balance and raises questions about her full status as an ally. There’s infinite areas of policy where her voting record doesn’t fully show solidarity to those worst off – but then her voting record is pretty much the same as the record of Bernie Sanders. In the context of Trump though? She should have walked it. And she would have done, if white people stayed at home.
“She would have walked it if white people stayed at home”
It wasn’t about economic anxiety. It was about racism. Clinton was an evolving candidate and she did work. She worked to understand intersectionality, she worked to be better for disabled people and she worked to do more for queer people. Too many movements right now only want to improve things for white people. The focus on economics doesn’t challenge racism, it doesn’t eradicate queerphobia, and it doesn’t automatically diminish ableism. Too many white old socialist men are slow to recognise that. Corbyn even originally hailed Trump’s win as anti-establishment rather than seeing it for the racist result it was.
Clinton tried though, and as frustrating as she can be for the left, it is sickening the focus is on her when the focus should be on just what the hell made anyone ever believe in people like Trump. Maybe the president isn’t even the problem – maybe the people are. By that, I don’t mean Americans, but all of us as humanity who time and again endorse, support and uphold oppression.
If there is one thing the book has taught me though it is that women expecting to maintain dignity at all times has won us nothing. There’s a small paragraph where Clinton talks about her husband losing a race and Bill Clinton was so depressed he could barely get off the floor. Everything Hillary Clinton endured and she still had to face the cameras and get on with it. Trump even stalked her around the debate stage. I want nasty women, but most of all I want angry women. I want women who can get on camera and scream their lungs out like Sanders about everything unjust in the world. If she’s branded hysterical then screw the media, because when they thought balance was focusing on emails when Trump bragged of sexual assault on tape then they lost all credibility to give commentary. Women can’t win playing by men’s rules. Clinton lost and she was the most qualified candidate ever. And she lost to someone who complains about what hard work being president is. Let’s keep going to be more intersectional and work at it every day, but let’s get angry. Keeping our cool in the face of misogyny has done nothing.