Still hate Hillary? She was right about Trump then — and she's right now
If you still hate Hillary Clinton for some reason, time to get over it. She was right about Donald Trump and his movement in 2016, and she's right now.
During the presidential campaign five years ago, Clinton made the simple observation that a large percentage of Donald Trump's followers could be considered a "basket of deplorables" because of their racism, white supremacy, nativism, misogyny, religious hatred and other retrograde antisocial values and beliefs.
As I wrote here several weeks ago, "In many ways, Clinton was too kind. If anything, she underestimated how many Americans were in fact committed and enthusiastic human deplorables":
After that speech, Clinton was pilloried by the mainstream news media, some leading Democrats, and of course the Republican Party and right-wing propaganda hate machine. Clinton's characterization of Trump's "basket of deplorables" was described as insensitive and unfair to the "white working class" Americans that elites and out-of-touch Democrats had too often ignored.
That reaction to Clinton's truth-telling helped to legitimate Trumpism and American neofascism (operating under the mask of "populism") as something that was reasonable and understandable, rather than as a manifestation of racial resentment, a racist temper tantrum and a declaration of white supremacy. This reflected our society's deep investment in a narrative of white racial innocence. In that logic, America is a great and exceptional country, and by implication, this is especially true of white people — especially those "real Americans" whose supposed patriotism and presumed Christian values render them a bit more American than anyone else
In the weeks since then, evidence has only mounted on the seriousness of the Trump regime's coup plot and how close the United States came to succumbing to a Republican fascist revolution. That coup attempt has not ended. Indeed, it is escalating, and America is fast approaching a point of no return.
The response to my essay about Clinton's warnings about Trump's "deplorables" was an outpouring of rage from self-described progressives, leftists, liberals and others who claim to oppose Donald Trump. In essence, it was a lot of people who seemed to be psychologically decompensating or in the midst of an emotional breakdown. These reactions were rooted in unrestrained hatred toward Hillary Clinton — and, in this case, toward anyone who would dare to suggest she was ever correct about anything.
By this point, Clinton must be used to such reactions. To her credit — and unlike many other members of the American political elite — she is speaking out now even more boldly and clearly about the specific threat posed to American democracy and society by Donald Trump and the politically psychopathic Republican-fascist movement.
In a recent interview at the Atlantic Festival of Ideas, Clinton discussed the decades-long trajectory that brought America the disastrous events of Jan. 6:
... [U]nfortunately, I see a line from what I saw and tried to describe in the '90s through the beginning of this century, the first 20 years of it, and the role that Donald Trump and his enablers and others played in creating this absolute cauldron of conspiracy and hatred and anger and looking for explanations and scapegoats. I sadly think that the seeds were planted long ago, but they have been watered vigorously in recent years.
She then focused on the years since her own presidential campaign, which have seen the Republican Party openly embrace a plan to nullify American democracy:
So the parallels between what happened in 2016 and 2020 are not often understood. And why that's important is, the Republicans — and now we have to say the Republican Party, not just the Trumpers and all of those who are part of this effort to undermine our democracy, but the Republican Party — were shocked that they lost, because they never thought that they would lose by such narrow margins and, we know, accurately and legitimately in places like Georgia or Arizona. So what are they going to do now? Now they're not only going to try to suppress votes on steroids; they're going to try to change the way elections are determined. They're going to try to give legislatures the power to basically throw out elections if they don't go their way, because now they want to be able to win, even if they lose the popular vote and they legitimately lose the Electoral College.
Clinton observed that she personally knew many of the leading Republicans "who are lining up and saluting Trumpism," adding, "They're giving up their values, their common sense. ... It's amazing." She concluded:
We're looking at a phenomenon that is fueled not just by political calculation, partisan advantage, personal survival as a politician. We're looking at a cultural phenomenon even more than a political phenomenon. The audience for anger, for fear or hatred, is so large in America right now, and as I said earlier, sadly, much of the responsibility has to lie with the tech companies who have been the channels for creating that kind of information system that we are now living with.
Clinton is again showing herself to be an astute observer of America's democracy crisis and the role of the Republican Party in a decade-long plan to undermine or overthrow the country's multiracial democracy. And once again, too many people will, a priori, reject her insights because they remain afflicted with Hillary Derangement Syndrome.
But the important lesson here has little to do with Hillary Clinton in particular. Defeating the Republican-fascist movement will require political pragmatism, in the form of alliances between individuals and groups who in the near past have opposed one another — and who no doubt will again in the future — but are now united in defense of democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law.
America's democracy crisis truly is an "all hands on deck" emergency. There is little room for ideologues except where all parties can work towards a shared goal of defeating the Republican fascists, along with their followers, allies and agents.
In an open letter first published at the New Republic and The Bulwark — co-authored by journalism professor Todd Gitlin, political scientist Jeffrey C. Isaac and conservative commentator William Kristol, and co-signed by dozens of prominent academics, journalists and activists — this argument for a common-front alliance was made explicit. It begins:
We are writers, academics, and political activists who have long disagreed about many things.
Some of us are Democrats and others Republicans. Some identify with the left, some with the right, and some with neither. We have disagreed in the past, and we hope to be able to disagree, productively, for years to come. Because we believe in the pluralism that is at the heart of democracy.
But right now we agree on a fundamental point: We need to join together to defend liberal democracy.
Because liberal democracy itself is in serious danger. Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger.
The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump's defeat in 2020 and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.
In an essay for Common Dreams, Isaac explains how this "friendly collaboration" between ideological foes came about:
Some of our signatories have long been aligned with the anti-war movement and with the Sanders wing of the Democratic party. Some have been aligned with the more centrist Obama-Clinton-Biden wing. Some were supporters of John McCain or Mitt Romney, and some — most notably Bill Kristol — were supporters of George W. Bush and of Ronald Reagan before him. ...
We have not checked our differences at the door. And yet we have come together precisely because we regard these differences as important, and we believe that if the forces of Know Nothingism, racism, and reaction associated with Trumpism prevail, we will all suffer. Our political differences are real. And our joint commitment to democracy is grounded in those very differences.
Many who will read this will be angry about what some of our signatories have said or done in the past. This is understandable. … This does not require us to like all of those with whom we join—though we have made some real friendships through this collaboration—nor does it require us to forget about their pasts or our own pasts.
It simply requires us to acknowledge the ethical and political importance of coming together, across differences, to defend the things that we value in common.
Perhaps Benjamin Franklin said it best, at another moment when some very different people came together to oppose the tyranny of their time: "We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately."
As the first drafts of history are being written about this dire historical period, one important theme will be about how many pro-democracy Americans worked together, often quietly or in secret, from the highest levels of government, including the military and the national security agencies, to the local and state levels and across civil society more broadly, in an effort to stop the Trump regime's plot to nullify the 2020 presidential election.
Those afflicted with Hillary Derangement Syndrome should feel free to bray at the moon, scream into the wind or do whatever else is necessary to get that energy out of their system. But this is a moment to join in alliance with others, across ordinary lines of politics and ideology, to stop the Republican-fascist movement. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy really is my friend.