It’s morning in America. There’s drool on the pillow and you slept on your arm weird. A nation with swollen eyes, half-asleep but fully conscious of the inevitable, swats at the alarm clock for another few useless minutes of rest. Alas, the snooze button can’t save you now. The 2016 presidential election has been up since dawn and it made coffee. It’s decaf.
For years now I’ve been sort of hoping that if I kept my eyes closed and my head under the covers that I could sleep through the next presidential campaign. But, like a fleet of garbage trucks assembling right outside my bedroom window, hack partisans are lumbering into position and making loud and irritating noises. The trash heap isn’t going to be cleared until sometime after inauguration day two years from now when reporters and voters alike remember that they can live their lives, interesting fulfilling lives, without sitting around gossiping about wealthy aristocrats who fortify their fortunes in the public sector.
Decision 2016 was officially kicked off by Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas who quickly made waves in the Republican caucus after his election in the Tea Party sweep of 2010. His indefatigable 2013 filibuster, which lasted for twenty one hours, drew the ire of Democrats and Republicans alike for dramatically postponing a vote on President Obama’s signature legislation — sorry, sorry, only kidding. I just wanted to prove to myself that it’s pitifully easy to spit out god-awful campaign coverage. It writes itself. Literally. I clicked my heels, said “White House Press Badge” three times, and this paragraph just started typing itself out on the page.
Senator Cruz has the distinction of being the first crook to tell the country they had better get used to seeing his face on television for the next year or so. Declaring your candidacy for president is about as honorable a thing to do as declaring bankruptcy or declaring your dead grandmother as a dependent on your taxes. However, being the first one to do it this year, he has earned himself a place in history as a footnote that will be edited out of textbooks for reasons of profound irrelevance.
I’m not going to write another rundown of all those will-they-won’t-they presidential “hopefuls” as the press loves to call them, as if they were tittering beauty pageant contestants. (Accurate, but accidentally so.) This isn’t about the hopefuls, because there is at least some genuine doubt about whether they can hack it in a presidential election. In any election, the candidate you really need to worry about is the heir apparent, the inevitable, the one who’s campaign slogan could be something the Grim Reaper says to you right before raising the scythe: “It’s Time.” And you know who it is this time around, because she’s been Totally Not Running For President for over a decade.
Are you “Ready for Hillary?” Did you have enough time to brace yourself? Do you need five more minutes to yourself first?
My favorite non-statement from Clinton on the subject of her 2016 campaign is this one: “I’m obviously thinking about all kinds of decisions.” I was certain she was going to say something else because I’m not even sure that counts as a complete sentence, but she was drowned out by fanatical laughter and applause from the audience. This indecision game hasn’t stopped her raising millions of dollars by winking and nudging donors with her elbow every time some asks her the Question.
Why play it out like that? Why not just say, “Yeah, I’m thinking about it”? Because if she officially declared even the Federal Elections Commission, paralyzed as it is, would have to sit up and try to tally up the wild sums of cash that people are giving her. Politicians have always ducked into alleys and side streets to take bribes and shady cash, but now the way around campaign finance laws is more like the Yellow Brick Road, where you can see presidential candidates and lobbyists skipping down the street together arm-in-arm. Like many other politicians, Clinton has a PAC. The family also has all other sorts of fronts and funnels and tax shelters into which they can launder campaign cash while the FEC sits there like a drowsy substitute teacher who doesn’t care what’s happening on the other side of his newspaper.
It’s a lucrative business. The Clintons have raised over $2.11 billion since 1992. That figure only includes the cash that we know they got. About a third of that went straight to their campaigns. The majority went to the Clinton Global Initiative (a conference for wealthy people), the Clinton Foundation (an international charity), and the Clinton Health Access Initiative (another, slightly more specific international charity).
But somehow Democratic partisans who otherwise are appalled by the modern financing of campaigns are completely unruffled by this incredible con. And as soon as it was discovered that the former Secretary of State deleted some 30,000 e-mails that she sent during her tenure, all manner of toadies sprung from the swamp to croak out pledges of fealty to one of America’s most boring and cynical politicians. I’d sure like to know if any of those e-mails had anything to do all the money the Clintons raised from foreign governments — you know, the ones she was tasked with communicating with as secretary of state.
Before you roll your eyes and close this window, let me make a few things clear. I don’t think that Clinton’s deleted “personal” e-mails include a 3 a.m. missive that says, “Operation Benghazi is a-go. Take out the ambassador and make it look like al-Qaeda.” For those of you who remember the paranoid Clinton opposition of the 90s: no, I don’t think the President and First Lady had Vincent Foster assassinated. In fact, the last time I voted in a presidential primary, I voted for Hillary Clinton. I even shook her hand once at a campaign event in New York.
Three years later, however, when her husband spoke at my college graduation, I was one of the only people in Yankee Stadium who didn’t leap out of his seat to give the old man a standing ovation. That experience provided the perfect metaphor for what it feels like to be an American leftist who can’t stand the Clintons: one surly dissenter with his arms crossed, alone among a stadium full of adoring fans. Anyone who supports Hillary and Bill Clinton while simultaneously identifying as ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ is faced with an almost insurmountable cognitive dissonance. Somehow they’ve managed to take the most conservative, neoliberal, statist-capitalist platform, and get otherwise ‘progressive-minded’ people to go along with them. If you managed to destroy welfare, ban gays and lesbians from the military and make sure they can’t get married, flaunt campaign finance laws, and promote the Iraq War, yes, you might still end up being the savior of the liberals in 2016.
So, since the Clintons insist on subjecting all of us to another one of their presidential campaigns, I’m going to flip the script. Of course I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of a voting for a woman as head of state, but, as my sister put it to my mother: do you really want the first woman in the Oval Office to be the wife of a former president? It cheapens the whole thing, it seems to me. I certainly wouldn’t have been proud to have Sarah Palin as the first female president. And I am baffled how anyone on the left could be excited for the opportunity to vote for someone whose main legislative accomplishment in the Senate was casting a vote in favor of the invasion of Iraq, whose tenure as Secretary of State can only really be described as a vast conspiracy of nothingness with a minor terrorist attack in the middle of it.
I’m waiting for the left opposition to Clinton to start asking these questions. Until then it’ll be up to the likes of David Frum, not exactly a modern Marxist, to point out what a lazy compromise it is to support her candidacy.
Why settle? If you’re only going to vote for Clinton because it seems inevitable that she’ll be elected, you’ve already given up on those last sleepy remembrances of the dream you just woke up from — that recurring dream some of us have almost every night, the one where this country actually has a democracy.
Anyway, she’s announced that she’ll make an announcement this Sunday, finally putting an end to what the New York Times politely called “the prolonged prologue” to her next campaign.
In other words, the real snooze fest is just beginning.