America called bullshit on the Cult of Clinton
[By Brendan O’Neill, Nov. 20, 2016]
The Cult of Hillary Clinton, the celebs and activists and hacks who were so devoted to getting her elected and who have spent the past week sobbing and moaning over her loss exhibit cult-like behavior far more than any Trump cheerer.
Trump supporters view their man as a leader “fused with the idea of the nation.” They don’t see him as “light itself.” That’s how Clinton was described in the subhead of a piece for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter. “Maybe Clinton is more than a president,” gushed writer Virginia Heffernan. “Maybe she is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself.”
“Hillary is Athena,” Heffernan continued, adding that “Hillary did everything right in this campaign. She cannot be faulted, criticized, or analyzed for even one more second.”
That’s a key cry of the Cult of Hillary: she is beyond criticism, beyond the sober and technical analysis of mere humans. Michael Moore, in his movie ‘Trumpland,’ looked out at his audience and, with voice breaking, said: “Maybe Hillary could be our Pope Francis.”
As with all saints and prophets, all human manifestations of light itself, the problem is never with them, but with us. We mortals are not worthy of Hillary. “Hillary didn’t fail us, we failed her,” asserted a writer for the Guardian. The press, and by extension the rest of us, “crucified her,” claimed someone at Bustle. We always do that to messiahs, assholes that we are.
And of course the light of Hillary had to be guarded against blasphemy. Truly did the Cult of Hillary seek to put her beyond “analysis for even one more second.” All that stuff about her emails and Libya was pseudo-scandal, inventions of her aspiring slayers, they told us again and again and again.
As Thomas Frank says, the insistence that Hillary was scandal-free had a blasphemy-deflecting feel to it. The message was that “Hillary was virtually without flaws… a peerless leader clad in saintly white… a caring benefactor of women and children.” Mother Teresa in a pantsuit.
Then there was the reaction to Clinton’s loss. It just wasn’t normal chattering-class behavior. Of course we expect weeping, wailing videos from the likes of Miley Cyrus and Perez Hilton about how Clinton had been robbed of her moment of glory; that’s what celebs do these days. But in the media, too, there was hysteria.
There was Lena Dunham, who came out in hives—actual hives—when she heard Clinton had lost. Her party dress “felt tight and itchy.” She “ached in the places that make me a woman.” I understand being upset and angry at your candidate’s loss, but this is something different; this is what happens, not when a politician does badly, but when your savior, your Athena, “light itself,” is extinguished.
It’s all incredibly revealing. What it points to is a mainstream, Democratic left that is so bereft of ideas and so disconnected from everyday people that it ends up pursuing an utterly substance-free politics of emotion and feeling and doesn’t even realize it’s doing it. They are good, everyone else is bad; they are light itself, everyone else is darkness; and so no self-awareness can exist and no self-criticism can be entertained. Not for even one second, in Heffernan’s words. The Cult of Hillary Clinton is the clearest manifestation yet of the 21st-century problem of life in the political echo chamber.
Mercifully, some mea culpas are now emerging. Some, though not enough, realize that Hillaryites behaved rashly and with unreason. In a brilliant piece titled “The unbearable smugness of the liberal media,” Will Rahn recounts how the media allowed itself to become the earthly instrument of Clinton’s cause, obsessed with finding out how to make Middle Americans “stop worshiping their false god and accept our gospel.”
Indeed. And the failure to make the gospel of Hillary into the actual book of America points to the one good thing about Trump’s victory: a willingness among ordinary people to blaspheme against saints, to reject phony saviors, and to sniff at the new secular religion of hollow progressiveness.
The liberal political and media establishment offered the little people a supposedly flawless, Francis-like figure of uncommon goodness, and the little people called bullshit on it. That is epic and beautiful.