One of the prerequisites of Washington insiderism is disdain for Hillary Clinton. Hating Hillary is an industry among the political class and media elites. Books, columns, editorials, entire websites are devoted to it. Columnists like Maureen Dowd build careers on their malignant anti-Hillary vendettas.
Over the course of 2015, Hillary’s professional haters have gone so far as to fabricate polls to derail her candidacy. MSNBC’s Morning Joe has spent the entire 2016 presidential cycle in anti-Hillary overdrive, featuring a rotating cast of Beltway insiders whose contempt for her oozes through the screen.
Hillary is the subject of more vile attacks in an average day than most politicians will endure in an entire career. Hundreds of millions of dollars are devoted to the destruction of her public image. Conservative billionaires are funding shadowy operations to undermine her. The media establishment and commentariat dutifully disseminate the negative frames crafted by these groups while DC pundits play the role of concern trolls, condescendingly asking why Hillary is so “unlikable” and “cold.”
Yet somehow Hillary is stronger than ever, well-positioned to win the Democratic nomination and to defeat whichever unhinged Republican she faces in the general election.
The chasm between insider hate and outsider admiration is the story of Hillary’s career. The dichotomy between what’s said about Hillary and how popular she is boggles the mind.
There’s much talk of populism in 2016, of establishment versus outsiders, of Trump and Bernie. But what’s more populist than a candidate beloved by the people and reviled by political tastemakers and media elites?
Yes, Hillary is the true outsider, and yes, that statement torpedoes conventional wisdom. As Sady Doyle so astutely observes about the media environment: “I’ve come to believe that saying nice things about Hillary Clinton can be a subversive act.”
If there’s one challenge for Hillary – and frankly for the Democratic Party should she be the nominee – it’s that insider hate for her merges with organized rightwing attacks and filters through the media system into social channels where younger voters consume it devoid of historical context. Without the benefit of hindsight, without knowing that Hillary has been falsely accused of every heinous act under the sun, younger voters struggle to assess the veracity of the information and end up believing things about Hillary that are patently false.
It is one of the reasons Bernie Sanders’s message, which is not that different from Hillary’s, resonates with younger voters: Bernie’s reputation simply hasn’t been assailed for three decades. His message gets through without a filter of sarcasm and mockery that greets every Hillary utterance.
Still, 2016 is shaping up to be a monumental step forward for the American people, who are bucking the conventional wisdom machine (a machine that has worked overtime to convince us that Hillary is losing, flailing, corrupt, disliked, robotic, shrill, calculating, polarizing, and on and on.)
If you’re tuned into politics, you can hear the distant rumble, the sound of a sleeping giant awakening. That’s the sound of the people, led by women, carrying Hillary to history.