Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

05/25/2008 (1:12 pm)

She's Not Going to Kill Him, Folks

The political chatter this weekend has been about Hillary Clinton invoking the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy as her reason for staying in the race. It’s all a little silly, but none of the talk is sillier than those who take it as a threat against Barack Obama’s life. It’s not that.

There was a dark undercurrent of suspicion against the Clintons during the Clinton administration, during which a surprising number of associates and/or investigators of the Arkansas governor wound up either threatened or dead, spurring comments about “Arkancide” (suspicious suicides in Arkansas) and about the probability of one couple knowing that many people who died in accidents, suicides, or homicides. It’s not quite as big a stretch to imagine that Hillary Clinton might know the kind of folks that could do in a political rival as it is to imagine that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would plan the destruction of the World Trade Towers, though it’s a stretch in the same direction. It’s an impossible stretch, however, to imagine that she’s stupid enough to try this against a candidate who’s protected by the Secret Service. That’s simply not going to happen.

Clinton’s signature tactic has been to dangle bait in front of the worst impulses of human beings. If she thinks there are racists in the voting audience, she drops little hints that can be taken as racist remarks. If she thinks there are xenophobes, she drops hints about Obama’s education in a madrassa in Indonesia. What she’s doing is trolling for votes. It isn’t that Ms. Clinton really believes these things are relevant, it’s that she believes there are voters who do, and she wants badly enough to win that she’ll do what it takes to secure their vote on that basis. She and her husband have come to expect that they’ll easily survive whatever negative impact such tactics might have, because they’ve survived the blow-back dozens of times. Outrage dies quickly; human beings have only so much energy for outrage, and most often do nothing after expressing it. Meanwhile, the hook has been planted in those naive enough to bite the bait, and eventually they obey their worst impulses. The Clintons have always benefited from fanning into flame the worst in human weakness.

This talk of Kennedy’s assassination is just more of the same. There’s a measurable number of Democrats who believe that Obama will be assassinated by racists if he’s nominated. Clinton has nothing to lose by reminding these people of the possibility; she hopes they might decide to avoid the inevitable disaster and vote for her. She’s trolling for the vote of fearful liberals stuck in the 60s civil rights mentality, and she knows how many of those there are. Nor is this the first time she’s done this.

It’s not all that unusual for politicians to try to benefit from the worst in human beings. Few politicians, however, do it so often, nor so systematically, as the Clintons. It’s one of the reasons that their exit from the political stage in America cannot happen soon enough. They are the worst, and they bring out the worst in everybody else.

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