“What Happened” is the title of Hillary Clinton’s new book — in which she attempts to explain the reasons for her presidential campaign debacle. This rationalizing requires an entire book, launched with an extensive tour and media roll-out by her publisher, to explain how she managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by losing to the least popular presidential candidate on record.
Clinton’s account explains much more than what went wrong in 2016; it also sheds light on what’s wrong with her political party today. Start with the utterance she admits was her “biggest gaffe,” her inflammatory promise “to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” That comment, she writes, “I regret the most.”
So it wasn’t FBI Director Comey, Vladimir Putin, or the Electoral College — the usual suspects blamed for her party’s downfall. It was a stone-deaf political ideology that remains a major obstacle to her party’s return to power.
The point here isn’t to dwell on her campaign — recounting her stumbles has already become a national pastime, and her book tour is reviving it on both the Left and Right. The larger issue is how boasting of an ambition to destroy the livelihoods of working people underscores the chasm that separates not just Clinton but many in her party from working Americans.
When the press pool reported this “gaffe,” her first reaction was lame: Her remarks were “taken out of context.” But the context is also revealing of the work that progressives must do if they’re to take back power. Clinton evidently thought the job-killing comment was okay because her administration would replace coal jobs with “clean, renewable energy.” That, she believes, is the key to “restore economic opportunity” in coal country.
Fallon and Kimmel take apart the campaign tell-all, and summarize the events that led to her downfall. USA TODAY Opinion_Eileen Rivers
For Clinton and her followers, invoking the “renewable” energy mantra is all that’s required to absolve themselves of any blame for the miseries such a policy would invariably inflict. Being “green” would offset the cost borne by jobless miners in terms of lost self-esteem, lower wages, and even families and community. But wrapping this misery up in patronizing twaddle about “hard-working miners” sounded particularly hollow after labeling these same people as “deplorables.”
Equally revealing about this thinking is where her campaign chose to unveil her de-industrial plan: Columbus, Ohio, home of the soft-spoken CEO of coal producer Murray Energy. In soccer, that’s called an “own goal;” in politics, it’s called suicidal.
Think about it: the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer decides to announce on CNN a de-industrialization policy in a key industrial state in which she was already struggling in the polls and where blue-collar workers were struggling to keep manufacturing jobs. Is this the Democratic Party?
Another Clinton we all know would never have allowed the Green Movement to place this anvil around his neck. Bill Clinton warned his wife about her embrace of the “kill coal” movement and its likely impact not only on working-class voters but on her dwindling support in the industrial heartland. Former President Bill Clinton grasped this because he was raised poor in a poor state, not in an affluent urban precinct where blue collar people are out of sight, out of mind. He understood that job-killing policies that stop pipelines, power plants, and infrastructure projects also stop economic growth.
Today’s Green activists also understand this — that isn’t the difference between Bill’s party and Hillary’s. The telling difference is that Bill’s party thought that was a bad thing; Hillary’s progressive party thinks it’s a good thing. Economic growth, as uneven and unpredictable as it can be, is the only sustainable way to spread the wealth to those who can’t afford $5 coffees and personal trainers.
But it’s the distrust of growth — the belief it only despoils rather than enriches — that now separates progressive leaders from the rest of us.
The result, as we’ve seen, has political repercussions. To many Americans during the presidential campaign, “it looked like the Greens were disdainful of the aspirations of working people to live the good life,” writes Wall Street Journal editor George Melloan.
For the progressive deep thinkers now pondering how to reclaim their party’s appeal to working people, these are words of wisdom.
Luke Popovich writes on energy topics in Washington, D.C.
Read more at The Spectrum