Hillary Clinton’s use of an insecure private server for thousands of sensitive State Department e-mails—a controversy rather questionably dismissed by the FBI earlier this year—has been re-opened unexpectedly less than two weeks before the election. And it’s all thanks to Anthony Weiner, the pathetic, compulsively self-destructive husband of Clinton factotum Huma Abedin. In the process of investigating Weiner for cruising underage girls, the FBI discovered that Abedin was apparently keeping thousands of sensitive e-mails on her husband’s computer—which, given his proclivities, seems extremely unwise. And almost certainly illegal.
It’s either too close to the election for this to sink Hillary Clinton’s chances, or too close to the election for her to recover from it. We’re about to find out.
There’s an interesting lesson in this if you try looking at it from the perspective of someone who really wants Hillary Clinton to become president, a Democrat who really wants his or her party to win. Just at the point when Hillary Clinton ought to be putting this election away, when she ought to enjoy a comfortable lead and be looking to leverage her election victory to help other Democratic candidates take back the House and Senate, instead of that, another angle in one of the Clinton family’s many scandals breaks open and suddenly the polls are uncomfortably close.
To be sure, there are some other reasons for this tightening. Primarily, some of the voters who said they were going to support Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson are switching their votes back to Trump, which is consistent with Johnson’s previous election performance, when the majority of his support melted away as the actual voting approached.
But that’s got to be small comfort to Democrats, because this election shouldn’t even be close. If Hillary Clinton can’t win handily against an undisciplined, unappealing candidate with no real campaign organization and a revolt against him within his own party, whose rhetoric and agenda is one giant get-out-the-vote operation for his opponent, then she is pretty much the worst candidate ever. And now she’s at risk of blowing her lead completely because of her own folly and arrogance. And it’s not even the first time this sort of thing has happened. Democrats have been covering for the follies of the Clinton family for 24 years.
The most humiliating part of this is that it forces Clinton’s supporters to twist themselves into knots, sacrificing their dignity and intellectual integrity for her sake. The have to pretend that behavior that’s a big problem when somebody else does it is suddenly no big deal when the Clintons do it, and that things that are acceptable for the Clintons are somehow intolerable when Donald Trump does them. See a nice compendium of those twists and turns here.
We’re always treated to a bit of an embarrassing performance one week before an election. Like all of those defecting Gary Johnson voters, people are forcing themselves to line up behind candidates they don’t really like, and they need to find a lot of rationalizations for doing so. But Hillary Clinton is making it way harder on her supporters and forcing them to sell a little more of their souls than they’re used to.
All of which means that now would be a very good time for Democrats to reflect on how they let their party become the vehicle for the ambitions of a single family of questionable moral standards.
A lot of us have asked that question. We can understand the Democrats’ quandary of being saddled with a candidate who is an ongoing disaster, because we know it all too well.
This latest e-mail scandal should be the opportunity for any halfway decent Republican candidate to extend his five-point lead in the polls to ten (or his ten-point lead to 15). It should be his opportunity for a big push to enlarge Republican majorities. Instead, against one of the weakest Democratic candidates in my lifetime—somewhere between Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis—Trump is floundering and whining about rigged polls. And it’s all his own fault. He has run a campaign with no strategy, no message discipline, and no ground operation.
And worse, he’s carrying otherwise sensible Republicans along to make excuses for him, including arguments they would know in any other context are ridiculous. I have actually had people insisting to me that the media is “rigging” the election for Hillary—as if the private opinions of a free press are not legitimate parts of our political system—and explaining that the First Amendment doesn’t protect the media when it “lies.” And it’s all to support the nominee’s excuse-making narrative about a “rigged election.”
It’s hard to enjoy the proper schadenfreude over Hillary Clinton’s woes when you’re facing the prospect of having to endure the same thing in your own party for the next four, or eight, or twenty-four years. I have warned before that having Trump as the nominee tends to corrupt the Republican Party and could also render it ineffective and precarious for a very long time.
Having observed what the Clintons did to their party over the past quarter century—turning it into a personal satrapy that serves their ambitions at its own expense—I don’t want the only remaining opposition party to suffer the same fate.