Hillary Clinton and the Question of American Doom

By Heather Wilhelm Published on March 6, 2015

This week, America learned two amazing things. The first is that Hillary Clinton — former Secretary of State, likely presidential hopeful, and the hardest-working poor little rich lady in D.C. showbiz — apparently cooked up a bizarre “homebrewed” private e-mail server that she used to conduct all of her official, top-secret government business for the State Department. This, of course, was weird. It was also quite possibly illegal.

The second is that America, at least according to two prominent left-wing journalists, might be toast. Writer Matthew Yglesias devoted thousands of words to the topic this week at Vox.com, with the following prediction: “American Democracy is Doomed.” New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait, apparently a more hopeful yet cautious sort, responded with his own think piece: “There’s a Chance American Democracy is Not Doomed.” Chait’s article, by the way, features movie stills of aliens blowing up the White House. It also includes the helpful caveat that if America is doomed, it will almost certainly be the fault of the “unique power” of our country’s “right wing.”

Well. Let’s start with the political apocalypse, since that’s the most exciting. “America’s constitutional democracy is going to collapse,” Yglesias wrote. (Here, it helps to imagine a Very Serious Face.) “Some day — not tomorrow, not next year, but probably sometime before runaway climate change forces us to seek a new life in outer-space colonies — there is going to be a collapse of the legal and political order … Very few people agree with me about this, of course. When I say it, people generally think that I’m kidding.” Chait, for his part, pulled for optimism: “The point,” he wrote, “is simply that we don’t know that the American system cannot survive.”

I’ll make the obvious point first: Of course American constitutional democracy cannot survive indefinitely. Does anyone read Ecclesiastes anymore? How about the Stoic philosophers? No? How about the classic introduction to the soap opera Days of Our Lives, which features a giant, very unsubtle hour glass with equally unsubtle symbolic sand slipping away?

In the long run, everything on Earth falls apart. Earth, too, if you project out long enough. Yet, one gets the disquieting feeling that both Chait and Yglesias imagine that if America was only “structured” properly — and carbon neutral, of course — it could roll on ad infinitum, whirring obliviously, chattering and quibbling about things like white male privilege, selfie sticks, paleo diets, and House of Cards until it is ultimately swallowed by the sun.

This type of idea, by the way, is the very essence of modern progressivism. It is also wildly unmoored from reality. Given the fact that the American system has a definite shelf life — and, in its proper form, it’s a republic, not a democracy — how can we, as Benjamin Franklin wryly put it, “keep it” for as long as possible?

Well, one way to do so — and this goes back to our first notable news item of the week — would involve not electing someone like Hillary Clinton as the president of the United States. At first glance, this seems pretty easy, given that she seems to break the law, or at least bend it, every five minutes. There’s her ramshackle e-mail system, registered through her house in Chappaqua, N.Y., used to transmit sensitive government information. Meanwhile, multiple foreign governments, including Algeria, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, donated millions of highly questionable dollars to the Clinton Foundation while she was Secretary of State.

Love banks and big business? So does Hillary! Hate the fictional sexist “wage gap”? Hillary does too, at least in theory — but in her Senate office, as Ashe Schow reported at the Washington Examiner, she paid women “72 cents to the dollar that men earned.” And then there’s this, as reported by The Hill: “Hillary Clinton’s nascent campaign doesn’t have a headquarters, but it does have an epicenter. It’s called ‘Whitehaven,’ and it’s a 5,500-square-foot brick colonial in the posh Observatory Circle neighborhood of Northwest Washington.” Note: If your house has a name, this is only excusable if you are a Texas rancher, a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills, or a character on Downton Abbey. Also, “Whitehaven?” Whitehaven?

Will Clinton’s e-mail “scandal” leave a mark? If you feel like you’ve seen this movie before, perhaps you’re guessing no. That said, this latest saga is rather telling.

If the American system does collapse, outside of some unpredictable disaster, it won’t be because of the “unique power” of the “right wing.” It won’t be because of “intractable political parties” or “gridlock.” It will be because people like Hillary Clinton — and there are plenty more where she came from — embody the growing government industrial complex, having become rich, powerful, and seemingly immune to the rules, thanks to a system that has amassed entirely too much complexity and control.


Originally published at RealClearPolitics.


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