Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why Is Hillary Clinton So Unpopular With #FeeltheBern Supporters?

Election campaigns. They can get so ugly. They stir passions, unleash old frustrations. Test your commitment to seeking truth. Illustrate how out of control your need to vent can get. They're a breeding ground for conclusions based on the unsubstantiated. A case in point is the Bernie Sanders supporters' demonizing of Hillary Clinton. The internet is inundated with memes carrying derogatory statements about her. 

The wonderful thing about memes is that you can take something from a person’s history that looks terrible on its own and leave out the broader context or even the truthful elements that will exonerate the alleged criminal. 

Hillary Clinton was on the board of Wal-Mart! Bad, bad, bad! She’s taken money for speaking to big banks, which categorically and indisputably means they own her! Evil, evil, evil!

She’s accumulated a lot of money: Corrupt capitalist! She’s changed her mind and become more left-leaning: she’s just manipulating people, she’s a terrible human being! She’s made mistakes! There is nothing good about her. She’s unpopular, unelectable, untrustworthy, a corrupt soul through and through.

Yet, to quote Frank Newport writing for Gallup in 2012, “Clinton's favorable ratings have been above 60% in all five Gallup readings since January 2009, including the two 66% readings over the last two years—thus representing the longest period of high ratings she has received since entering the national spotlight.” It is true that her ratings went up and down but it’s also true that in 2012 “Clinton received a 91% favorable rating among Democrats, 65% among independents, and 41% among Republicans.” 

At that point she was well known. People knew about her and they liked her. 91% favorable rating among Democrats. I wonder how many Democrats who decry Clinton today as the worst of the worst kind of human being were part of that 91%? And how many Independents were part of that 65%?

I know, you get it. In 2013 her ratings were plummeting. What happened then? Did she suddenly change into the monster that she allegedly is today?

Well, not quite. What happened was the GOP campaign against her which was part of the broader campaign against President Barack Obama. Because of Clinton’s high profile the campaign against her got a lot of media attention.
Some Democrats are fond of saying that Republicans are brainwashed by Fox News and some Republicans swear that Democrats are brainwashed by the liberal media. I think we’re all brainwashed to some extent and our shorter concentration span, together with social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, has created a culture of sharing bits of information taken out of context. They spread like wildfire and before you know it they have become accepted truth.

Take the Wal-Mart story. Yes, it’s a hideous company that has traditionally discriminated against women and paid terrible wages. Yes, Hillary Clinton did agree to be the first and only woman on the Board. And yes, she got paid for it. I went to Google for more information. It was in 1984. Thirty-one years ago. Show me the wise man or woman who has not made mistakes.

But was she so bad that her mistakes are unforgivable? I found a Huffpost article with a short bit about her time on the Board saying simply that she stayed silent re the unions. It was written in 2008. There's nothing about what she did achieve. I recognized a whole slew of blogs post as originating from that Huffpost article. That’s how it works. An ill-researched article masquerading as truth is nothing more than an ill-researched opinion piece, no matter where it’s placed. But it’s repeated as truth if printed in a respected news outlet.

I found a 2007 New York Times piece that told a wider story. Hillary Clinton wasn’t totally silent about Wal-Mart’s anti-Union stance. She didn’t avidly fight for them but she wasn’t silent. And by 2007 she had recently brokered a meeting between a Wal-Mart exec and a union. Why didn’t the later Huffpost article state that?

In her time on the Board Clinton did fight for women—and was overridden. She pushed Wal-Mart to be more environmentally conscious, introducing recycling for consumers, reduction in suppliers’ packaging, and stores with skylights to reduce the need for artificial lighting.

That was in the 1990’s, an era singled out by history so far for corporate consciousness of the environment. Or not.

Why didn’t Clinton fight for the unions? I don’t know, I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to her. The NYT contributor surmised that it was because even back then she was the kind of person who preferred to participate in a contentious environment and do some good. If she had defended the unions she might have weakened her standing on the Board so she couldn’t be effective at all. Or she might have tried and been shut down.

So the ‘fact’ that she just took money to be on Wal-Mart’s Board but did nothing is an outright lie. But the Facebook memes keep coming and not from Republicans. From Bernie Sanders supporters.
Who also accuse her of not writing about this Wal-Mart episode in her autobiography and deducing it’s because she’s guilty. Except that she isn’t. In any case people often don’t write about everything in the account of their life. It wasn’t a history book; she was allowed to write whatever she wanted. And let’s face it, Bernie Sanders didn’t broadcast certain things in his life that would make people think less of him.

Of course it would be nicer and cleaner if Clinton had fought Wal-Mart tooth and nail. But it was 34 years ago! She was a young woman amongst a bunch of powerful, chauvinist, conservative men. That she did anything in that time and that environment is remarkable.

That she is not being remembered and respected for what she did achieve doesn’t say anything about her then or now. It says a lot about those who uncategorically slam her. 

Frank Newport ended his article in 2012 with “The fact that Clinton is almost universally known and at this point well-liked by Americans suggests that she would be a formidable contender were she to decide to run. At the same time, the history of Americans' ups and downs in their ratings of her raises the possibility that if she were to jump back into the political fray, her image would have a significant probability of becoming more polarized and more negative once again.”

No kidding. Hillary Clinton is flawed. Of course she is. She’s a human being. Bernie Sanders, for all his saintly status, is also flawed and for the same reason, oddly. For what it’s worth, I suspect that he wouldn’t be looking so cool and saintly right now if he had had her exposure and if he had been targeted the way she was and still is by Conservatives.

Here's a novel idea. Wouldn’t America be best off if Democrats all worked together towards unity and Clinton and Sanders worked together in the election? I reckon if they did they would get the outcome of Bernie Sanders' revolution if it was really cooking—which it isn’t.

There's irony for you.