Hillary Clinton as the ultimate outsider

It’s probably a fool’s errand to try to rank outrageous statements in a political campaign. But my eyes rolled pretty hard when I heard that Hillary Clinton had claimed she “cannot imagine anyone would be more of an outsider than the first woman president.”[1] Oh, oh, my.

Let’s set aside that Clinton was first lady, then senator, then secretary of State. Never mind that she’s the annointed favorite of the Democratic Party establishment,[2] that she’s taking lots and lots and lots of money from Wall Street,[3] and that any claim that she is an outsider could only apply somewhere off of planet Earth.

The real problem is not a dichotomy between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ status. The real problem is privilege and a recognition of this real problem is what separates the populism on the left from the authoritarian populism on the right. Privilege is multi-faceted. Scott Sernau refers to race, gender, and class as a Gordian knot,[4] but privilege manifests in other ways as well—I’m not even attempting and probably can’t offer a complete list: education, social capital, religion, sexual preference, physical ability, and gender conformity, for example. Take all these together, and rest assured, Clinton is one privileged woman. And truth be told, Bernie Sanders isn’t far behind.

Authoritarian populists, by contrast, complain because they are losing much of their white Christian heteronormative privilege as their jobs go overseas, but blame other subaltern folks instead,[5] hence the whining about “political correctness” and the apparently resulting support for Donald Trump.[6] Their railing about ‘class’ is about its superficial, allegedly ‘snobbish’ aspects—European cars and lattes, for example—rather than a real reckoning with economic differences.[7]

When I think of politicians who are ‘outsiders,’ I’m more inclined to think of George McGovern, who despite serving in the Senate for decades, was barely heard from ever again after losing in a landslide defeat to Richard Nixon in 1972. Clinton’s status as an ‘outsider’ may well be bolstered as she seems likely to lead her party to another crushing defeat in 2016.

  1. [1]Bradford Richardson, “Hillary: Who’s more of an outsider than a woman?” Hill, September 20, 2015, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/254315-hillary-whos-more-of-an-outsider-than-a-woman
  2. [2]Robert Reich, “The Revolt Against the Ruling Class,” August 2, 2015, http://robertreich.org/post/125702366950
  3. [3]Nicholas Confessore and Amy Chozick, “Wall Street Offers Clinton a Thorny Embrace,” New York Times, July 7, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/08/us/08wallst.html; Greg Gordon, “Hillary Clinton got nearly $1.6 million from big banks in 2013,” McClatchy, July 31, 2015, http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article29711881.html?rh=1; Noam Scheiber, “Hillary Clinton’s Inequality Rhetoric Is Weak: No, we’re not ‘all in this mess together’,” New Republic, July 9, 2014, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118632/hillary-clintons-inequality-rhetoric-insulting; Andrew Ross Sorkin, “Hillary Clinton’s Comment on Jobs Raises Eyebrows on Wall St.,” New York Times, October 27, 2014, http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2014/10/27/hillary-clintons-comment-about-corporations-and-job-creation-raises-wall-st-s-eyebrows/; Josh Voorhees, “Why Hillary Clinton Has Moved So Far and So Fast to the Left,” Slate, June 8, 2015, http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/06/08/hillary_clinton_runs_left_why_the_democratic_frontrunner_is_embracing_the.html
  4. [4]Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006).
  5. [5]Chip Berlet, “Taking Tea Parties Seriously: Corporate Globalization, Populism, and Resentment,” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 10 (2011): 11-29, doi: 10.1163/156914911X555071; Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005); Jeet Heer, “Donald Trump Is Not a Populist. He’s the Voice of Aggrieved Privilege,” New Republic, August 24, 2015, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122590/if-you-think-donald-trump-populist-you-dont-know-your-history; Evan Osnos, “The Fearful and the Frustrated,” New Yorker, August 31, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-fearful-and-the-frustrated; Scott Sernau, Worlds Apart: Social Inequalities in a Global Economy, 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2006);
  6. [6]Michael Barbaro, Nate Cohn, and Jeremy W. Peters, “Why Donald Trump Won’t Fold: Polls and People Speak,” New York Times, August 22, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/23/us/politics/why-donald-trump-wont-fold-polls-and-people-speak.html; Bill Curry, “The destruction of Donald Trump: How the billionaire with a rage problem became the frontrunner — and then fell apart,” Salon, August 10, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/08/10/the_destruction_of_donald_trump_how_the_billionaire_with_a_rage_problem_became_the_frontrunner_and_then_fell_apart/; Ross Douthat, “Donald Trump, Traitor to His Class,” New York Times, August 29, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/opinion/sunday/ross-douthat-donald-trump-traitor-to-his-class.html; Jeet Heer, “Donald Trump Is Not a Populist. He’s the Voice of Aggrieved Privilege,” New Republic, August 24, 2015, http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122590/if-you-think-donald-trump-populist-you-dont-know-your-history; Kathleen Hennessey, “GOP strategist talks to Trump supporters and comes away believing he could win the nomination,” Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-trump-supporters-20150825-story.html; Amanda Marcotte, “Why Fox News’ Defense Of Megyn Kelly Is Going To Backfire,” Talking Points Memo, August 26, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/fox-news-defense-megyn-kelly-backfire; Evan Osnos, “The Fearful and the Frustrated,” New Yorker, August 31, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-fearful-and-the-frustrated; Eugene Robinson, “The one reason Donald Trump was the clear winner of the first GOP debate,” Washington Post, August 7, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-one-reason-donald-trump-was-the-clear-winner-of-the-first-gop-debate/2015/08/07/c8fa4988-3d1e-11e5-b3ac-8a79bc44e5e2_story.html; Janell Ross, “Donald Trump is now reaping what he has sown,” Washington Post, September 19, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/09/19/donald-trump-is-now-reaping-what-he-has-sown/; Ben Schreckinger, “Donald Trump’s war on Megyn Kelly,” Politico, August 7, 2015, http://www.politico.com/story/2015/08/donald-trumps-war-on-megyn-kelly-121171.html
  7. [7]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).

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