“Into exile I must go. Failed, I have.”
For people who didn’t spend approximately 60 percent of their childhood watching Star Wars movies over and over again like I did, Jedi Master Yoda uttered these words following his failure to prevent Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine from wiping out the Jedi order and taking over the galaxy. And so Yoda escaped into a self-imposed exile on the swampy jungle planet of Dagobah.
Mixed into the flurry of emotions I had following the election, I had a distinct moment of Star Wars deja vu when people found Hillary Clinton wandering in the woods two days after her loss. And for the next month or so, this happened regularly: People in upstate New York just kept running into Hillary Clinton in the woods.
So, maybe – just maybe – I thought to myself, “Hillary Clinton has pulled a Yoda.” After three long and eventful decades in public life, and quickly approaching her 70s, maybe Hillary has finally decided to retire. But, apparently, she is back. And, not only that, she has anointed herself as part of the Resistance and launched a new super-PAC.
To which I must ask: Has anyone learned anything?
During the primaries, I opposed Clinton and I thought she was a bad candidate. But back then, it was just my own opinion – shared by many, to be sure, but still just an opinion.
But now, it’s no longer an opinion – it’s an empirical fact: Hillary Clinton was a bad candidate. Donald Trump is a man who has a literal golden throne, and Hillary Clinton somehow still came off as more out of touch than him. Donald Trump is a sex offender who brags about it on tape, and Hillary Clinton still could not win against him. Twenty-eight percent of Trump voters thought the man wasn’t honest, 20 percent had an unfavorable view of him, 26 percent thought he didn’t have the right temperament and 23 percent thought he was downright unqualified to serve – and Hillary Clinton still could not win against him. Donald Trump was the most unpopular presidential candidate in American history, and Hillary Clinton still could not win against him. If Trump is even one-tenth as bad as we on the left – and about two-thirds of the country – seem to agree he is, then there shouldn’t be any excuse for why Hillary Clinton could have lost this thing, and it would be a case of extreme cognitive dissonance to argue that she was somehow a good candidate. She wasn’t.
The left seems to have a hard time seeing the situation rationally here, and I understand why – we, on some intuitive level, still feel bad for Hillary, who has undoubtedly not had an easy go at this election or, for that matter, life. So, it is of course far easier for us – yes, even me, who has absolutely no love for Hillary – to get mad at Trump instead of her. But it doesn’t do us any good to do that, because we must come to terms with the fact that Hillary bears a tremendous amount of responsibility for the debacle we are in.
To be fair, the lion’s share of the blame lies (of course) with Trump, but it doesn’t mean we should simply overlook Hillary’s role. She was tasked with holding the fort – a historical responsibility to hold us back from the deluge of incompetent proto-fascism. She was not a mere victim of Trump – she is an experienced, seasoned, powerful and accomplished politician and statesman. She had agency. She did not succumb to the inevitable, she simply failed, and now the fate of the republic and American democracy is at stake because of her failure. So it is somewhat strange that Hillary Clinton would declare herself part of the Resistance. The only reason we have a Resistance is because she lost. If she had won, most of the left would have settled back into the peaceful, humdrum news cycle we had under the Obama years while people like me use up another four years’ worth of column inches complaining about how the administration isn’t being leftwing enough.
Now, the job at hand is to save America from Trump’s harmful policies, to guide the Democratic Party out of wilderness and to create a better America for now and for the future, and that job cannot be left in the hands of Hillary Clinton after she performed so miserably at it the first time around.
And this really isn’t about scapegoating or vilifying Hillary Clinton – assigning blame at this point is unproductive. But it is nonetheless important to draw a line in the sand here, and to make clear that based on her past performance, she must not be handed the helms of the resistance, lest we risk of another four years of the Trump administration.
History repeats itself: First as a tragedy, and then as a farce. The election of Donald Trump was the tragedy, and I would plead to Mrs. Clinton: Please, if you’re going to pursue the farce, at least save it for the woods, where it won’t hurt anyone else.
Contact Terence Zhao at zhaoy ‘at’ stanford.edu.