It’s time. If we’re honest, it’s long past time, but that is no reason not to act now: Somebody, anybody with access to the Clinton family, needs to corner all three of them and have a brutally honest talk. That person might begin the conversation like this: “Bill, Hillary, Chelsea…what the fuck do you want?” Because I’m not sure they even know.
It’s bad enough that I’ll have to listen to far-right crackpots rant about how the Clintons ran a uranium-mining child slave colony on Mars until the day I die in the world’s first Category 8 hurricane. But does the dynasty itself have to keep exacerbating the problem? Mom and dad have signaled their plan to mostly steer clear of the 2018 midterms — a smart move, seeing as thousands of Republican commercials this cycle attack Hillary by name — but along comes the dumb cyber-thriller Bill “wrote” with James Patterson, and we have to endure a new cavalcade of “Yeah, pretty lousy president there, wasn’t he.” Also, aren’t you definitely a duplicitous, unrepentant, serial sexual predator whose opinions we’re obliged to ignore? I’ve listened to your weak-ass equivocations on abusive behavior for about two-thirds of my life, and I am extremely done. Take that good-ol’-boy Bubba act and walk into a swamp, my good bitch.
Bill’s ratings were sky-high in the middle of the Lewinsky scandal, for nakedly partisan reasons, but in the age of Twitter, progressives realized that #TeamMonica was where they always belonged. His favorables have eroded with each phase of his post-presidency; he’s now less popular than George W. Bush. You realize what Dubya doesn’t do? Interviews. He’s working on his paintings and showing up for a state function like once per calendar year to land a quip and get tangled in his rain poncho. You’d think anyone craven enough to send Bill on a book tour would try to prep him for the #MeToo questions that any half-awake reporter is sure to ask, but no, Slick Willy completely implodes at the slightest feminist pressure and has to get a do-over on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. And for what? This shitty vanity novel? That’s insane.
Then you have Hillary, who is first and foremost the walking memory of a blown election. It’d be asinine to deny the strain of sexism in many calls for the presidential nominee to “go back to the woods,” or simply “shut up,” and whatever her faults, the scandalized outrage professed by the thumb-headed goons of Fox News when they bring her up yet again is patently bogus. But also, what if… stay with me here… she’s not an inspiring leader? I’d be amenable to her public persona if she evinced a touch more self-awareness regarding the strategic failures of 2016 so we don’t repeat those same mistakes. Instead, she’s throwing meager endorsements to career barnacles like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and doing prop comedy on Russiagate.
Pundits, politicians, and angry voters have bashed Hillary every which way, often unfairly. At this point I’d be surprised if she could tell the difference between people screaming at her because she’s Hillary and people criticizing her use of unpaid prison labor as First Lady of Arkansas — and that’s the problem in a nutshell. She and Bill have been on the defensive for decades, and they’re stuck now in the weird position of sounding the alarm on democratic decay when they arguably hastened it. It’s hard to be a moral counterweight to Trump when you’re merely “not as bad,” and that pitch certainly wasn’t enough to win the White House. Now, as then, there is no message.
Finally, there’s Chelsea. Already on pace to be as despised as her parents, there’s little she can do by tossing her two cents in. She got a raw deal as a kid, but now she’s a millionaire who sits on a bunch of boards of directors, and, you might think, too busy to bother with social media. In fact, she’s a de facto general of #TheResistance, diligently tweeting her concern and horror at each despicable move the current administration makes, thereby confirming that things are Indeed Quite Bad. Other than that, she can be found “clapping back” at random trolls, by which I mean amplifying hateful speech to an audience of 2.28 million when it otherwise virtually no one would have seen it.
Yes, it’s probably worth speaking up if Trump himself drops your name. The rest of Chelsea’s happy warrior schtick, however, has an off-putting tinge of smarm; the go-to move is to remind the world that her adult life is the beautiful sum of privileges beyond our reach. Listen: I 100 percent support her right to be a dorky, cheerful family woman and corporate cog. What exhausts me are the constant holier-than-thou posts meant to shame toxic bros who are obviously arguing in bad faith to begin with. Combine this weird habit of performatively “going high” at moments when it’s better to mute someone and the suspicion that she’ll run a nepotistic campaign one day, and you’ve got a really irksome account. More to the point: It’s hard to blast the Bushes and Trumps as greasy, corrupt, power-hungry clans when our side appears to support aristocratic succession as well. God bless Bernie Sanders for refusing to back his own son’s congressional run.
What, then, is to be done with these three? We could argue till 2020 about why they wound up symbols of sputtering, tone-deaf, outdated centrism and white apologism — what matters is that they always will be. Nobody’s image is getting rehabilitated here unless they show up for an antifa protest, and even then, we’d be kind of skeptical. The only responsibility they have now, and the only course of action that could win them back some respect, is to plow their wealth into finding solutions for the social ills or disastrous wars they reaped. That’s literally it. They’d get bonus points for deleting their internet presences and forever declining to comment to the press, but I’m not holding my breath. If, in that scenario, the Democrats still can’t muster a mandate, we can at last have an honest conversation as to the underlying weakness of the party as wholly separate from the Clintons’ murky shadow. So, who’s going to gather them up for a chat and gently (but firmly) explain this to them? My vote is George Soros.