On Thursday, Hillary Clinton gave one of the most cynical, hypocritical, pandering and clever political speeches in recent memory. Targeting the so-called alt-right, a conglomeration of disaffected paleoconservatives, white supremacists, and anti-SJW hangers-on, Clinton simultaneously linked the alt-right to Trump and separated it from traditional conservatism. It was smart politics. It was also unlikely to move the needle very much in a race already so polarized that few Americans either believe Hillary Clinton or like Donald Trump.
Here are six takeaways.
1. Hillary Wasn’t Wrong About The Alt-Right. Hillary listed Trump’s alleged sins, from the “Mexican” judge comments to retweeting alt-right accounts, from his infamous “star of David” tweet to his failure to disavow David Duke. She linked Trump with the National Enquirer and Alex Jones. Then she used Steve Bannon’s presence in the campaign – and his association with Breitbart, which he has openly championed as an alt-right meeting place — as a hammer against Trump:
The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loosely organized movement, mostly online, that “rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.” The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alt-Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party…. No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves “racialists.” White supremacists now call themselves “white nationalists.” The paranoid fringe now calls itself “alt-right.” But the hate burns just as bright.
All of this is correct. And it’s Trump’s fault it’s true.
2. Hillary Was Smart To Separate The Alt-Right From Traditional Conservatism. Before the speech, conservatives fretted that Hillary would attempt to lump together the conservative movement and the alt-right. She didn’t. Instead, she attempted to divide them. This was smart for her, but rough for her down-ballot Democratic friends – if she’d attempted to turn the issue into a national referendum, that would have allowed potential Senate and Congressional candidates to slam other Republicans with Trump’s words. But Hillary instead offered Republicans a way out: don’t vote for Trump, and you’re not associated with his alt-right-friendly candidacy. Most Republicans who find Trump unpalatable have already ditched him. But that doesn’t mean Hillary isn’t making a smart move.
3. Hillary’s Deeply Hypocritical In Suddenly Singing The Praises of Conservative Figures. Hillary dropped this incredible litany in the middle of her speech:
Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits and told any racists in the Party to get out. The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims “love America just as much as I do.” In 2008, John McCain told his own supporters they were wrong about the man he was trying to defeat. Senator McCain made sure they knew – Barack Obama is an American citizen and “a decent person.” We need that kind of leadership again.
Hillary doesn’t get to say this. She and her husband destroyed Bob Dole as a human being. She routinely savaged George W. Bush. Her party ripped apart John McCain. And this year, Hillary declared Republicans her enemies. The only good Republicans are the ones in her memory.
4. Hillary’s Own Associations With Racism Are Disgusting. Hillary ripped Trump for being sued by the Justice Department for alleged racism in rental properties, for being fined by state regulators for allegedly “removing black dealers from the floor” of his casino, and for doubting Obama’s place of birth. This neglects the fact that Hillary’s own campaign was responsible for purveying the birther rumor in 2008. Hillary also associates with race-baiters like Al Sharpton, and panders to the racist Black Lives Matter movement, which has called for divestment from Israel (calling Israel an “apartheid state” in the process), and stokes racial divisions on the basis of criminals like Michael Brown being rightly shot. Hillary has thrown her own husband’s successful crime policies overboard to pander to BLM; meanwhile, BLM allies riot in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Milwaukee. Just because the media have mainstreamed BLM doesn’t mean they’re not a racial solidarity movement. And when Hillary attempts to say that there’s no history of a mainstream nominee ever stoking racism, someone ought to ask her about Democrats ranging from George Wallace to Woodrow Wilson. Someone ought to remind her of the 1924 Klanbake – the Democratic National Convention.
5. Democrats Have Cried Wolf On Racism So Often That This Won’t Help Them Much. Hillary led off her speech calling Trump a racist and a race-baiter with the same sort of hackneyed misinterpretation Americans have come to expect from Democrats. Joe Biden once said that eminently non-racist, classy Mitt Romney wanted to put people back in chains; it doesn’t go very far when Hillary calls Trump racist for telling black people that they live in poverty and without proper education and home ownership – particularly when Democrats tell black Americans the same thing routinely. Hearing Hillary talk up the “vibrancy of black-owned businesses…or the strength of the black church” is ridiculous, since we know that if Trump said the exact same thing, she’d label him – wait for it – an out-of-touch racist. Trump pointed this out before the speech, and he’s right, at least in that respect.
6. Hillary Is Awful At Everything. In the midst of the speech ripping Trump for being out of touch racist, uber-white Hillary began quoting the poetry of Maya Angelou. She also quoted a Mexican proverb. The crowd was clearly waiting for her to break out a bottle of her fabled hot sauce. Hillary has all the authenticity of a Pete Rose toupee. And when she claims that young people across America are suddenly bullying one another because of Trumpism, that rings hollow and false.
The electorate is too polarized for Hillary’s speech to make much of a difference. Unless, that is, she has another strategy: to paint Trump as so far outside the mainstream that she need not even debate him. But nonetheless, Trump will now spend a week defending himself from her allegations. If he hadn’t jumped into the alt-right cesspool, that’s one thing he could have avoided.