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A Prominent Public Figure Wrote A Book

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1980 Views

Seth Masket has a good post about the reaction to Hillary Clinton’s campaign book. I think it’s worth distinguishing between two different arguments:

  • The new idea that it’s wrong in principle for losing presidential candidates to maintain a presence in public life is a silly, ad hoc argument that is plainly motivated by sexist double standards. (Anyone who lost their shit over John Kerry going on Meet the Press in January 2005 to talk about how he ran a good campaign but lost largely because of factors outside his control is exempt from the charge, although as far as I can tell these people don’t exist.) There’s nothing wrong with Clinton writing a book about the campaign or giving speeches.
  • This doesn’t mean that you can’t criticize the arguments that Clinton makes on the merits. Unlike Seth, for example, I think that re-litigating the 2016 primaries from either end is almost always counterproductive. And her specific central argument — that Bernie behaved badly because he made arguments that could be cynically repurposed by the Trump campaign — proves too much. You just can’t run a primary campaign without doing that. In 2008, Clinton made, and continued to make after it was pretty clear that she wasn’t going to be the nominee, arguments about Obama being out-of-touch with the (implicitly white) working class that echoed the McCain campaign’s line. That’s what you do when you try to win a primary — attack opponents where you perceive them as most vulnerable. I don’t see any evidence that Sanders staying in affected the outcome of the election, but even if he did that’s just politics.

Anyway, disagreeing with particular arguments made by Clinton’s book is fine. Arguing that it’s wrong in principle for her to discuss the campaign is another matter, and the argument that it’s wrong to discuss any factor that affected the 2016 elections other than Clinton’s choices is silly.

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