The trouble with Donald Trump is that he’s such a vulgar asshat, one easily becomes distracted and misses other urgent news stories. That was the case last week when BuzzFeed by way of Wikileaks excavated a number of talks that Hillary Clinton has given over the years. As Eric Levitz wrote at New York magazine, “if Trump weren’t a monster, Clinton’s leaked speeches would be devastating.”
The transcripts are somewhat akin to that Trump video, in that they don’t reveal anything we didn’t already know, but it’s still good to have them as confirmation. For example, in an address to the National Multi-Housing Council in 2013, Clinton says of pending legislation, “You need both a public and a private position.” So she’s a liar and possibly a Straussian—that merits outrage, to be sure, but if you thought Hillary was anything other than a political shapeshifter, I have a timeshare that might interest you.
To my mind, it is this comment that warrants the most attention, made during a speech to the bank Banco Itau in 2013:
My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.
That’s a sunny-side-up description of neoliberalism, one that many circa-1990s center-leftists and European Unionists would quickly assent to, which makes it, too, seem not newsworthy. We already knew Clinton was a globalist Democrat, even if we rarely hear her admit it in such unvarnished terms. But consider the greater political context. After decades of the politics of bigness — big corporations, big government, big media, big trade — that’s bequeathed to us a thoroughly globalized world, the West is in revolt, demanding a stop to it all. Voters still like their borders, their flags, their nationhoods, and after the global recession, they increasingly see these things being encroached upon in favor of an internationalist ideology that hasn’t worked for them.
The responsible form of this new nationalism is Brexit, which is taking Great Britain out of the European Union superstate. Its irresponsible mutation is Donald Trump, who promises to Make America Great Again, but is also a capricious man-child who can never be trusted with power. Beltway elites seem to believe that because Trump is so anomalous, once he’s defeated, the fever will break and they can return to signing vast trade deals and wrecking Middle Eastern countries. But if Trump does get walloped, Hillary Clinton has to become president, and as that above statement shows, she’s the antithesis to Trumpism.
Trump’s voters are suspicious of sprawling trade deals; she wants a “hemispheric common market.” They want a pause on immigration; she cheers “open borders.” They’re disillusioned mining and industrial workers; she wants “energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it.” It’s possible a President Hillary, with that finely calibrated barometer Bill Clinton by her side, will read the political winds correctly and make a few sops to Trumpism. More likely is that she’ll find her own beliefs echoed by the friends and advisers around her, Washington elites who share her internationalist dream, and sign TPP, admit more Syrian refugees (she’s admitted as much to that one), fail to fix the immigration system, get us further immersed in Middle East, and pursue delusional green policies at the expense of good jobs.
All of that will only inflame Trumpism and the exacerbate the reaction. At the American Conservative yesterday, Dan McCarthy predicted that Trump’s impending loss will be “like Barry Goldwater or George McGovern: that is, not in a landslide, but in a way that redefines politics even in defeat.” I think that goes a bit too far, but let’s not pretend that the great nationalist revolt is about to face its Little Bighorn.