There’s not much to do when you’re home for the holidays, so this season some have decided to fill up their free time by melting down over a video that snipes at Hillary Clinton.
“Take up a hobby in the new year,” a young writer holding a glass of champagne says to Clinton in the short, which Vanity Fair magazine’s “Hive” vertical produced as part of a series proposing “resolutions” to various political figures. “Volunteer work, knitting, improv comedy – literally anything that will keep you from running again.”
The second of these suggestions provoked the most ire among the online hordes who have spent the past two days calling for a mass cancellation of Vanity Fair subscriptions. Did Vanity Fair implore Al Gore or Mitt Romney or any other male politician to retire from the public sphere after he lost the presidential election, they ask? Did it tell them to futz around with some yarn and needles?
Well, no. The video had sexist overtones, and the lameness of the jokes made them all the more offensive. It’s harder to plead comedic license when your comedy isn’t funny.
But Clinton occupies an odd place in the political sphere: She was so close to the Oval Office for so long leading up to 2016 that her heir apparentness discouraged potential challengers. A career candidate from a Democratic dynasty held little appeal for anyone dissatisfied with the party status quo then, and will hold even less in 2020. It’s not surprising that some cringe to think Clinton’s shadow could still loom over races to come.
So then why resurrect her?
It wasn’t only ride-or-die Clinton supporters who took umbrage at the knitting comment, it was also that cohort who turned particularly hysterical. These all-in Clinton fans seem determined to keep their candidate relevant: Even if they aren’t calling on her to run again, they want her at the center of the political conversation.
Every faux pas of President Donald Trump’s becomes an opportunity for Clinton-would-have-been-bettering. No kidding she would, yet that’s neither here nor there when it comes to countering the damage Trump does every day, or to cultivating a roster of candidates who will win the seats to turn things around.
But more perplexing than the multitude of Clinton crusaders who are still crusading are the Clinton critics who continue to place the defeated candidate center-stage in their narratives even as they shriek that they want her out. This, besides its blatant unfunniness, may be the greatest failing of Vanity Fair’s ill-advised advice video. The staffers have devoted one minute and three seconds to telling Clinton to go away, and all they’ve succeeding in doing is bringing her right back.
This is “What Happened?” week on repeat. Journalists lambasted Clinton for re-litigating the 2016 primary in writing, and then they did the exact same thing. Over and over. They rolled their eyes at her play for attention, cash, catharsis or whatever else it was - and then they helped her find all of the above.
And it’s not only professional pundits who can’t seem to give Clinton up. For every amateur commentator or plain old civilian re-upping a Clinton campaign talking point on Twitter, there’s someone ready to fire back with an explanation of why Clinton is the worst politician of all time. This goes on, every day, more than a year after the election and almost a year after the man who beat Clinton walked into the White House.
Hours before the Vanity Fair outrage, Trump sent a Boxing Day Twitter missive from Mar-a-Lago in his usual style: “They used this Crooked Hillary pile of garbage as the basis for going after the Trump Campaign!” he concluded, harping on his beef with Clinton yet again. Which prompted all his critics, left, very left and right alike, to tell him to get over it. Perhaps they should, too.
Molly Roberts works in the Washington Post’s opinion section.