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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Roots of Hillary-Phobia

Another fine post at TNR Online today was Jonathan Chait’s LA Times piece about the “Clinton Machine” in the imagination of the political Right. Chait goes through several aspects of the Right’s vast investment in Hillary Clinton’s inevitability as the Democratic nominee in 2008, and then nails it in terms of conservative fascination with the Clintons:

The bigger factor, I think, is that conservatives are spooked by the Clintons. They had Bill Clinton on the ropes when they took control of Congress after the 1994 elections. He beat back their revolution. They had him again a few years later when they caught him with his pants down and made his misbehavior a theme of the 1998 midterm elections. Instead, Democrats won seats.In the Republican mind, there must have been some sort of Clinton voodoo at work. The public was on their side, they believe, yet through some sort of nefarious dark political art, he turned the tables on them.The conservative hatred of the Clintons has always had around the edges a certain fear of the supernatural. A famous 1993 American Spectator cover story depicted Hillary Clinton as a witch. A witch is an object of hatred, of course, but also a creature with dark and frightening powers.

That’s undeniably correct. Bill and Hill represent a political phenomenon with which conservatives have never been able to come to grips. They can’t get at Bill anymore, so Hill is the last, best chance to redeem the lost Republican Revolution of 1994. The fact that many on the Left have the same, if more submerged, demons about Bill Clinton, which they are also taking out on his wife, makes her presidential candidacy a fascinating referendum on the 1990s, as well as the next four years.

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