Every day this week, when the cable news outlets managed to find a few seconds to stop talking about Donald Trump, there were new details popping up about Hillary Clinton’s email server and the scandals surrounding it. The tale just seems to become more and more tawdry as the weeks wear on, assuming you’re someone who is actually paying attention and might care about such things. But what about the general public? Yes, we’ve all been having fun with the poll that showed Bernie Sanders leading Clinton in New Hampshire, and we all know by now that a significant majority of the country finds her untrustworthy. But is that going to stop her from becoming the nominee, if not the president?
I hate to start off Friday on a depressing note, but I’m really becoming less and less sure even as the evidence mounts. Take a look at a piece from this Iowa Public Radio report on Clinton’s campaign activities there.
As former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton turns over her personal email server to the FBI amid allegations that she sent or received classified information through personal email accounts, it’s too early to tell whether the story will hurt her presidential aspirations. That’s according to Dianne Bystrom, Director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and Kelly Winfrey, a Lecturer in Leadership and Communication Studies at the Catt Center.
“Most people have made up their mind about Hillary Clinton,” says Bystrom. “She’s been in the public spotlight for a number of years. People either really like her, or they dislike her.”
Bystrom says unless the investigation turns up new information or illegal activity, the story is fodder for those who don’t like her, but it’s unlikely to change voters’ minds.
The bottom line is that there are a significant number of Americans out there – mostly Democrats, but not all – who seem to be telling us, yes, you’ve made your point. Hillary is all those things you said she was. But what the heck. I’ll vote for her. And one of the major reasons for this is that this email server story simply isn’t resonating with people. I’m pretty sure I know why, too.
Every time people are fed yet more information on the email server scandal from their television screens, there seems to be a numbing sensation running down our collective spines. Really? This again? I watched Howard Dean talking about the story on Morning Joe this week with the hosts and the contrast in the responses was palpable. Scarborough was up in arms, saying this was a terrible break in trust with the American people. Dean responded by saying he was thrilled that the FBI had taken the server because now they would make clear what a “bunch of nonsense” this all was.
What began coming clear to me was that this just isn’t the type of story with the tabloid shock value required to grab America’s attention. We can write endless posts on blogs about how the Democrats are in panic mode over it, but it simply doesn’t resonate. I was making a joke with a friend of mine after that show, saying that Howard Dean would still defend Hillary even if we had HD video of her shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die. And that’s where the difference comes in… Dean would support Clinton in those circumstances, but America wouldn’t. You see, we can all relate to that.
When a politician does something grotesque which hits America in the gut, the story catches fire. If you pull a Duke Cunningham and steal a lot of our money, everyone gets it. (Actually Cunningham took massive bribes and bought a mansion and a yacht, but he steered tax money to his associates so he may as well have stolen it from us.) If you have sex with an underage girl like Mel Reynolds did, we all feel the burn. These are all things which everyone will immediately latch onto.
You shot a man in Reno! You murderer!
You stole our money and bought a yacht! You thief!
You raped a little girl! You pedophile pervert!
But now we’re handing the nation this tale of inappropriate and probably illegal electronic file management.
You… used a private computer thingy or something instead of the email system provided by your employer! You… er… um… inefficient office communicator?
You hear this being related on a news show and you can feel the eyes of the nation collectively glazing over and rolling back in their heads. And if you need to spend the next thirty minutes explaining that certain classification tags may have been stripped from original documents and how that violates this provision of security procedures because… for God’s sake. Even I’m getting bored typing it out yet again. For those who don’t have to follow this mess for a living, well… that clicking sound you hear is a million television sets switching back over to Sports Center. We’re busy people and it’s already August 14th and we haven’t even finished setting up our NFL fantasy leagues yet.
This just isn’t the kind of thing that’s sexy enough to capture the national sense of moral outrage and do so inside of the public attention span. It’s too wonky and takes too long to explain. And as the days go by I’m becoming more and more convinced that this is precisely what Hillary Clinton is counting on. She’ll keep blaming the VRWC for making mountains out of molehills and just wait for the storm to pass. Unfortunately, unless this somehow turns into an actual criminal case which results in a conviction, we have more than enough history to show us that it just might work for her. I hope I’m wrong, but somehow I doubt it.