Hillary Clinton conspiracy theories are a generation in the making

Clinton’s supporters aren’t ‘sore losers,’ and Donald Trump’s way of working isn’t normal. The far right has spent years building opposition to her

 
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Jill Abramson; The Guardian  December 6, 2016


Since Trump won the election, the focus on his fringe connections has largely receded. Coverage of the new administration has quickly normalized. Washington reporters seem relieved to be covering a familiar ritual, the competition for top jobs in the Trump administration. Stories on Trump’s many conflicts of interest and abandoned promises have appeared, but none seem to resonate with the public.

Thankfully, some events shake us out of our complacency. At Harvard last week, a bitter fight broke out between senior Trump and Clinton aides who appeared at a conference, held after every presidential election. The hundred or so student protesters standing outside with signs denouncing Donald Trump and his consigliere, Steve Bannon, indicated a different tone for this year’s confab. What set off the fireworks were comments praising Bannon, who did not attend, from David Bossie, Trump’s deputy campaign manager.

Bossie’s encomium pushed Jennifer Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s communications director, over the edge. She responded: “If providing a platform for white supremacists makes me a brilliant tactician, I am glad to have lost.”

Palmieri is not wrong. Breitbart News, a rabidly right-wing news site, was described by Bannon as providing a platform for the “alt-right”, a far-right movement in the US. Some of the movement’s leaders, like Richard Spencer, have publicly used Nazi slogans and are openly white nationalists. It is important not to forget that.

Because the news media has been shamed for having all but inaugurated Hillary Clinton, there has now been an avalanche of coverage about how Trump pulled off his surprise victory and the weaknesses of her campaign.

This means that another important question has been under-covered: who killed Hillary Clinton? Kellyanne Conway’s answer at Harvard was simple: Hillary Clinton, with her lack of an economic message for the white working class and her inability to connect with people, killed herself. This is simply false.

As in any good Agatha Christie mystery, there are so many suspects that it’s hard to find the real killer. But here are some obvious possibilities:

The man who did not find Hillary crooked, FBI Director James Comey, is a chief suspect. First, though it is unusual and arguably unprofessional, Comey decided not to prosecute Clinton but publicly denounced her as reckless and careless in the treatment of the emails on her private server. In cases where no charges are pressed, the usual protocol is simply to announce that an investigation is closed.

Then, 11 days before the election, he wrote a letter to Congress saying new emails found on her aide’s computer merited more review, completely stalling the momentum that seemed to be carrying Clinton to victory. Those who seek to minimize the Comey effect should keep in mind that exit polls show that one quarter of the electorate made up their minds in the last month before the election and went for Trump by eight points, much larger than his less-than-50% victory margin of the popular vote.

The email “scandal” was overblown and disproportionately covered by the news media, magnifying the damage Comey did. The news networks dedicated more airtime to the emails than to all policy issues combined. Indeed, Comey seemed to use the media’s obsession to intervene for his apparently preferred candidate, Trump.