If you want to see politics based on emotionalism over reason and a borderline-religious devotion to an iconic figure, forget the Trump Army; look instead to the Cult of Clinton.
Ever since Donald Trump won the presidential election, all eyes, and wringing hands, have been on the white blob who voted for him. These “loud, illiterate and credulous people,” as a sap at Salon brands them, think on an “emotional level.” Bill Moyers warned that ours is a “dark age of unreason,” in which “low information” folks are lining up behind “The Trump Emotion Machine.” Andrew Sullivan said Trump supporters relate to him as a “cult leader fused with the idea of the nation.”
What’s funny about this is not simply that it’s the biggest chattering-class hissy fit of the 21st century so far — and chattering-class hissy fits are always funny. It’s that whatever you think of Trump (I’m not a fan) or his supporters (I think they’re mostly normal, good people), the fact is they’ve got nothing on the Clinton cult when it comes to creepy, pious worship of a politician.
By the Cult of Hillary Clinton, I don’t mean the nearly 62 million Americans who voted for her. I have not one doubt that they are as mixed and normal a bag of people as the Trumpites are. No, I mean the Hillary machine—the celebs and activists and hacks who were so devoted to getting her elected and who have spent the past week sobbing and moaning over her loss. These people exhibit cult-like behavior far more than any Trump cheerer I’ve come across.
Trump supporters view their man as a leader “fused with the idea of the nation”? Perhaps some do, but at least they don’t see him as “light itself.” That’s how Clinton was described in the subhead of a piece for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter. “Maybe [Clinton] is more than a president,” gushed writer Virginia Heffernan. “Maybe she is an idea, a world-historical heroine, light itself,” Nothing this nutty has been said by any of Trump’s media fanboys.
“Hillary is Athena,” Heffernan continued, adding that “Hillary did everything right in this campaign… She cannot be faulted, criticized, or analyzed for even one more second.”
That’s a key cry of the Cult of Hillary (as it is among followers of L. Ron Hubbard or devotees of Christ): our gal is beyond criticism, beyond the sober and technical analysis of mere humans. Michael Moore, in his movie Trumpland, looked out at his audience and, with voice breaking, said: “Maybe Hillary could be our Pope Francis.”
Or consider Kate McKinnon’s post-election opening bit on SNL, in which she played Clinton as a pantsuited angel at a piano singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” her voice almost cracking as she sang: “I told the truth, I didn’t come to fool ya.” Just imagine if some right-leaning Christian celeb (are there any?) had dolled up as Trump-as-godhead and sang praises to him. It would have been the source of East Coast mirth for years to come. But SNL’s Hallelujah for Hillary was seen as perfectly normal.
As with all saints and prophets, all human manifestations of light itself, the problem is never with them, but with us. We mortals are not worthy of Hillary. “Hillary didn’t fail us, we failed her,” asserted a writer for the Guardian. The press, and by extension the rest of us, “crucified her,” claimed someone at Bustle. We always do that to messiahs, assholes that we are.
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