Matt Lewis Pretty Sure It's Bill Clinton's Fault Republicans Love Trump So Much
Bob Dole died Sunday, and that has made liberals and conservatives alike misty-eyed about a day when not all Republicans were openly bigoted authoritarians. They used to preserve the mystery.
Conservative Matt Lewis, who decries so-called “cancel culture,” was so grief-stricken Monday that he wondered if America would’ve have turned out better if we hadn’t canceled Bill Clinton. You see, for those of you under 30, Republicans thought Clinton had a disreputable character because he stretched the truth and cheated on his wife. The latter was especially odious because, prior to Clinton, no president ever had extramarital affairs, except for all the ones who did.
Now, I'm not going to suggest there is a perfectly straight line from Clinton to Donald Trump. But perhaps when the public rejected good men like Dole and HW (and later Romney and McCain), it sent a message to Republicans? It turns out, character doesn't win elections.— Matt Lewis (@Matt Lewis) 1638804923
Anyway, here’s what Lewis tweeted:
You're going to hear a lot of talk about the heroism and decency of men like Bob Dole and George H. W. Bush—and I agree with all that. But we should also note the American people rejected these heroic and decent men—twice—in favor of *Bill Clinton*...
This is bullshit for a number of reasons, but what’s especially hilarious is that Lewis contradicted himself just last year when he wrote this article for The Daily Beast: "Trump Is Terrible. Here’s The One Reason I Still Can’t Vote for Biden.”
Lewis bragged about supporting Joe Biden in the Democratic primary, presumably so he could block more liberal candidates, but he never had any intention of voting for Biden in the general election when it mattered the most. This is because Biden is pro-choice, and Lewis considers abortion a “deal breaker.” However, he seemingly can’t understand why a pro-choice voter would feel the same way. They might admire George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole and question Slick Willy’s morals, but they’d prefer Supreme Court justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer, both of whom Clinton nominated.
Bill Clinton ran for president, not Jesus. He publicly admitted his flaws, but unlike Donald Trump, he didn’t actively campaign as a heartless asshole. He arguably sealed the deal with voters in this famous 1992 debate moment, when he came across as an empathic, considerate person.
Now, I'm not going to suggest there is a perfectly straight line from Clinton to Donald Trump.
There is zero line from Clinton to Trump, who is incapable of human feeling and empathy. He can only stoke anger and resentment. If Lewis wants to draw a line from Trump to anyone, he should consider Pat Buchanan, who challenged George H.W. Bush for the GOP nomination in 1992. Despite Bush’s sterling character, Buchanan didn’t consider Bush conservative enough. During his Republican National Convention speech, Buchanan sounded much like today’s Republicans who insist that Democrats, despite all evidence, are dangerous radicals. He said, "I watched that giant masquerade ball up at [the Democratic National Convention] – where 20,000 liberals and radicals came dressed up as moderates and centrists – in the greatest single exhibition of cross-dressing in American political history.”
But Lewis doesn’t denounce the character of odious bigots such as Pat Buchanan. No, he’s also stunned that voters would snub John McCain and Mitt Romney for Barack Obama, whose character was just awful if you believed all the rightwing lies about him.
But perhaps when the public rejected good men like Dole and HW (and later Romney and McCain), it sent a message to Republicans? It turns out, character doesn't win elections.
Here’s some actual data for Lewis: Dole’s candidacy specifically failed to inspire actual Republicans. One of the final polls prior to the 1996 election showed that just 75 percent of self-identified or Republican-leaning voters supported Dole compared to Clinton’s 85 percent support from Democrats. Dole would go on to win white voters (a somewhat key GOP electorate) by just two points. The message to Republicans came from inside the party.
The GOP’s social conservative base was always skeptical of Bush,Dole,McCain, and Romney. It seems absurd that white evangelicals would embrace an obvious scumbag like Donald Trump, but his candidacy pulled back the curtain on their hypocrisy. It was never about character, just control. Trump freed them to openly express their contempt for anyone slightly different.
Finally, Lewis leaves us with this nonsense:
Clinton mocked Bob Dole's "bridge to the past," and talked about building a "bridge to the future." Well, that bridge helped lead us to where we are.
What a monster Clinton apparently was to attack a political opponent’s perceived strengths. If Lewis thinks Clinton’s mild zingers led to Trump and other Republicans questioning Obama’s legitimacy as an American, he’s not the most serious thinker.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."