In 1996, historian Henry Louis Gates wrote an article for The New Yorker called “Hating Hillary,” in which he parsed the antipathy towards then First Lady Hillary Clinton. Gates didn’t produce one single cause but rather offered various explanations, ranging from the Clintons’ outsider cluelessness when they arrived in Washington to the failure of the 1993 health care bill to Hillary Clinton’s aversion to the media.
The piece is less of a portrait of why Clinton was hated and more of a landscape of the hostility. Her gender is not decisive, but neither was this a story that would have likely happened to a man.
Twenty years later it’s a fascinating read — both because this week Clinton will become the Democratic nominee for president and because the hatred towards her has never ceased. In fact it has intensified.
In the rubble of the RNC Cleveland Witch Trials, it’s clear that certain people in Washington would burn her alive if they thought they could get away with it.
“Serious accusations have, of course, been leveled against the President’s wife,” Gates wrote in 1996, “but it’s usually what people think of her that determines the credence and the weight they give to the accusations, rather than the reverse.”
Or what they want people to think of her. Take the Republican nominee. In his first joint interview with running mate Mike Pence on 60 Minutes, Donald Trump was asked about his VP pick’s 2003 vote for the war in Iraq. Trump, who now claims he knew the war was a bad idea and was opposed to it, said, “I don’t care… It’s a long time ago. And he voted that way and they were also misled…”
Interviewer Lesley Stahl pointed out to Trump how he’s repeatedly used Clinton’s vote — which authorized the President to go to war but preferred a diplomatic resolution — as a way to delegitimize her.